North Fork affordable project not quite dead

Planning board previously rejected 24-unit development in Southold Town

Southold developer Rona Smith of Housing Initiatives LLC and 15690 Middle Road in Cutchogue NY (Google Maps, Suffolk County Dems)
Southold developer Rona Smith of Housing Initiatives LLC and 15690 Middle Road in Cutchogue NY (Google Maps, Suffolk County Dems)

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

A North Fork affordable housing project seemingly doomed by a town planning board is still alive in the eyes of Southold Town officials.

Rather than reject the rezoning needed by Rona Smith’s Cutchogue Woods project, as was expected after the planning board’s thumbs-down, the town board voted unanimously to table a vote, Newsday reported.

That buys Smith and project backers time to rally support — which is rarely easy for North Fork housing proposals, low-income or not.

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The project, at 15690 Middle Road in Cutchogue, would bring 24 affordable homes and 48 parking spaces to 5.5 acres of the increasingly expensive North Fork.

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Cutchogue Woods, which is being developed by Georgica Green Ventures in partnership with local developer Smith, suffered a big setback in April when the Southold Planning Board advised against it, citing its location in an agricultural conservation zoning district and distance from the nearest hamlet center.

At the time, Smith said she was “shocked and blindsided” by the decision, telling the Suffolk Times she didn’t see any chance that the town board would override the planning board.

And it hasn’t — yet. The project still faces familiar arguments preserving the town’s character and agriculture versus its need for affordable housing. Advocates do prefer income-restricted units to be near town centers, not isolated in rural areas, but development sites in the middle of North Fork towns are expensive and rare.

Smith’s rental units would range from 600 to 1,150 square feet and include one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, as well as three-bedroom townhomes.

North Fork could use the affordable housing, as prices are rising faster in the area than anywhere else on Long Island and local businesses struggle to find wage workers who live nearby. The Hamptons has the same problem.

A Miller Samuel report in the spring noted that the median sale price on the North Fork rose 86 percent between 2012 and 2021, to $800,000. In the fourth quarter it was $900,000. Low-cost rentals are few and far between, and apartment buildings are virtually nonexistent.

— Holden Walter-Warner