By Danny Schrafel – firstname.lastname@example.org
Advocates: Play Ball With AvalonBay
Supporters urge town board to approve zoning for 530-unit housing development
A nearly three-hour marathon hearing regarding a 530-unit housing development in Huntington Station brought out a wide range of supporters along with pointed concerns about affordability, traffic, infrastructure and Section 8 housing in the development.
More than 50 people spoke at the Huntington Town Board’s public hearing regarding AvalonBay Communities’ proposal to invest $120 million to create 424 rental units and 106 for-sale town house homes located one-third of a mile from the Huntington train station. Of those, 132 will be market-restricted workforce housing – the largest such creation of workforce housing on Long Island. More than 1,100 people could live in the development, AvalonBay officials said.
The hearing was intended to address two issues – creating a special zoning district called the Huntington Station Transit Oriented District (HSTOD) that would allow for 20-unit per acre density and changing the 26.6-acre tract to that zoning designation once it is created.
Nat Board, of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, the group that marshaled many of the supporters Tuesday night, framed his analysis by painting Huntington as a baseball team that needed all of its players – seniors, young people and growing families – in the game to thrive.
“If some of our players have no chance at all to do their best, then all of us are the less for that,” Board said. “Team Huntington needs all the strengths those people have to give, but they have to be able to stay here… they need AvalonBay and we need to give it to them. And so we say to manager [Frank] Petrone and his four coaches – please, play ball with Avalon.”
Eaton’s Neck resident John Lineweaver, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Marines, likened AvalonBay to Levitt developments for soldiers following the war.
“I am here because I’m motivated to express my concern and support for the up-and-outs living with the down-and-outs, and that’s what affordable housing is all about. That’s what America is all about,” he said. “We need to support young, skilled workers’ capacity to live in our hometown.”
Major focal points of concern and opposition were focused on the project’s density and impact on infrastructure like roads and sewers. Councilman Mark Cuthbertson stressed that concerns would be sent back to AvalonBay and Vice President for Development Matt Whalen for a response to be placed on the record.
“How do you fit 530 units on 26 acres? There’s only one way to do that. You build four-story buildings,” Matt Harris, who lives blocks form the proposed building site, said. “I’m not opposed to townhouse apartments on this property. It certainly beats the hell out of having the homeless … but four-story buildings? That’s a bit much.”
However, AvalonBay spokesperson Judy White said the site plan does not include any four-story structures, and the three-story buildings are to be situated at the rear of the property near the railroad.
Huntington Station resident Rich McGrath lashed out at the town board, accusing them of violating a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring the town not to concentrate low-income housing developments in Huntington Station.
“What I am totally opposed to was high-density, low-income housing that always found itself in one place,” McGrath said. “Where are the Donald Piuses, where is all the Section 8? Huntington, or maybe South Huntington… when you propose high-density, low-income housing, it’s always in one school district. The U.S. Supreme Court told this town, ‘stop it. It’s illegal.’”
McGrath said he initially supported AvalonBay because of the private sector investment and accused the town and AvalonBay of trying to sneak Section 8 housing into the Huntington development. Supervisor Frank Petrone said if management discovered qualified Section 8 tenants through their screening process for affordable units, they couldn’t dismiss a tenant just for that reason.
“As they review it and they find someone qualified, if that person happens to have a Section 8 certificate, you really can’t deny them. That’s federal law,” Petrone said.
Huntington Station Enrichment Center Director Dee Thompson threw her support behind the proposal and dismissed McGrath’s concerns about potential Section 8 tenants in AvalonBay.
“All of this hullabaloo about Section 8 – Section 8 people have to live also,” she said. “It’s affordable, there’s nothing wrong with it, so all of this is nonsense. If you manage properly, you won’t have to worry about who lives in the units.”
When the development is populated, each resident is expected to have less than 1.5 cars, while parking is being provided for 1.9 automobiles per head, a point of concern for several speakers. According to Tom Mazzola, of VHB Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture, traffic studies based on standards in the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ trip generator manual and years of studying AvalonBay properties on Long Island indicate the Huntington Station development would generate an average of 266 vehicle trips during the weekday morning rush, 322 in the afternoon weekday rush and 273 during the Saturday rush.
Whalen said if a demand becomes apparent for shuttle service from Avalon to the train station, it’s something they would explore. They are also in talks with HART to re-route a bus to create a stop at the AvalonBay community. He said he has walked the route for the proposed walkway, and the density of the community, security, lighting and walkability improvements would make it a safer path to the train station.
Petrone urged Whelan and AvalonBay to continue their work with the community, and particularly those with concerns or in opposition.
“Lights, traffic and these are still things that still need to be discussed. These are things I’m sure we’ll be able to work through,” he said. “I will pledge to continue to work with you and the communities in attempting to make this a reality… the ultimate goal is something I don’t believe many people are in opposition to.”
Related website: http://www.longislandernews.com/papers/longislander/front/index.html