HTHC position on proposed C6 zoning modifications

The Huntington Township Housing Coalition appreciates the town’s 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.

We appreciate the town board is trying to address some of the town’s longest-existing and most-pressing problems. We hope they will consider our proposals.

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