Op-Ed: Suggestions for the Melville Center

The two town of Huntington hearings that have been held so far on the Melville Town Center have been civil in tone, with many people offering opinions and concerns about what should be done.

The Huntington Township Housing Coalition would like to thank our fellow citizens for their thoughtful comments. Our coalition is not just there to push our views. We are there to listen as well, and we have two concerns.

The first concern is that the requirement that any housing of five or more units must contain 20% affordable units must be sacrosanct. We believe the law as written covers it, and we believe the housing law as amended under Edwards-Berland also requires it.

But we have now heard too many lawyers from a variety of ideologies suggest that there might be a loophole. We’re not lawyers, we’re just volunteer citizens, and so we say to the town: Put a clause in that says anyone who builds five or more units using the overlay zone must make 20% of them affordable. If it’s redundant, I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first redundant law on the town books. The clause would enshrine the town’s commitment to affordability for all to see.

The second concerns is the worry raised by some residents that there will be apartments built in zone 2, but then nothing will actually happen in zone 1, the proposed downtown. We at the housing coalition are sympathetic to this concern.

We do not agree, however, that only the downtown portion (zone 1) should be approved at this time. The two overlay districts are a matched pair. They have a symbiotic relationship. Zone 2 is an integral part of trying to solve the housing issue, and an important part of the customer base that will make the stores in the new downtown viable.

I visited Patchogue about nine months after its apartments were built. Most of the new storefronts were still vacant even though the apartment buildings were full. Of course, the storefronts are full now. If you want the retired cop who wants to open a bar, or the chef who wants to open a restaurant with her life savings to bet it all on your new town, they need to see the residents in residence before they wager their nest egg. The stores won’t rent until there are heads in the beds. It is imperative that both bills pass at the same time for the town centre to succeed.

The Melville Town Center is vital for the future tax base and communal health of our town. Let’s get it done, but let’s get it done right.

Roger Weaving is president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition.

One Reply to “Op-Ed: Suggestions for the Melville Center”

  1. The very fact that ordinary citizens are debating key aspects of these proposals raises three important — but very different — points.
    1. Most of us are willing to engage in civil, respectful debate, with each faction raising important points that need to be considered by all involved. Listening to each other and synthesizing our perspectives through productive dialogue is important for a healthy community.
    2. Unfortunately, the proposals lack the specificity of language and requirements that will ensure the vision put forth by the board will come to pass. Mr. Weaving expresses concern that the businesses in the proposed town center will not succeed if there are not enough apartments nearby. However, the vision shared by the Board seemed to promote a town center to be enjoyed by current residents of the wider Melville area — not simply to rely on the new residents. These discrepancies in interpretation need to be clarified by more clear legal coding language. Much depends upon proper urban/suburban planning.
    3. A professional planning firm should be handling these details. Board members and other laypeople offer valuable visions, ideas, concerns and priorities, but there is not yet a clear vision, and none of us have the expertise and experience to plan the biggest residential development on Long Island.

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