County’s housing plan for Horton families hits a snag

04/29/2011 2:42 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | It took more than a week for flood waters on Horton Avenue to subside last spring. About a dozen houses were ruined.

Earlier this year, the county Legislature approved a bill that would have given victims of natural disasters — like the flood victims on Horton Avenue in Riverhead — preference for qualifying for an affordable housing program.

But then county officials realized what little good the bill would do for the displaced Riverhead families.

The measure only applied to land that was given to Riverhead Town by Suffolk County for use in affordable housing through what’s known as a 72H program, according to Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches).

“And it turns out, there are no 72H properties in Riverhead Town that are suitable for affordable housing,” Mr. Romaine said in an interview Thursday. “So we spent a year, in my view, not really moving forward at all.”

He said there are only a few such properties in town and some are already being rehabbed for other uses, while others are actually in flood zones.

In March 2010, a three-day storm inundated the Horton Avenue neighborhood with muddy brown water, soaking possessions, warping walls and creating a haven for mold in some homes. Residents were denied individual FEMA grants because not enough people in the region were affected to meet federal guidelines. So town, state and county officials had been searching for another permanent solution.

After recognizing the problems with the 72H program, a meeting was held March 25 with town and county officials and Horton Avenue flood victims. At that meeting, it was decided the county would try to work with a nonprofit housing group to buy property on which to build new homes for the Horton Avenue victims using county affordable housing money, which can be used to buy property and build infrastructure, Mr. Romaine said.

“We’re talking about five homes here,” he said. “Let’s contract with a nonprofit housing corporation and give them the money, and get them to buy the land the land and build the infrastructure, such as roads and drainage.

“From there, we would coordinate with Riverhead Town, which would subdivide the land and do the site plan.”

Under the plan, flood victims would then be eligible to buy those properties at a price below market value.

Mr. Romaine said the proposal would only address about five homes and the lots would be no bigger than a quarter acre, which is about what the Horton Avenue lots are.

So a parcel of land that is less than two acres but bigger than an acre and a half is all that would be needed, he said. The town would have to approve a downzoning since there are few areas in town where housing lots as small as a quarter-acre housing are still permitted, he said. And, the five homes would all be built on the same subdivided property so the homeowners would still live near their Horton Avenue neighbors, he said.

“All we need is approximately two acres or less in order to do this,” he said. “It’s not going to cost a lot of money.”

In addition, while the county would have to formally seek proposals from non-profit housing corporations for the job, the Long Island Housing Partnership has offered to do the work for free, Mr. Romaine said.

“I estimate that this should take between 12 and 14 months,” he said.

Mr. Romaine was hoping County Executive Steve Levy would have issued a certificate of necessity to allow the resolution outlining this proposal to be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting, but no such certificate came forward, he said. Representatives of the county executive’s office were present at the March 25 meeting, he said, and the plan at that time was to have the resolution in place for the April 26 meeting.

Without it, the resolution will have to go through the Legislature’s committee process, Mr. Romaine said. It will be discussed by the Legislature’s Labor, Workforce and Affordable Housing Committee next Thursday in Hauppauge, and barring revisions, should be on the full Legislature’s agenda on May 10, Mr. Romaine said.

“But if it gets hung up in committee and people have questions or make revisions, it could take longer,” he said.

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46 Comment

  • Sadly, few local residents attended. The crosswalk by the church on Main Street is a great improvement to safety on 25A in Rocky Point. Some of the other improvements suggested will also improve our community safety. Only a handful of local residents showed however. Many seek town improvements in their neighborhoods. It’s times like these that people should turn out and thank our elected officials for what they do and participate in making suggestions for future improvements. Yes, we often struggle with our elected officials, but when good things are hppening, we should also show our appreciation.

  • Heritage Park, aka: The Wedge, is the bomb! They have great plans for big shady trees, a huge gazebo, and a water park section. Wouldn’t it be better to invest in one great park, instead of several, small, not-so-great parks?

  • Well, since I am sure most of us have jobs, it is a little tough to attend a mid-week, mid-afternoon photo-op session. While I am glad that we have a new “crosswalk” for people who aren’t even walking through Rocky Point, since there is really nothing to walk to except some pizza joints & salons, I find it hard to get as excited about it as you. Seems like more attention should be paid to actually getting the area to look nicer – and I’m not talking about light poles. How about fixing up some of the buildings that look like they are ready to fall over? Or removing some of the graffiti on our signs?

  • How about a Wal Mart for Rocky Point!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • “Wouldn’t it be better to invest in one great park, instead of several, small, not-so-great parks?” Better? That’s hard to say. Don’t you think it would be nice to have someplace decent within walking/biking distance to spend some time with your kids, even if it doesn’t have a water park or a huge gazebo? Are you really going to be willing to drive 5 miles to Heritage Park just to push your kid on the swings for a little bit, or let them take a few turns on the slide? You can’t possibly try to compare Heritage Park (which is probably at least 10 times the size) with what’s being planned for Veterans Park. Sure, Disney World is great, but for those of us that live on Long Island, Adventureland and Splish-Splash certainly have their place too.

    The old playground has been gone for 6 years now, so whether it needed to be removed or not is academic; .it’s gone, get over it. If Councilwoman Bonner and the Brookhaven Business Community Alliance were able to get Suffolk County to pony up and pay for a new playground with a “downtown revitalization grant”, and not have to spend any town money – read that again… NOT have to spend any town money – I say good, my hat’s off to them. As for the amount of money to be spent, how about waiting to see what the plans and actual budget are before whining about it? You can spend a couple of grand on a friggin wooden swingset at Toys R Us, for crying out loud! And that’s without installation.

    The real joke is how people will complain when it seems like our representatives aren’t doing anything for us… and then they complain when they do.

    And how about a grammar guide for the illiterate… or is that “who about”? LOL

  • It’d be great to have something closer, but our roads are not conducive to biking/walking. I wish they were, but the combination of narrow roadways, scarcity of sidewalks, and negligent (read: head up ass) drivers make it unsafe in my opinion.

    If I’m going to take my kids to the park, and I have to drive, Heritage it is!

  • Hmmm…. “scarcity of sidewalks”, another political landmine in this town. Lots of people seem to think they’re a good idea, just “not on my block”.

  • Yeah, don’t you just hate those people who manage to do good things for the town without having to spend town money. Boy, we sure don’t want any of THOSE people in office working for us, do we?

  • (note to self – don’t use the ponty brackets – LOL)

    (wondering if morons understand sarcasm)

  • Yeah, I have heard that they are not popular, but I have yet to hear a cogent argument against sidewalks. How can people be opposed to something so benign as a sidewalk?

  • Excellent question.
    I’m sure some of it is just plain old NIMBY mentality… people afraid it’ll make their neghborhhod look like Queens, or (shudder) Nassau. And some of it is probably a fear of having to pay to maintain the sidewalks somewhere down the road. Never mind that sidewalks would address the pedestrian safety issue you so rightly raised… let someone else worry about that. 🙁

    I’d be willing to bet, however, that most of the negative blogging on the issue is done by people who just don’t like the party or people who are proposing them for the common good of their constituents. It’s an excuse to forward a purely political agenda… like our ‘friend’ Kurt K below.

  • Is sidewalk maintenance a responsibility of the property owner, and not the town? It’s a valid argument if the homeowner has to pay for repairs… I guess. None of the other objections make any sense to me.