Affordable condos pitched for Middle Road
Thirty-four affordable condos are being proposed for the north side of Middle Road near Harrison Avenue in Riverhead.
Steven Losquadro, an attorney for applicant Joseph Manzi, said the property already has a preliminary layout for an as-of-right 22-home subdivision. Considering the lack of affordable housing and influx of young people working in Riverhead, Mr. Manzi sees the project as an opportunity to fill that void.
Mr. Losquadro and Mr. Manzi cited the coming expansion of Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead as a driving force behind the proposal. “They’ll be actively recruiting and bringing in younger professionals and workers,” Mr. Losquadro said during a Town Board work session Wednesday. “They recognize that there is a need and there’s not a supply for the type of housing that younger individuals would need and require, especially at a price point they could afford.”
The 26-acre property is currently zoned Residence B-40, but would require a change of zone to Residence A-40 to allow for medium- to high-density development, officials said.
Each condo would be approximately 1,200 square feet with feature two bedrooms and two bathrooms, Mr. Manzi said. He hopes to include a basement and garage for each unit as well.
Though Town Board members agreed that the need for affordable housing exists, concerns arose about the project’s proximity to other housing developments along Middle Road and how a zoning change could impact the area.
According to town building inspector Brad Hammond, many nearby parcels are already zoned RA-40. The change from RB-40 to RA-40 essentially allows for more density, including the option for one housing unit per 20,000 square feet. “On a 26-acre lot, you’re probably going to end up more with like 40 dwellings,” Mr. Hammond said.
“If you’re changing this to RA-40, what other properties around there will want RA-40?” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said, noting that nearly 50 surrounding acres could also be affected by a change of zone.
“I’m not disputing the fact that you need affordable first-time homes for people in the community,” the supervisor said. But the possibility of increased development is worrying. “You could end up with 100 homes in this area, which would be very congested.”
Mr. Manzi, who has worked on affordable housing initiatives in Southampton and East Hampton towns, recently constructed 27 homes in the Old Orchard subdivision in Baiting Hollow.
Those homes range in size from 1,800 to 3,000 square feet and routinely sell for upwards of $450,000, he said.
The Middle Road condos would be priced below $350,000.
Mr. Losquadro stressed that Mr. Manzi would limit the scope of his project to 34 units. “Thinking from a greater, global planning perspective, [more affordable housing] might not necessarily be a bad thing. If you’re a young professional, $450,000, $500,000, $550,000 … that’s not really a starter home.”
He disputed the idea that other developers would take advantage of the affordable housing density requirements. “Other [developers] may not be willing to do that because in essence, you’re talking about limiting your profit for a greater good,” Mr. Losquadro said.
Ms. Jens-Smith also raised concerns about the resale of the condos. “If you’re calling it workforce housing, it should stay workforce housing,” she said.
Mr. Hammond noted that keeping the units affordable could be built into the approval process. Mr. Losquadro agreed, claiming that covenants and restrictions could go along with the potential change of zone. “That can give you the proper roadmap going forward,” he said.
Councilman Tim Hubbard said he likes the idea of giving young people something to invest in. “We have a bunch of apartments coming downtown, but apartments are rentals. This is a purchase that young people can invest in … to sell down the road and eventually maybe move up someday. I like the idea of doing that.”
Mr. Losquadro said the proposal could attract young people to stay in the area long-term, something Long Island has been struggling with for years. “Young professionals are going to be hopefully placing their roots here. You want to keep them,” he said.
The Town Board agreed to work with other departments to study the zoning as they mull a possible change of zone to accommodate the project.
“It’s an interesting concept,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “It would be important that it remains affordable housing. We wouldn’t want to outprice who this was intended for.”
Photo caption: Middle Road at the intersection Harrison Avenue. (Tara Smith photo)