Islip considering higher-density zoning

Islip Town Hall is located at 655 Main Islip Town Hall is located at 655 Main St. in Islip. Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

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A proposed change to Islip's town code would allow for higher density in a residential zoning district as an incentive for developers who build affordable, environmentally friendly housing.

The town board is expected to vote Tuesday to set a Jan. 29 public hearing on the proposed amendments and the draft generic environmental impact statement that addresses the possible changes.

"Basically, if they give us a desired product, like green energy techniques or affordable housing, they get more density," Planning Commissioner Dave Genaway said. "Green energy techniques like solar panels or geothermal systems are fairly substantial upfront costs, so we know we're never going to get these things unless we make it financially realistic for developers to do it."

Only the Residence CA district, which is the town's primary zoning district for non-age-restricted apartments, condominiums and town homes, would be affected. Under town code, densities of up to six units per acre for town homes and nine units per acre for apartments for non-age-restricted developments are allowed.

According to the resolution, "the proposed code amendment would allow developers who take advantage of the incentives to reach maximum densities of up to 10 units per acre for town homes and 12 units per acre for apartments."

Genaway said creating affordable housing in Islip speaks to the Islandwide need for better housing opportunities for young people, and in Islip, an influx of inexpensive units could help alleviate the illegal housing situation. "It gets back to the reduction in illegal conversions, but rather providing a better supply of safer, affordable homes that aren't like illegal conversions, where we have 10 people living in the basement," he said.

The proposed changes drew opposing reactions from civic groups and local housing advocates.

Central Islip activist Renee Ortiz said she applauds any step to combat illegal housing in northern Islip: "We have to recognize there is a huge housing crisis and there is not enough affordable housing available for our community."

Executive director Eric Alexander said Vision Long Island "supports zoning regulations that provide incentives for affordable housing, energy efficiency and meet green building standards."

But Bill Etts, president of the Sayville Chamber of Commerce, said the possible impacts need to be carefully weighed. "The real issue is we need to keep our young people here on Long Island in affordable housing," he said, "yet we need to do it in a smart way that doesn't affect our environment and doesn't burden our school districts."

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