East Hampton Town To Consider Housing Initiatives, Take Down Dolphin Drive Signs


A number of proposals to strengthen housing opportunities in East Hampton Town will go to a public hearing in the next few weeks.

Tom Ruhle, the town’s director of housing and community development, shared the Community Housing Opportunity Fund’s final proposal on Tuesday, which detailed a number of ways to help people find and keep their homes in East Hampton, like creating a seasonal housing overly district to meet the needs of the summer work force and creating a down payment assistance program that would help people buy their first homes.

Mr. Ruhle opened up the discussion at the Town Board’s work session by mentioning that the population of the town is getting older and there are fewer housing units available for year-round ownership or rentals. He said the average home price has also risen 215 percent since 1999, relative to the increase in median family income, and it has become the most expensive place to purchase a home of any East End township.

To encourage growth and help people afford to move into or stay in town, Mr. Ruhle and the Community Housing Opportunity Fund recommend the town consider partnering with nonprofit organizations or the housing authority when buying vacant land to build new projects.

In addition to the creation of a seasonal housing zone, Mr. Ruhle said creating a multi-family zone would help ensure apartments cannot become luxury or second-home housing by requiring an income cap for those who live in these zones, and apartments within these zones would be open only to year-round tenants.

The Town Board may also have to consider allowing apartments to be built in single-family residences, whether in a basement or in a detached building.

Mr. Ruhle said, ultimately, there should be state legislation that gives towns discretion to dedicate a portion of the transfer tax to the construction of affordable housing, much like what is collected for the town’s Community Preservation Fund.

These suggestions and more will be reviewed by the Town Board and discussed in public hearing in December.

Signs Will Be Removed

The Town Board agreed on Tuesday to take down signs on Dolphin Drive on Napeague that have been the cause of much concern in the past few months.

“No parking” signs on Dolphin Drive, which serves as access to the ocean beach and sits adjacent to the South Flora nature preserve, were changed without notice in August to reflect the current code allowing resident-only parking. But town officials said that they have been unable to find the resolution that legalized parking at the site.

In 1974, a law was enacted to disallow parking on the street, and for decades the street signs reflected that. In the early 1990s, the town code was changed to allow town resident-only parking on the street, although the “no parking” signs remained.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, at Tuesday’s meeting, said the Nature Preserve Committee is in the process of putting together a management plan for South Flora, which will include parking recommendations. He said until then, the signs should come down.

“The report will help us because it will weigh in on where public parking might otherwise be available,” he said. “There is signage there that is unenforceable … and we’ve had legal inquiries regarding that issue.”

No More HomeGoods

Mr. Cantwell, frustrated with the size and proximity of the new HomeGoods store in Wainscott, saying it is too close to Montauk Highway, insisted that town officials figure out a way to keep a commercial business from being built in the same way again.

“Other buildings are set back considerably more than the HomeGoods store … it’s practically on the property line,” he said. “The result [of the set backs at HomeGoods] is a large-scale building. Anyone who drives by and views it says it’s out of character or overwhelming and that somehow it’s not fitting in the site the way you’d expect the Town Planning Department to permit.”

Mr. Cantwell said the planning staff will talk with the town attorney’s office to find a way to avoid something similar in the future.

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