By Jano Tantongco
Speakers at the April 4 Huntington Town Board meeting expressed concern that a proposed resolution adding parking requirements for mixed use development might inhibit another proposal designed to spur creation of affordable housing.
Both proposals were co-sponsored by Councilwomen Tracey Edwards and Susan Berland.
Edwards said in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the bills are designed to solve both “short- and long-term issues.”
“In the short term, until we acquire a parking garage, we need to ensure that new development has parking,” Edwards stated. “In the long term, we want millennials to have an opportunity to live downtown, and lastly we reduced the fees for those developers that build affordable units.”
The affordable housing bill would mandate 20 percent of the units in mixed-use buildings in a C-6 or C-5 zone be affordable housing. Currently, the only time the town can create affordable housing is when rezoning occurs.
Roger Weaving Jr., president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, said he appreciated the stipulation for a 1-to-5 ratio for affordable units in commercial mixed use development, what he called the “the most prevalent kind of building happening today.”
“The coalition is very happy that you are proposing this comprehensive resolution to create greater opportunities for affordable housing in the town of Huntington,” Weaving said.
Elissa Kyle, sustainability director for the smart growth organization Vision Long Island, said more people are choosing to rent and live in walkable downtowns.
Kyle, a Huntington Station resident, added that for such units to be created, solutions would have to take into account the costs of building on previously developed land, as well as lengthy approval processes. She suggested subsidies, a streamlined approval process and allowing smaller units to incentivize affordability.
Tackling Parking Issues
The proposed parking legislation would mandate that all residential development over stores in commercial zones must provide either on-site parking or must utilize a parking lot not more than 1,500 feet from the building. It would also disallow such developments from using municipal lots toward parking requirements.
“We believe that the proposed resolutions need more input,” stated a letter from the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce. “We believe this is crucial in developing an overall plan to address the town’s parking needs which also have an effect on housing development.”
The town’s parking study should be completed in a month to six weeks, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter.
Returning to speak, Weaving hoped that the board would retool the proposal to account for its effect on affordable housing and wait until the parking study currently underway is completed.
He said the bill, as written, might “chew up” parking spots that could otherwise be used in mixed use projects with affordable housing.
“There are certainly more than a few studies that show restricting parking leads to less dense housing and leads to some housing not being built at all,” Weaving said.
Meanwhile, Robert Lifson advocated for the regulations to be put in place until a parking structure could be constructed.
He cited a previous study by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates for the town’s parking committee that concluded that parking is well-used, with “very little unused capacity” during peak hours.
“All too often at these zoning hearings, a parking expert or a traffic expert comes in and says ,’oh, there’s tons of room in the Town of Huntington.’ And, hopefully one day that will be true, but it isn’t true today,” Lifson said.