Ft. Wright Neighbors Letters re: Walsh Park/FI School Land Project

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The following letters have been submitted by the property neighbors to the Town Board of Southold and the Town of Southold Planning Department in response to the Walsh Park Benevolent Corporation (WPBC) application to rezone Fishers Island School property to HD on the residential block in the Fort Wright neighborhood. They are in order beginning with the most recent and working back.

For all letters written in regard to this rezoning application visit and more information about the rezoning application, and other relevant information please visit this link: https://fishersisland.net/change-of-zone-petition-submission-re-walsh-park-fi-school-property/

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August 21, 2020 Letter to the Southold Town Board

Re: Change of Zone Application for Fishers Island submitted by Walsh Park Benevolent Association (SCTM #1000-9-10-10)

Dear Members of the Town Board:

As residents of the Fort Wright neighborhood, we have previously submitted to the Town Board and Planning Board several letters expressing our concern about the proposed Walsh Park project. For whatever reason, we do not seem to have managed to have had our voices heard by the Planning Board, and we are now hoping though this letter to change that.

First, we would like to address how we got to this point. In late 2019, Walsh Park (“WP”) filed its COZ Application for the project without any prior discussion with the neighborhood as to their plans. Since then, whenever we have raised concerns, the response has been that, while they are sensitive to our concerns, we should communicate them to the Town. In the 8 months since then, Walsh Park has refused to engage in any attempt to agree upon the “compromise” that they claim we all should be seeking. Instead, they have abdicated any responsibility to address our concerns to the Town Board, which is being tasked by Walsh Park, in effect, to play the role of mediator. From the very start, we believed that this approach is inconsistent with the type of consensus-building that any developer in any city, much less a community-based organization in a small, tight-knit community like Fishers Island, would and should adopt, and we feared that the approach taken by Walsh Park could result in our concerns being just cast aside.

The Planning Board recommendation did nothing to allay those fears. In its memorandum dated August 10, 2020, the Planning Board did not acknowledge, much less address, the various concerns we have raised. Our hope now is that the Town Board will recognize the legitimacy of our concerns and the need for Walsh Park to address them before its COZ Application is considered. Our principal concerns are as follows:

1. Density. The site of the proposed project is wedged in the backyards of the homes on parallel streets, in a purely residential neighborhood which is already one of the most crowded and populous areas on Fishers Island. We know that it is difficult for Board members to visit the site, particularly with the pandemic, but we believe that if you were able to walk through the site, you would instantly see that the addition of 6 units on the site would be too many, creating a neighborhood within a neighborhood that would dramatically alter the character of the neighborhood and the residential living experience of all those nearby.

The addition of 6 units, as proposed by WP, would increase the number of dwelling units along the entirety of Winthrop Drive by almost 50%. Increased density of that magnitude would of course permanently impair the “character and tranquility” of the neighborhood”, values whose preservation the Town’s Comprehensive Plan specifically identifies as a primary objective. The Planning Board does not address the consequences of the increased density, other than to state that the proposed 6 units equal a “density of 1.57 units per acre”, which we believe is itself misleading since the acreage in Lot 4 to be developed by WP is about 2.4 acres, yielding an average density of more than 2 units per acre. Along these lines, we note that WP has not provided to us or the Town a yield map showing exactly how many units can actually be built on the site, despite our requests for a specific detailed development plan. Therefore, we have no idea how many units can actually be built on the site. We would ask the Board not to consider the WP Application, or put the neighbors in the difficult position of responding to it, unless and until WP presents a development plan and yield map for what they actually intend to build, including specifics about the size, height and location of the units which are of course equally as critical as the number. (We believe it is readily apparent to everyone on FI that building on this site even just 2 units of the size and height of the 2 large houses now being built by the Utility Company on the recently rezoned HD site near the baseball field, which is far more open than this site, would be way out of scale and proportion to our neighborhood.)

In short, the development of 6 units would drastically alter the residential living experience of all those residents along Winthrop Drive and Equestrian Avenue who bought their homes relying in good faith on the R-40 zoning designation that now applies to most of the proposed Lot 4, which is the lot at issue here. If the Town can choose now to simply change a site in a purely residential neighborhood from residential to hamlet zoning, it will be setting a dangerous precedent for the Island and for the Town’s regard for the reasonable expectations of residential neighborhoods.

While there is good reason to object to the development of WP’s proposed project altogether, if the Town is otherwise inclined to approve the project, then any approval should be conditioned on the maximum number of permitted family units being reduced from 6 to a meaningfully lower number (with appropriate limitations on size and height so as to blend in, and not tower over, the neighborhood). If the Town Board were to approve the requested COZ for 6 units, there is no reason to have confidence that WP on its own will reduce the number of units they build, since they stated unequivocally their belief that 6 units would not adversely affect the neighborhood in their letter to the Town Board dated February 25, 2020; and contrary to the impression left at the Planning Board meeting, WP did not voluntarily reduce the size of the project from 8 to 6, but rather did so only after being informed by the Town Attorney that their Application for 8 would not be considered. If Walsh Park is serious about their invitation for “compromise”, but apparently only through the Board hearing process, we would urge the Board to accept that invitation and condition any approval on the building of a number of units meaningfully fewer than 6.

2. Inappropriateness of HD Zoning. To justify the HD designation for this residential site, the Planning Board skirts around the problem that the Fort Wright neighborhood is not a “major hamlet center”, for which HD zoning designations are expressly designed, by simply concluding that the area around the Village Green is not suitable for more housing – but that conclusion does not automatically make the proposed site a suitable alternative. The Planning Board, in effect, transforms the Fort Wright neighborhood into a hamlet center simply because it is walking distance to the center of Town. But, of course, every neighborhood on the West End of FI is walking distance from the Village Green, and that does not make them all suitable for HD zoning. Put simply, changing the existing zoning from R-40 to HD for a site that is literally in the backyard of a residential neighborhood that is not part of a major hamlet center is inconsistent, we believe, with the very purpose of HD zoning.

There may indeed be a need for more affordable housing on Fishers Island, but there is no reason to think there is such urgency at this particular time that WP and the Town need to look at this site as if it were the last and only opportunity for the development of more housing on the Island. For example, there is no greater nexus of the Fort Wright neighborhood to the center of Town than all the properties near and around the Village Market, which area contains more open space and fewer residences than the Fort Wright neighborhood. Moreover, as cited in the Planning Board memorandum, there are 234 additional available building sites on the Island, and as the Planning Board references, many of those sites are now owned by Fishers Island Development Corporation; we understand FIDCO is a strong supporter of Walsh Park and so presumably should be involved in exploring ways to use FIDCO properties to further WP’s mission. Given that (i) the Walsh Park ferry freight building housing project is not yet complete, (ii) the 2 new Utility Company houses are not yet filled, (iii) the year-round population is now relatively stable and (iv) more and more seasonal residents are now making Fishers Island their permanent residence, we believe this particular project should be slowed down to allow for an approach that more fairly balances the interests of Walsh Park with the interests and reasonable expectations of the neighborhood.

We expect it will be tempting to characterize our objections as falling under the tagline of NIMBY. That would be false. The neighborhood is simply interested in making sure that a balanced approach is taken to addressing the Island’s year-round housing needs, and thus far the approach of WP has itself been closer to NIMBY. Fishers Island is small, but not so small that the very West End of the Island, which already houses a large share of the Island’s year-round population, should be made to bear sole responsibility for resolving the Island’s housing needs. Walsh Park, FIDCO and the other community organizations on the Island should, we believe, be tasked with identifying development opportunities throughout the Island, including on the East End, to find solutions that impose responsibility on the entire Island, and not just on isolated, already heavily populated portions of the very West End.

3. Traffic and Safety. The portion of Equestrian Avenue leading to the center of town, the portion of Equestrian Avenue leading to Winthrop Drive, Whistler Avenue and a major service road adjacent to Whistler Avenue converge at an interaction at a curve in the road that is blind in two directions – creating what is already one of the most dangerous intersections on Fishers Island. The Planning Board memo concludes, with no support, that the additional vehicles resulting from the project (presumably 12 or more for 6 units) would create only a “nominal increase” in vehicle trips and not “significantly” affect the intersection. Anyone living anywhere near to that intersection knows that just cannot possibly be correct. What is already a dangerous intersection will just become more so, and no number of traffic signs, which is what WP has suggested, is going to change that.

In addition, anyone living in the proposed units would likely use Winthrop Drive to get to the ferry. This is a small two lane road which has in effect been turned into a one lane road because many of the houses on the street do not have driveways, which necessitates parking on the street. Most families living on Winthrop Drive have at least two cars, and so frequently the right hand side of the street is entirely given over to parking. Adding more vehicles to this mix is almost certainly going to make travel on Winthrop Drive both more dangerous and more disruptive.

4. Future Risks. Finally, we would note that Walsh Park does not yet own the property and has not raised the funds necessary to complete the project. If the property is rezoned as HD, it would be critically important that any rezoning be conditioned by the Town Board on WP both actually purchasing the property and completing the proposed project. Otherwise, a subsequent owner could exploit the rezoning to build a project that has nothing to do with the housing objectives that would have been the basis for the rezoning in the first place.

For all of the reasons discussed above, we would urge the Town to preserve the Fort Wright neighborhood and reject Walsh Park’s requested COZ Application or, if it is not rejected, at a minimum, condition any rezoning on there being built on the site a number of units meaningfully fewer than 6 (with appropriate limitations as to size and height for each unit).

Thank you.

Very truly yours,

(Signed)

Ann and Robert Anthony
Linda and Mark Borden
MaryJo and Don Chapoton
Anne and Stewart Cutler
Jane and Andrew Ahrens
Gordon S. Murphy
Robert Evans
Lolly and Jamie Dwinell
Renee and Andrius Montvila
Sandy and George Esser
Marj and Don Beck

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March 2, 2020 Letter to the Southold Planning Board & Town Board

Town of Southold
54375 Main Road
P.O. Box 1179
Southold, NY  11971

Re: Change of Zone Application for Fishers Island UFSD/Walsh Park Premises: Southeast side of Winthrop Avenue at its intersection with Equestrian Avenue, Fishers Island, NY
SCTM #1000-9-10-10 (the “Property”)

Dear Members of the Town Board and Planning Committee:

We are writing in response to the letter of Walsh Park Benevolent Corporation (“Walsh Park”), dated February 25, 2020, in connection with the above- referenced Application (the “WP Submission”).

While we believe our prior letters sufficiently set forth the basis for our concerns about the size of the proposed project and we do not want to burden you with a point-by-point rebuttal of each of the assertions made in the WP Submission, we believe it necessary to point out that the WP Submission seriously mischaracterizes the effects that the proposed project would have on the density and character of the Fort Wright neighborhood.

In referencing the existing lot sizes ranging from .30 to .85 acres, Walsh Park does not fairly convey the adverse effects of creating 6 new units with an average lot size of .45 acres per unit – creating 6 units, each with acreage close to the smallest lot size in the neighborhood, will of course, change the density and character of the neighborhood in a meaningful way.  Also, while a small portion of the Property is currently zoned for Hamlet Density, as we have previously noted, that portion is the furthest away from Winthrop Drive and Equestrian Avenue and so not at all indicative of the neighborhood most directly impacted.  Finally, we fail to see the relevance of the fact that the U.S. Army packed 11 units onto the site for temporary barracks during World War II – hardly a fair or useful precedent for what would be a permanent impairment of the neighborhood.

Walsh Park continues to insist that all parties must compromise and that it is taking into consideration the concerns of the neighborhood.  What troubles us is that initially proposing 8 units was not a concession to the neighborhood since the open space and other zoning requirements for the Property would not have permitted 10 units in the first place, and the subsequent reduction from 8 to 6 units was made only after Walsh Park was advised by the Town Attorney that the Town Board was reluctant to consider a zone change based on 8 units.  (See letter from Martin Finnegan to the Town Board dated February 7, 2020).  Since Walsh Park in its most recent letter has been explicit that it does not think 6 units will adversely affect the neighborhood, our concern is that unless the Town either rejects the Application altogether or reduces the number of permitted units below 6, the neighborhood would have no assurance that the project would, in the end, be reduced by Walsh Park to a size that would not cause the serious density, traffic, safety and other concerns we have previously raised.

While we continue to believe the project is ill-conceived and too-rushed, and have been shown no comprehensive study of all the open land on Fishers Island that might be considered as alternative sites, as supporters of the Walsh Park mission, we have communicated both to Walsh Park and the Town Board our willingness to consider the possibility of a smaller sized project on the Property.  We know, and we think a majority of the Fishers Island community knows, that 6 units on the Property are just too many.  As for what smaller number would be tolerable, it is difficult if not impossible to say with certainty because that number depends in part on the size of each unit.  For example, even one two-family dwelling of the size now being built by the Utility Company in the center of town (photo attached) would obviously be too many for this site.  However, for units more in proportion to the existing single-family homes adjacent to the Property on Winthrop Drive, we can imagine that 3 or possibly 4 units could be designed and located in a manner that would address the concerns we have raised.

In light of all of the above, we would urge the Town to reject Walsh Park’s Application for 6 units and, if it is otherwise inclined to allow the project to move forward, to further limit both the number and size of any dwellings to be built on the Property.

Thank you for your continued attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,

(Signed)

Ann and Robert Anthony
Linda and Mark Borden
MaryJo and Don Chapoton
Anne and Stewart Cutler
Jane and Andrew Ahrens
Gordon S. Murphy
Robert Evans
Lolly and Jamie Dwinell
Renee and Andrius Montvila
Sandy and George Esser

CC: Board of Walsh Park

February 14, 2020 Letter to the Southold Planning Board

Planning Board
Town of Southold
54375 Main Road
P.O. Box 1179
Southold, NY  11971

Re: Change of Zone Application for Fishers Island UFSD/Walsh Park Premises: Southeast side of Winthrop Avenue at its intersection with Equestrian Avenue, Fishers Island, NY SCTM #1000-9-10-10 (the “Property”)

Dear Members of the Planning Board:

The undersigned are residents abutting the property for which Walsh Park Benevolent Corporation (“WP”) has filed the above-referenced Change of Zone Application, as well as other homeowners on Fishers Island who would be affected by the requested change of zoning.

While we are supporters of the mission of WP, we believe the Application, as modified on February 7, 2020, should be rejected because the scope and scale of the development that would be permitted by the requested Hamlet Density zoning would have serious damaging consequences to the historic Fort Wright neighborhood in which the development would be located.  We are confident that a very large majority of residents in the Fort Wright neighborhood share our concerns, and none of us can recall, in our many years on Fishers Island, an issue as divisive as the project proposed by Walsh Park for the Property.  More specifically:

  1. Character of Neighborhood

There are currently 13 houses on Winthrop Drive and 9 more on the portion of Equestrian Avenue that stretches from the intersection with Whistler Avenue to the Northern end of Equestrian Avenue.  We believe that the potential development of six housing units, with potentially 24 or more occupants, would dramatically change the character of the neighborhood from one that is single family and residential to one that more closely resembles an urban environment. The development of six units would increase the number of dwelling units along Winthrop Drive by almost 50% and increase the population in that area by about 45%, thus drastically altering the living experience of the entire neighborhood.  The existing R-40 zoning designation for the Property is intended presumably to prevent that very type of alteration.

The Town Board has recently changed to Hamlet Density the zoning for a lot near the center of town next to the baseball field, on which the FI Utility Company is building a two‑family dwelling nearing completion.  While that lot is much less dense than the Fort Wright neighborhood and thus perhaps suitable for that project, it is obvious from even a cursory walk through of the Property and a quick glance of the Utility building that the shoehorning onto the Property of six dwellings of even less height and size would create a neighborhood within a neighborhood incongruous with the character of the residential neighborhood that now exists.

One of the primary goals cited in the Southold Town Comprehensive Plan (Objective 1.7) is to “preserve the character and tranquility of residential neighborhoods.”  The zoning change requested by Walsh Park is most certainly inconsistent with that important goal.

2. Traffic and Noise

There are only two roads that lead to the Fishers Island ferry – one is Whistler Avenue and the other is Winthrop Drive.  Also, there are already approximately 275 residents on the far West End of Fishers Island who need to travel on either Whistler Avenue or Winthrop Drive to get to and from the center of town.  As a result, there is already a very large amount of traffic along both roads, causing serious safety issues for cars, pedestrians, and bikers, as well as noise and pollution, and the addition of the large number of vehicles associated with the proposed development will severely exacerbate those issues.

3. Safety

The portion of Equestrian Avenue leading to the center of town, the portion of Equestrian Avenue leading to Winthrop Drive, Whistler Avenue, and the long service road adjacent to Whistler Avenue (servicing many dwellings) converge to form an intersection at an already heavily trafficked curve in Equestrian Avenue that, importantly, is blind in multiple directions.  This intersection is, we believe, already the most dangerous intersection on Fishers Island, and each of us encounters and observes already on a much too frequent basis circumstances where there are narrowly missed accidents involving cars, trucks, pedestrians, and bikers.  The addition of even more traffic at that intersection will severely increase the danger of that intersection and jeopardize the safety of the neighborhood and all those passing through it every day, and those increased dangers cannot be addressed simply by more stop signs.

4. Parking

It is already difficult in summer months, and even off-season, to find an open parking space on either Whistler  Avenue or Winthrop Drive, causing difficulties for existing residents and their guests.  At times, vehicles will be parked on Equestrian Avenue, causing even more safety issues for traffic in the neighborhood.  Not all the homes on Winthrop Drive have driveways and so the people living in those homes by necessity are already parking their cars on Winthrop Drive.  Moreover, since Winthrop Drive is narrow, there is not enough room for two cars going in opposite directions to safely pass each other.  The addition of additional dwellings on the Property will certainly exacerbate the parking pressures in the neighborhood and no amount of reserved spaces in the proposed development is going to avoid the inevitable consequence of more vehicles finding parking spaces at dangerous spots along Winthrop Drive and Equestrian Avenue, which will just further narrow the roadway and sidewalks available for safe passage of vehicles and pedestrians.

5. Infrastructure

We understand that there is already significant pressure on the existing infrastructure serving the Fort Wright neighborhood, including particularly the water and sewer facilities that are already at capacity.  Any further development we assume would bring that infrastructure to the breaking point.

For all of the reasons cited above, we believe the proposed change of zoning should be rejected.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Ann and Robert Anthony
Linda and Mark Borden
MaryJo and Don Chapoton
Anne and Stewart Cutler
Jane and Andrew Ahrens
Gordon S. Murphy
Robert Evans
Lolly and Jamie Dwinell
Renee and Andrius Montvila
Sandy and George Esser

CC: Board of Walsh Park

February 10, 2020 Follow up letter #2 to Letter to Southold Town Board

Southold Town Board
c/o Mrs. Elizabeth A. Neville, Town Clerk Southold Town Hall
53095 Main Road
Southold, NY 11971-6959

Dear Town Board Members:

We are aware that Walsh Park Benevolent Association has amended its Application to reduce its planned development to six dwelling units.

As both year-round and seasonal residents of Fishers Island who live in the Fort Wright neighborhood in which the development will be located, this letter is to express our strong view that that the reduction in density to six units does not come even close to addressing the concerns set forth in our previous letters to the Town Board dated January 10 and January 27, 2020, and we are confident that this view is shared by a strong majority of the Fort Wright neighborhood.

It takes only a cursory walk though of the property on which the development will be built to see that anything close to six dwellings will dramatically alter the character of the residential neighborhood and create the serious safety, traffic, parking, sewer and other issues highlighted in our previous letters. Squeezing onto the property three or even two two-family dwellings (with 24 or 16, or perhaps more residents), or six or four single-family homes (with the same number of additional residents), will increase the density of the neighborhood totally disproportionately to the rest of the housing on Winthrop Drive and Equestrian Avenue.

While we continue to believe any change in zoning to Hamlet Density is perilous at best, as supporters of the Walsh Park mission, we do not rule out the possibility that Walsh Park could develop a plan for a significantly smaller development (comprised of three dwellings) that would not decimate the neighborhood. However, we believe it is not fair or appropriate for Walsh Park to proceed as they have, seeking approval from the Town to build what is still clearly too large a development and leaving it to the community to raise objections without having any opportunity to see or comment on any specific plans showing the exact number, size, location or character of the proposed buildings. We would urge that the Town not approve the Application as it now stands and that Walsh Park, before any Town Board hearing is held, present to the neighborhood its specific development plan and seek to determine if a consensus can be reached as to a much smaller size and scale. While we do not know whether it will be possible to reach such a consensus, and much would depend on exactly what Walsh Park would propose, we believe that course of action would be far more preferable, and far more fair, than one that could result in the Town granting Walsh Park a license to determine on its own the actual size and scale of a development which could forever change the Fort Wright neighborhood and create serious and permanent traffic, safety and other issues.

The flurry of letters that the Town is now receiving, and we expect will continue to receive, from supporters of the development and from those opposed to the development underscores how very divisive this project has become on Fishers Island and how unwise we believe it would be to rush to judgment to even consider Walsh Park’s application for six (or even a further reduced) number of dwelling units. Too much is at stake, including the very character of a historic neighborhood that has endured for well over 100 years.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Ann and Robert Anthony
Linda and Mark Borden
MaryJo and Don Chapoton
Anne and Stewart Cutler
Jane and Andrew Ahrens
Gordon S. Murphy
Robert Evans
Lolly and Jamie Dwinell
Renee and Andrius Montvila
Sandy and George Esser

CC: Board of Walsh Park

January 27, 2020 Follow up letter to Letter to Southold Town Board

Southold Town Board
c/o Mrs. Elizabeth A. Neville, Town Clerk
Southold Town Hall
53095 Main Road
Southold, NY  11971-6959

Re: Change of Zone Application for Fishers Island UFSD/Walsh Park Premises: Southeast side of Winthrop Avenue at its intersection with Equestrian Avenue, Fishers Island, NY SCTM #1000-9-10-10 (the “Property”)

Dear Mr. Russell and Members of the Town Board:

We are writing as a follow-up to our letter to you dated January 10, 2020 and to respond to comments that you have recently received from certain individuals supporting the rezoning of the Property.

As stated in our previous letter, we recognize the need for additional year-round residents on Fishers Island.  However, we believe that those who have written in support of the rezoning of the Property, most if not all of whom do not reside in or near the Fort Wright neighborhood, grossly trivialize the significant adverse impact of the proposed project on the Fort Wright neighborhood and make certain assertions that we believe require correction.

We believe it is incorrect to say that a large multi-family housing development would be consistent with the surrounding neighborhood.  The proposed housing for up to 8 or even 10 families would be closest to Winthrop Drive and Equestrian Avenue, which are almost entirely comprised of single family residences.  It is misleading to point to the multi-family homes built by the U.S. Army on Whistler Avenue as characteristic of the nature of the single-family neighborhood that will be most directly affected by the project.  Only about one-quarter of the Property, which represents the portion closest to Whistler Avenue, is currently zoned Hamlet Density.  The large balance, which is closest to Winthrop Drive and Equestrian Avenue, is zoned R-40 presumably because single-family residential zoning best characterizes the neighborhood to which it is most directly linked.  Moreover, to point to the Freight Building where Walsh Park is now developing six apartments as being relevant to the character of the neighborhood where the Property is located is particularly misleading since there are literally no similarities between the character of the two locations.

We believe it is also incorrect to say that nearby residences will be well separated from the development given the roads on three sides of the Property.  The facts are that while there would be roads on two (not three) sides of the Property, there would be none separating the proposed housing from the backyards of the houses on Whistler Avenue and one side of Winthrop Drive.  As could easily be observed, the project would not be separated at all from the neighborhood – it would be right in the middle of it.  And if setbacks and/or roads were all that were needed to preserve the residential nature of a neighborhood, there would be no need for the distinction between Hamlet Zoning and R-40 zoning in the first place.

We believe it is also incorrect to say that occupant density in the Fort Wright neighborhood is low given that a number of the nearby residences are used only on a seasonal basis.  The facts are that of the 13 houses on Winthrop Drive, 8 are occupied by year-round residents, and 11 of the 13 residences on Whistler Avenue abutting the Property are occupied by year-round residents.  In any event, we fail to see why even seasonal residents should be deprived of the neighborhood environment they have been led to expect to continue by virtue of the current zoning designations.

We believe it is also incorrect to say that the parking on Whistler Avenue, and the absence of traffic jams, mitigate the parking, traffic and safety issues we have previously highlighted.  The traffic resulting from the proposed project will flow most directly to and along Winthrop Drive and Equestrian Avenue, not Whistler Avenue, and so the parking on, and width of, Whistler Avenue are largely irrelevant.

We believe it is also incorrect to suggest that there are no other available sites that would enable Walsh Park to fulfill its mission of providing housing for year-round residents.  There are many undeveloped lots on Fishers Island, some of which are owned by Fishers Island Development Corporation and some by the School, and there is no reason to assume that year‑round residents would be interested in living only on the very West End of the island. To say there are no others implies, surely incorrectly, that if Walsh Park cannot develop this single project on the Property, there are not, and will never be, any other alternative opportunities for the development of more year-round housing.

We believe it is also incorrect to say that Fishers Island does not need more open space and there are no better alternative uses of the Property.  While the East End of the island may enjoy more than enough open space, there is precious little open space remaining on the West End, and the Fort Wright neighborhood would be irreparably harmed by having even the remaining open space impaired more than current zoning designations permit.

Finally, we believe it is incorrect to cite the HD zoning designation granted to the Fishers Island Utility Company as relevant precedent.  The site of that property is located on a lot adjacent to a baseball field on one side and the American Legion on the other (with a large open distance in between), and behind it is the Doctor’s Office.  Accordingly, the character of that neighborhood, and the impact of the zoning change, bear no resemblance to the situation in the Fort Wright neighborhood.

Finally, we would note that Walsh Park has indicated that even if they acquire the Property, there is no assurance they will be able to raise the funds necessary to build the proposed project, which means that, if HD zoning is granted, it is possible that the Property could ultimately be resold to a party that could build for whatever purpose the maximum-sized project that HD zoning permits.

For all of the above reasons, we continue to urge the Southold Town Board to reject the change of zoning application filed by Walsh Park for the Property.

Sincerely,

(Signed)

Ann and Robert Anthony
Linda and Mark Borden
MaryJo and Don Chapoton
Anne and Stewart Cutler
Jane and Andrew Ahrens
Gordon S. Murphy
Robert Evans
Lolly and Jamie Dwinell
Renee and Andrius Montvila
Sandy and George Esser

CC:  Walsh Park Board

January 10, 2020 Letter to Southold Town Board

Supervisor Scott A. Russell and Southold Town Board
53095 Main Road
P.O. Box 1179
Southold, NY  11971

Re:  Change of Zone Application for Fishers Island UFSD/Walsh Park Premises: Southeast side of Winthrop Avenue at its intersection with Equestrian Avenue, Fishers Island, NY SCTM #1000-9-10-10 (the “Property”)

Dear Mr. Russell:

The undersigned are residents abutting the property for which Walsh Park Benevolent Corporation (“WP”) has filed the above-referenced Change of Zone Application, as well as other homeowners on Fishers Island who would be affected by the requested change of zoning.

While we are supporters of the mission of WP, we, and many of our neighbors, believe the Application should be rejected because the scope and scale of the development that would be permitted by the requested hamlet density zoning would have serious damaging consequences to the historic Fort Wright neighborhood in which the development would be located. More specifically:

  1. Character of Neighborhood.

There are currently 13 houses on Winthrop Drive and 9 more on the portion of Equestrian Avenue that stretches from the intersection with Whistler Avenue to the Northern end of Equestrian Avenue.  We believe that the potential development of 10 housing units allowed by hamlet zoning, with potentially 40 or more occupants, would create a neighborhood within a neighborhood and dramatically change the character of the neighborhood from one that is single family and residential to one that more closely resembles a dense urban environment.  The development, even if comprised of only 8 units with a total of 32 occupants, would increase the number of dwellings along Winthrop Drive by over 75% and increase the population in that area by about 60%, thus drastically altering the living experience of the entire neighborhood.  While Walsh Park has stated that the plot plan filed with the Application does not necessarily represent their actual planned development, it has not provided any alternative plan and, if the Application is approved, the development as shown on the filed plot plan, which is clearly totally out of proportion and disruptive to the neighborhood on all sides, would presumably be allowed under the requested zoning change.

One of the primary goals cited in the Southold Town Comprehensive Plan (Objective 1.7) is to “preserve the character and tranquility of residential neighborhoods.”  The proposed change in zoning, while addressing one problem, the availability of housing for year-round residents, would be creating a new one of equal or greater scale.  The project proposed by Walsh Park would, in effect, be sandwiched between two existing rows of housing, one on Winthrop Drive and one on Whistler Avenue.  It would therefore literally be the backyard of not one, but two, sets of residences. While we understand that Walsh Park may not have today an immediately available alternative to the Property, given the large amount of undeveloped land elsewhere on Fishers Island and the interests of the entire community and not just those on the very West End of Fishers Island to address the need for more housing for year-round residents, we do not believe that the opportunistic availability of the Property should be reason enough to change forever the “character and tranquility” of the historic Fort Wright neighborhood and create the other serious problems cited below.

  1. Traffic and Noise.

There are only two roads that lead to the Fishers Island ferry – one is Whistler Avenue and the other is Winthrop Drive.  Also, there are already approximately 275 residents on the far West End of Fishers Island who need to travel on either Whistler Avenue or Winthrop Drive to get to and from the center of town.  As a result, there is already a very large amount of traffic along both roads, causing serious safety issues for cars, pedestrians and bikers, as well as noise and pollution, and the addition of the large number of vehicles associated with the proposed development will severely exacerbate those issues.

  1. Safety

The portion of Equestrian Avenue leading to the center of town, the portion of Equestrian Avenue leading to Winthrop Drive, Whistler Avenue and the long service road adjacent to Whistler Avenue (servicing many dwellings) converge to form an intersection at an already heavily trafficked curve in Equestrian Avenue that is blind in multiple directions.  This intersection is, we believe, already the most dangerous intersection on Fishers Island, and each of us encounters and observes already on a much too frequent basis circumstances where there are narrowly missed accidents involving cars, trucks, pedestrians and bikers.  The addition of even more traffic at that intersection will severely increase the danger of that intersection and jeopardize the safety of the neighborhood and all those passing through it every day.  We understand that a traffic study will likely be undertaken but, having experienced for over 20 years the dangers that already exist, we are skeptical that any study can alleviate our concerns as to the significantly increased danger to all traffic in the neighborhood.

  1. Parking

It is already difficult in summer months, and even off-season, to find an open parking space on either Whistler  Avenue or Winthrop Drive, causing difficulties for existing residents and their guests.  At times, vehicles will be parked on Equestrian Avenue, causing even more safety issues for traffic in the neighborhood.  Moreover, since Winthrop Drive is narrow, there is not enough room for two cars going in opposite directions to safely pass each other.  The addition of additional dwellings on the Property will certainly exacerbate the parking pressures in the neighborhood and no amount of reserved spaces in the proposed development is going to avoid the inevitable consequence of more vehicles finding parking spaces at dangerous spots along Winthrop Drive and Equestrian Avenue, which will just further narrow the roadway and sidewalks available for safe passage of vehicles and pedestrians.

  1. Infrastructure

We understand that there is already significant pressure on the existing infrastructure serving the Fort Wright neighborhood, including particularly the water and sewer facilities that are already at capacity.  Any further development we assume would bring that infrastructure to the breaking point.

For all of the reasons cited above, we believe the proposed change of zoning should be rejected and that Walsh Park should be required to develop housing within the constraints of the existing zoning designations.  If the zoning were to be changed as requested by Walsh Park, we would strongly urge the Town, for the reasons cited above, to condition any approval on an agreement by Walsh Park to restrictive covenants designed to address the concerns cited above, namely a limit on the number of housing units to a number significantly less than 8, a limit on the number of bedrooms at these units, a limit on the height and size of the housing units, a limit on residency to full-time residents of Fishers Island, provision for parking spaces that would be expected to satisfy the requirements of both the residents and any guests, and provision for landscaping and tall evergreen trees that would shield the new housing units and help diminish the adverse effects on neighbors.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

(Signed)

Ann and Robert Anthony
Linda and Mark Borden
MaryJo and Don Chapoton
Anne and Stewart Cutler
Jane and Andrew Ahrens
Gordon S. Murphy
Robert Evans
Lolly and Jamie Dwinell
Renee and Andrius Montvila

CC:  Walsh Park Board

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