January 26, 2011
Housing Committee Weighs In
While former town councilwoman Deb Foster continues to tout East Hampton's existing accessory apartment regulations, members of the town's own appointed community housing opportunity fund advisory board criticized the law as "cumbersome."
Board members Barbara Jordan and Margaret Turner both said, during a meeting of the committee Monday afternoon, that they'd compared the existing law to a draft proposal crafted by Councilwoman Theresa Quigley. The current law, said Jordan, is "too involved, you need a PhD to read this."
The proposal includes provisions, Jordan believes could contribute to "a misunderstanding" in the public that has people worried it will add to existing population density, particularly in Springs. The committee agreed that the suggested size of an accessory apartment – 1000 square feet, and the proposed occupancy of one person for every 150 square feet of living space, should be deleted completely from the draft. Instead, the size of an apartment, and how many people could live there, could be tied to lot size. Quigley noted that while existing regulations allow accessory apartments on lots measuring 15,000 square feet, her version increases the lot size to 25,000.
Board members also discussed a provision permitting amnesty, giving landlords 18 months to bring their apartments up to proper building standards. "I thought that was a good thing," Jordan said, "but nobody I talk to thinks it's a good thing." Turner pointed out the current law also provides a form of amnesty, without any sunset time. Quigley said the provision, along with others in the draft, is the result of research into how other towns in Suffolk regulate accessory apartments.
Councilwoman Julia Prince, who is liaison to the housing committee, said the group has been talking about revising the existing legislation for months. Quigley countered that the number of problems people have found with the bill prompted her to want to just "throw the law out" and start fresh.
Asked to distribute the most recent version of her proposal, Quigley said no revised version has been written yet. Since she debuted the plan last November, she's been collecting comments and criticisms that will be considered before the next proposal is drafted. The proposal community members are looking at, she has emphasized, is a draft to get discussion going.
Committee member Prudence Carabine said she hopes the accessory apartment discussion continues and that the board doesn't turn away from it because it's "too hot to handle."