East Hampton Town will soon put out a request for proposals for the 16 detached houses that it will build as part of its effort to create more affordable housing, Eric Schantz, the director of the town’s Office of Housing and Community Development, told the town board on Tuesday. But the board must assist in that effort by reaching a consensus on a number of details, Mr. Schantz said.
The town purchased 12 acres late in 2019, using general municipal money for the seven acres on which the houses will be constructed and the community preservation fund for the other five. By town board resolution, the property was given an affordable housing overlay district designation in 2021, and the town code was amended the following year to permit four units per acre in affordable housing subdivisions.
Most recently, Mr. Schantz said, the planning board gave the project preliminary subdivision approval and is now reviewing the final subdivision application. The Suffolk County Health Department has issued its approval, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has received a stormwater pollution prevention plan and deemed it complete and acceptable, he said, with formal approval expected as soon as this week. The State Department of Transportation is reviewing the proposal for a curb cut on Montauk Highway, approval of which may come in the next few weeks. “We’re on pace to have all necessary approvals,” he said, if not this month, most likely in October.
The property will include a 100-foot-wide preserve in the front and a 50-foot-wide buffer on the west side of the C.P.F.-acquired portion. A roadway ending in a cul-de-sac will provide access to the individual lots.
The lots range from around 10,500 square feet to 18,000 square feet. To ensure that the houses will remain affordable for future buyers, gross floor area will be restricted to 10 percent of lot area, where the code otherwise allows 10 percent of lot area plus 1,600 square feet, and a maximum of 1,800 square feet. The number of bedrooms per house will be limited to four, and swimming pools and playing courts will be prohibited. Accessory structures will be limited to an aggregate 600 square feet.
Mr. Schantz said that the town can solicit multiple designs from one or more contractors, after which the future property owners will contract directly with the chosen construction firm to build them. He suggested that bidders be required to provide a minimum of six distinct floor and elevation plans, and that the town select two builders for construction of the houses, with each guaranteed a minimum of six houses to construct. The contractors will be required to obtain building permits and certificates of occupancy from the town, and to install a sanitary system and coordinate County Health Department approvals.
He asked that the board focus most intently on the request for proposal’s construction and design requirements. At present, the parameters include one to four bedrooms per house; full basements with interior and exterior access; seamless gutters and dry wells; discrete hot water heaters; washer and dryer hook-ups; cable connections in all bedrooms and living rooms; a telephone line in the kitchen, living room, and master bedroom; storm and screen doors at exterior doors; bathroom and kitchen cabinet doors and frames made of wood and all doors with felt padding on the inside closing edge, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed to state building codes.
“These may change, depending upon the designs that we get and when we figure out what the cost is going to be,” he said, describing the features as a “wish list” for the board to finalize before bids for the houses’ design are solicited.
Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said that the construction and design requirements Mr. Schantz listed are “pretty inclusive” but missing one key element, “and that is that all homes should be capable of having exposures for solar panels” and that said system be sized commensurate with the kilowatt usage of the structure. He also questioned the need for cable hook-ups in all bedrooms and living rooms, given the prevalence of wireless fiber systems. “Same with the telephone lines,” he said. “I’m not sure either of those are really necessary at this point with the technological changes.” Councilman David Lys agreed, suggesting these be options rather than features.
Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez reminded her colleagues that in previous discussions the houses were envisioned as all-electric. “Another reason to have electric generated onsite as well, to offset demand,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said of solar panels. Councilwoman Cate Rogers asked that a sustainable landscaping plan be developed for the properties.
The presentation drew public comment from one adjacent property owner. Lorraine Bonaventura, an architect, said that the project “needs to be seen in context of its entire neighborhood,” referring to the existing residences and businesses in the area, the existing vehicular traffic that will increase when 16 houses are occupied, and pedestrian traffic. She also asked that some of the large trees on the housing portion of the 12 acres be spared, and that an effort be made to ensure that houses and yards do not encroach on the 50-foot buffer. She asked about the construction schedule, which will be constrained due to the endangered northern long-eared bat’s hibernation, and voiced concern about construction noise. There was no mention of lighting, she added. “If you’re trying to keep the character somewhat rural, which I certainly think is great, that needs to be considered,” she said.
“In terms of the design, I did never hear the word ‘architect,’ “ Ms. Bonaventura added, suggesting that it not be left entirely to contractors. Another suggestion caught the board’s collective ear. “I’m not sure if you’ve thought about the idea of having the houses built as a prefab, which has come a long way,” she said. “Maybe there’s an opportunity there to build that way, and that would be a shorter time frame, and the houses would be built offsite and brought in.”
“I think your comment about including prefab in the R.F.P. is important,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “I’m glad you brought that up. I think that for a number of reasons that could be beneficial, in terms of the array of designs and the modular nature of those unit designs that can be configured. . . . It also speeds up, not only in the actual construction but in the certifications,” he said. His colleagues agreed that prefabricated designs should be included in the request for proposals.
The R.F.P. application window could open in November, Mr. Schantz said, a contractor or contractors chosen in December, with clearing and preliminary work commencing in January. “We’ve made a lot of progress, and this project is coming very soon.”