North Fork Town Bans Large Homes on Small Lots

A 7,000-square foot home on 0.9 acres in East Marion. (Google Maps)

A 7,000-square foot home on 0.9 acres in East Marion. (Google Maps)

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In body: https://www.elliman.com/newyork/sales/detail/612-l-789-16_3414707/4075-stillwater-avenue-cutchogue-ny-11935
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It has been ages since developers routinely built starter homes on the North Fork. But for the same reasons, they have built some big ones.

In response, Southold Town last week banned construction of large homes, except on very large lots, Newsday reported.

Under the new rules, a 3,900-square-foot home like this one in Orient could not be built on a small plot. (Douglas Elliman)

Under the new rules, a 3,900-square-foot home like this one in Orient could not be built on a small plot. (Douglas Elliman)

To be sure, this is not an affordable housing measure. It will not trigger construction of homes costing $500,000 or less, let alone apartments, which advocates say are desperately needed on the northeastern peninsula that stretches from Riverhead’s eastern border to Orient Point.

It will ensure that no more “monstrosities,” as critics tend to call them, are built on anything less than expansive pieces of land.

Homes on lots up to 10,000 square feet — 0.23 acres — are now limited to 2,100 square feet. A home on a 200,000-square-foot lot (4.6 acres) can be 10,100 square feet, plus 1 percent of any additional lot area. Newsday did not specify how large homes can be built in between those two thresholds. Southold Town supervisor Scott Russell did not return an email seeking clarification.

The economics behind the growth in home construction are fairly obvious.

Opportunities to build on the agriculture-dominated North Fork are limited by zoning and conservation easements. Meanwhile, demand for housing there has far outpaced supply. So land prices have shot up: Parcels that can accommodate a single home typically list for more than $300,000.

A wooded, 1.9-acre parcel at 1490 Kenneys Road in Southold with no water view is asking $549,000. The cheapest land in Southold Town on Douglas Elliman’s website is 0.94 acres in Greenport priced at $380,000.

This 5,500-square-foot home sits on 0.74 acres in Cutchogue. (Douglas Elliman)

This 5,500-square-foot home sits on 0.74 acres in Cutchogue. (Douglas Elliman)

At those prices, builders cannot make a profit by constructing a starter home. Larger homes typically mean larger profits, although they take longer to sell and risk overshooting the market. Some hulking homes sit unsold for years.

But the effort to prevent more from being built was not about saving developers from bad business decisions. Rather, activists deemed the mansions out of character with the North Fork, where locals take pride in being unlike the South Fork counterparts, especially the Hamptons.

“The local community has over the last year or so been saying, ‘What are you doing about this?’” Russell told Newsday. The Southold Town Council voted 6-0 for the changes.

Existing homes that violate the new size standard will be grandfathered, but will have to get a zoning variance to make substantial renovations or additions. That can be a hassle, according to one of the residents who spoke against the proposal.

“Right now at the zoning board, it’s crazy the line you have to stand on to get a hearing, and when you’re there…the review you’re getting is very difficult,” said Southold lawyer Patricia Moore said, according to the outlet. “If you take your own house and apply this, you may find your own house nonconforming.”

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