One of the biggest mistake planners and policymakers made on the East End decades ago was to make it virtually impossible for developers to build apartments.
Sure, the intention was good: Nobody wanted to see rows of apartment buildings crowding the sides of roads or lining the beaches. And reducing the potential population density meant, theoretically, at least, that what development there would be would have fewer negative impacts on the environment and less demand on other government services, including schools.
The problem with that once rosy scenario is that nobody foresaw the rapid escalation in real estate values that now make it virtually impossible to find a starter home for less than $750,000 (if you can find one) and is driving people from the East End.
East Hampton Town has fared better than Southampton in its efforts to answer the growing need for affordable housing, with different initiatives scattered from Montauk to the edge of Sag Harbor.
In Southampton, where larger scale projects have often resulted in neighborhood opposition, the focus has shifted to smaller developments and tweaking the existing zoning code to make it easier for some homeowners to create accessory apartments.
That’s why the plan, unveiled two weeks ago by the nonprofit Concern for Independent Living, Inc., to develop as many as 60 affordable apartments on a site next to the Southampton Full Gospel Church is so welcome.
The proposal calls for a mix of one-and two-bedroom apartments that would truly be priced at affordable levels — ranging from $550 to $1200 — with 25 percent of the units set aside for veterans.
The sole drawback, it seems, is the location along County Road 39, one of the busiest stretches of highway east of the Shinnecock Canal. That means access to the site would most likely need to be from the rear of the property. Initial plans call for a road to connect to first Seasons Lane and then Hillcrest Terrace before entering North Sea Road, a bit south of County Road 39.
That’s a small inconvenience for a project that could provide homes to 60 more of our neighbors and friends.