Huntington Housing coalition: Nothing homey about new regs

Huntington Housing coalition: Nothing homey about new regs

Group criticizes amendment aimed at two-family homes

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards. File photo by Rohma Abbas

A representative of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition blasted a proposal from Councilwoman Tracy Edwards (D) at a public hearing last week that would add requirements to creating two-family homes.

The law, if approved, would transform the process to create a two-family home in the R-5 Residence District from one that’s as-of-right — not requiring any planning or zoning board review — to one that requires a special-use permit from the Huntington Town Zoning Board of Appeals.

The ZBA would then review the application on a number of criteria and would also consider community input. Those criteria include aesthetics, like ensuring the house looks like a single-family home of no more than two stories, and restricting features, like exposed cellars, large attics, tall roofs, multiple driveways and decks, and prominent secondary entrances, according to the proposed law.

The owner would also have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the board that he or she would sustain “severe hardship” if the application was denied and that the hardship wasn’t self-created.

Roger Weaving, who spoke on behalf of the coalition, said, on Sept. 16, that the group was strongly opposed to the legislation. In a statement opining on the law, the coalition criticized the current requirements governing two-family home creation as well, calling them “so restrictive as to virtually exclude two-family homes from being created in Huntington.”

“Not only is the resolution arbitrary, it perpetuates racial and class segregation in Huntington, without purpose other than to exclude new people,” Weaving said.

Weaving also said that the proposed amendment includes arbitrary and vague language. It claims two-family homes should look like single family homes, but there’s no specificity on what a single family home should look like.

The proposal said the dwelling should be at least five years of age, but the coalition called this requirement “arbitrary and without purpose other than to exclude two-family homes in Huntington.” Also, the amendment doesn’t describe what constitutes a severe hardship.

The coalition and Weaving claimed the law doesn’t jive with the overall mission to create affordable housing in town for the community’s young people. Two-family homes offer lower rents, and the lower cost of living “allows young people to create a work/life balance, save some hard-earned dollars, and eventually & hopefully set down roots here in Huntington.”

Edwards couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday — her aide said she was traveling. But in prior interviews, the councilwoman has said her main thrust in introducing the law was to give neighbors the chance to comment on such projects, as current town code doesn’t require it. She was inspired to create this law after speaking with a Greenlawn resident who came home one day surprised to find a two-family home in the community.

“You shouldn’t be able to go to work one day thinking that the house being built next to you is a single family and come home from work and find it’s a two-family house,” Edwards said. “Intuitively, that just doesn’t sound like something we want to do.”

Creating sound regulations and requirements for non-single family homes is “appropriate and necessary,” the coalition stated in the letter, and requiring notification of neighbors “makes sense.” But “requiring a five-year wait period and demonstration of a ‘severe hardship’ make no sense.”

The public hearing was closed.