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Town Board considers amendment to bring town code in line with state Long Island Workforce Housing Act

The Riverhead Town Board will likely schedule an upcoming public hearing on a proposed code amendment that would bring the town code in compliance with the state legislation known as the Long Island Workforce Housing Act.

The change to Chapter 301 of the town code, titled “Zoning and Land Development,” would add six pages related to affordable and workforce housing and would be titled “Part 6 Long Island Workforce Housing Act.”

Planner Greg Bergman said the proposed code amendment was first presented to the board last year, but it took a backseat until the Planning Department got additional staff.

“We do have a couple subdivision applications that are currently pending before the Planning Board which this Long Island Workforce Housing Act would be applicable to,” he said at Thursday’s Town Board work session. He said those pending applications could result in the creation of about four single-family residential lots that would be maintained under the workforce housing guidelines. One is on Middle Road, he said.

The New York State Legislature implemented the Long Island Workforce Housing Act in 2008 with a purpose of making homeownership more affordable in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Workforce refers to those who may be above the median income and who may not qualify for programs deemed “affordable housing.” Affordable housing is often targeted for residents who are below the median income. An example of workforce housing would be for nurses, firemen and medical personnel and other essential workers, according to a New York State Comptroller report.

Mr. Bergman said the code would allow a mechanism for the town to have an applicant in certain developments provide on-site affordable housing units or pay into a fund.

“There’s provisions for providing land elsewhere in the town for construction of workforce housing units,” he said. “It is pretty thorough in terms of how those calculations are arrived at.”

Deputy town attorney Anne Marie Prudenti said numerous municipalities across Long Island have moved similar code amendments forward.

“We went through several draft provisions and we looked at other municipalities, we looked at the audit reports from the state comptroller regarding their provisions and how they implemented,” she said. “We did a compare and contrast regarding the [Department of Housing and Urban Development] provisions and Suffolk County provisions regarding workforce housing and we believe this is consistent with all of the above.”

The Residence A-40 Zoning District would be excluded since it already has a workforce housing component, Mr. Bergman said.