East Hampton Town has proposed purchasing another parcel of land off Route 114 in northern Wainscott to expand its options for an affordable housing development planned near the former Triune Baptist Church.
The Town Board on Thursday night, September 5, introduced a plan to purchase 2.5 acres of land from the estate of Margaret Smith for $890,000. The land is immediately adjacent to the former Triune property, which the town agred to purchase earlier this year for about $900,000, and East Hampton officials say that the additional acreage will expand the options they have in crafting a plan to create new housing opportunities.
The town, which will hold a public hearing on the proposal on September 19, is also working with the Sag Harbor Community Housing Partnership, which owns a third lot that also is contiguous to the former Triune property. In total, the three properties now on the table will cover nearly 10.5 acres.
“We don’t have a specific plan for how this will be developed yet, but we know that the more space we have, the more flexibility it will give us in developing that plan,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said. “We are trying to get as many units as possible within the standards of the code.”
Even without the housing partnership’s parcel, which already has eight rental units on it, the town would own more than 8 acres of land in the area — approximately twice the amount at 531 Montauk Highway in Amagansett, where the East Hampton Housing Authority is currently constructing a 37-unit housing project.
The size of the coming development in Wainscott has been of concern to officials of the Wainscott School District, who have balked at affordable housing projects in the hamlet before, saying that a large influx of new students could unduly burden its two-room schoolhouse and even force its closure.
But town officials say that addressing the increasingly dire housing situation is crucial to the town’s future.
“This purchase is another commitment by this Town Board to address the affordable housing crisis,” Councilman David Lys said. “We could have looked at it as an open space purchase, but because of it being contiguous to the Triune parcel, it made sense to purchase it for additional future affordable housing options.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the administrator of the Smith estate had approached the town about the sale after seeing the town’s plans for the Triune property.
The Smith property is shaped similarly to the Triune and housing partnership lots: long and very narrow, stretching from the south side of Route 114 to Six Pole Highway. There is a house on the land, which Mr. Van Scoyoc said he expects the town will elect to leave standing to be integrated into the development plans for the property.
The supervisor declined to discuss whether the town was in talks with the owner of any other lot in the area, other than to say that the town is actively searching for additional properties on which to address housing needs townwide — and looking forward to a day in the future when there might be a new source of funding to help advance the effort.
“We are going to continue looking for properties all over town,” he said, harking to this year’s approval by the State Legislature of a new half-percent tax on real estate transactions to help fund new housing assistance programs on the East End. “We’ll be putting together a town plan in advance of the referendum in 2020 on the creation of a transfer tax for housing purposes, and there will be a lot of need to develop how and where that money is going to be spent.”