A developer in contract to buy 26 acres of vacant land off Middle Road is interested in developing the site with 34 workforce housing condominium units.
The condominiums units would sell for less than $350,000 and would provide the area with much-needed affordable housing for young professionals, builder Joseph Manzi, told the Riverhead Town Board at its work session Wednesday morning.
With the expansion of Peconic Bay Medical Center, there is a real need for such housing, Manzi said.
Under its current zoning classification, the site could be developed “as of right” with 22 single-family homes, Manzi’s attorney, Stephen Losquadro, told the board. Single family homes would likely start at about $450,000, he said.
“Mr. Manzi thinks it could be used more appropriately for condominiums for younger people, young professionals,” Losquadro said. He said his client “was approached by hospital representatives” about building workforce housing in proximity to the hospital.
To allow for that use, the zoning would have to be changed to RA-40, which allows for the development of affordable housing at higher densities, chief building inspector Brad Hammond told the board. RA-40 allows for up to one workforce housing dwelling unit per 20,000 square feet, he said.
Deputy supervisor Tim Hubbard said he likes the plan “because the other workforce housing, the apartments downtown are all rentals…With the proximity of this to the hospital, I kind of think it’s an ideal situation.”
Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said she agrees the town needs affordable housing options for first-time buyers, but she is concerned that a zone change for this site could be precedent-setting. She noted there are several other tracts zoned RA-40 nearby.
“If everyone [with RA-40 zoning] were to do the workforce housing option you could end up with 100 homes in this area, she said. “It will be congested.” Jens-Smith said.
“We don’t have the luxury of looking at this in isolation,” she said.
Hammond said the RA-40 zoning has been in place on the other parcels for years and no one has sought to build affordable housing on them.
Losquadro said smaller profit margins on workforce housing would limit the number of proposals the town will see.
Manzi Homes, based in Rocky Point, has been doing this for many years, he said.
Manzi said he thought about workforce housing for the site after hospital officials, whom he did not name, told him the hospital needed more housing for its expanding workforce.
“I understand our workforce at PBMC is growing,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said, “but I’m concerned about the cumulative effect.”
Councilman James Wooten expressed support for the idea, saying it’s a type of housing stock Riverhead lacks and needs. “The town has been wrestling with this for three decades,” he said.
Jens-Smith said if an affordable housing development were to be allowed on the site — located on the north side of Middle Road just east of Harrison Avenue — it should have to remain affordable.
Losquadro said the town could ensure that it would in the covenants and restrictions filed for condominium maps.
Building and Planning Administrator Jefferson Murphree noted the proposed zone change would be a Type I action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act and thus subject to coordinated environmental review.