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Residents oppose new affordable homes in flood-prone areas of Babylon

Babylon Town zoning board members hear about plans

Babylon Town zoning board members hear about plans for affordable housing on four superstorm Sandy-damaged properties on Thursday. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Residents living near waterfront areas in Babylon Town are pleading with officials to reject proposals for affordable homes in flood-prone neighborhoods.

Dozens of residents turned out for town zoning board hearings last week on four properties where the nonprofit Long Island Housing Partnership is seeking to build affordable houses. The building plans for the properties — on Lee Place in Amityville and Deauville Parkway, Surf Road and Venetian Boulevard in Lindenhurst — all need variances, such as diminished property line widths and setbacks.

Residents told the zoning board that the properties, which all sit near either the bay or canals, flood regularly, as does the entire street nearby. They said they have experienced flooded garages and vehicles ruined by saltwater and have seen buses and ambulances struggle to get through the flooded streets.

“It’s 2 to 3 feet every time it rains,” said Barbara Connaghan, who lives near the Lee Place property. “You cannot put a house there.”

The superstorm Sandy-damaged properties are part of 23 on Long Island that the housing partnership obtained from NY Rising. The state bought all of the properties for a total of $8.6 million through its acquisitions program. James Britz, executive vice president of the partnership, said properties with taxes from $8,000 to $12,000 were chosen.

The partnership plans to demolish the properties and build single-family homes consisting of three bedrooms and at least one-and-a-half baths, Britz said. About $400,000 will be spent per house, he said, with an expected resale of about $200,000. Public and private grant money will cover the remainder of the costs, he said.

Eligible home buyers must have incomes no higher than $65,000 for one person to $93,000 for four people, must be able to secure a mortgage and must not have purchased a home within the last three years. The land of the properties will be held in a trust set up by the organization, Britz said, to ensure that the houses are affordable in perpetuity. About 100 people have applied so far for the homes, he said.

Britz noted community concerns, saying the partnership takes flooding issues seriously and that the homes will be elevated and potential homeowners made aware of the challenges of living in a flood zone.

“These are going to be well-built homes that meet and exceed flood standards,” he said. “But there’s still emergency training that has to be done, for things like people’s automobiles, when floodwaters come in.”

Britz said they tried to keep plans “near the footprint” of the original homes, but residents at the hearing criticized the need for variances and said the houses would block their water views.

“This house is going to obstruct so many views of people whose homes have been there for years,” said Lee Place resident Priscilla Zinser.

Three of the properties are in need of variances that would decrease the size of side yards. Board member Thomas Weinschenk asked the architect to go back and redesign the Deauville Parkway house, saying he was “very uncomfortable” with the 4-foot side yard setbacks being proposed and that neighbors would prefer more space. Alicia Yabsley, project manager for Bay Shore-based Bouler Pfluger Architects PC, told the board they need the space to meet modern building requirements, but could ask instead for front- and rear-yard setbacks.

The zoning board has not made a decision on any of the properties and is holding the public record open.

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