HTHC comments on proposed C6 zoning changes

Dear Supervisor Lupinacci and Members of the Town Board,

The Huntington Township Housing
Coalition appreciates your efforts to address the issues surrounding housing in
the Town of Huntington, and especially those in the Village.  A thriving downtown attracts many potential
customers, and if we do not address the issue of parking, we will choke off the
health of commerce in the town. In addition, we recognize the need to take
adequate steps to ensure the quality of our groundwater and our bay for
generations to come.

Of course, if we do not address our
affordable housing crisis, then the people who work in our thriving restaurants
and shops will have a difficult choice of either very long commutes from
outside the town- often not possible for restaurant workers who get off their
evening shift after the buses have run- or to live in illegal apartments, where
they have no recourse should they find the building substandard or
overcrowded.  The recently-passed ADU ordinance
is a good step in that direction, but it is far from enough.

At the HTHC we are very concerned
about the effect the additional restrictions in the proposed changes to the C-6
law will have on building in the town of Huntington.  It is always difficult to build affordable
units, and adding more steps and tighter restrictions will make it even more
difficult.  We therefore suggest the
following ideas:

  1. Keep the proposed restrictions
    specific to the already-sewered area of Huntington Village and Halesite
    .  It seems like most of the issues that
    people want addressed are specific to the Village, so let’s not overreach with
    the legislation, and keep the changes specific to the affected area.  Other parts of town have different geographies,
    different issues, and different water tables. 
    And broad sweeping laws can have unintended consequences.  If these changes stop all building in the
    Village, we are still going to need to build somewhere, or we will exacerbate
    our illegal apartment problem.
  2. Consider exempting projects that have
    a 50% or more affordable component from the new restrictions.
      We are at a point where even people who are
    not fans of building more apartments will concede we need more affordable
    housing, so providing an incentive to create more than the presently-mandated
    20% affordable quota may be welcomed by developers
  3. Build a new parking structure now.  If parking is the problem, then a parking
    structure is the answer, and it always has been.  A parking structure would allow the town to consider
    variances on parking for new apartment buildings, leading to the creation of
    more affordable units.
  4. Be very cautious about the wording of
    your language on architectural review.
      While almost everyone can name at least one
    recently-built building in town they think is ugly (and not always the same
    one!), architectural review has a long history of being used as a tool for
    segregation and for stopping affordable housing.  By its very nature it is decided by more
    subjective judgement than other aspects of zoning, and requiring extra steps
    (like a full-blown architectural review board) or too many extra flourishes
    will drive up costs and make building affordably even less possible.
  5. Attack the water issues with the
    facts, not what people think the facts are
    .  Hypoxia in Long Island Sound and Huntington
    Bay is primarily due to excess nitrogen that comes from the run-off fertilizers
    for residents’ lawns, and the primary cause of pollution in the ground water is
    septic tanks.  Both fertilizer and septic
    tanks are characteristics of single-family homes, not apartments above
    stores.  Nor is the town waste treatment
    facility in any danger of reaching capacity any time soon, so there is plenty
    of time to consider expanding it if the town deems it necessary.  Can the town do a better job enforcing the
    rule that water that falls on your property stays on it, or by requiring
    offsets to allow the highway department to capture more water before it reaches
    the Village?  Absolutely.  But the answer to improving our groundwater
    and the water in the bay lies in restricting fertilizers and getting more homes
    on sewers and off septic tanks, not in forcing people into illegal apartments
    because we make it too hard to build the necessary living units.

Again, we appreciate you trying to
address some of the town’s longest-existing and most-pressing problems.  We hope you will consider our proposals.


Roger Weaving Jr.

President, Huntington Township Housing Coalition

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