A North Fork affordable housing project is on life support after the local planning board advised against it.
Rona Smith’s Cutchogue Woods development at 15690 Middle Road in Cutchogue received disapproval from the Southold Planning Board last week, the Suffolk Times reported.
The board claimed the 24-unit development was not supported by the town’s comprehensive plan, citing the project’s location in an agricultural conservation zoning district and its distance from the nearest hamlet center as reasons for not approving it.
While the planning board’s decision doesn’t kill the project, it makes it easy for the town board to do so.
“We’re dead in the water,” Smith told the Suffolk Times. “I don’t think the town board would override this.”
Smith worked with town officials on the project prior to purchasing the site and partnered with affordable housing developer Georgica Green Ventures. She was taken aback by the lack of support after going through those steps.
“I signed the contract because I was given such a positive reaction,” Smith said. She closed on the property in January and did not learn of any objections prior to that. Smith says she was owed better communication and said she was “shocked and blindsided” by the rejection.
“I just think the whole thing feels almost like they didn’t want to approve it, so they tried to find a cover for it,” Smith added.
There’s still a chance that the town board will schedule a public hearing after discussing the planning board’s memo at the next work session. If it doesn’t, however, the project likely doesn’t have a viable path forward. And public hearings often draw more opposition than support for affordable housing in suburban or rural areas such as Cutchogue.
Affordable housing is a growing need on the North Fork, where home prices have risen faster than anywhere else on Long Island. The median sale price on the North Fork surged 86 percent between 2012 and 2021, rising to $800,000 from $430,000, according to Miller Samuel for Douglas Elliman.
In the fourth quarter, the median price in the North Fork was $900,000, a 12.5 percent year-over-year jump. The lack of affordable housing on the East End has made it difficult for local businesses to find employees.
[Suffolk Times] — Holden Walter-Warner