WP Letter to the Community Fall 2022 11/3/22

November 3, 2022

Members of the Fishers Island Community,

The Board of Walsh Park is reaching out to share some information and urge those of you that are eligible to vote, to do so in the upcoming School District referendum on Tuesday November 8th.

One of the items on that referendum will be a request from the Fishers Island School Board to authorize the School District to sell Walsh Park a piece of property located on the west end of the island between Winthrop/Whistler and Equestrian Avenues. If approved, Walsh Park will purchase the property from the School District and plans to use the land as the site of the development of 4, single-family homes that will be rented or sold to contributing members of the year-round community.

We feel this project is a unique opportunity to fulfill our organization’s mission to promote the viability of the year-round community of Fishers Island by creating and maintaining a supply of year-round housing.

Below we will summarize some relevant history and information concerning this project. More information can be found on our website including a recording of the presentations we made at public meetings we held in July and October of this year. http://walshpark.org/

What is Walsh Park

  • Not-for-profit corporation founded in 1987 to address the declining year-round population on Fishers Island.
  • Mission is to create a supply of housing specifically for year-round residents.
  • Manages 12 owner-occupied houses, 23 rental/leased units and 2 commercial properties.
  • Rental properties are leased at discounts to the HUD Fair Market Index for affordable housing units (Norwich/New London). All other revenue comes from private donations from the Island community.
  • Houses approximately 25% of the year-round residents Approx. 33% of the Fishers Island children in the F.I. school Approx. 58% of the volunteer Fishers Island Fire Department

Why this Property?

  • Need to increase the supply of housing for year-round residents affirmed by the Town of Southold’s Comprehensive Plan, the Yale Study and other studies.
  • Property is available for sale and proceeds will help the Fishers Island School District defray other expenses.
  • Identified as a possible building site by 2013-2015 Land Use Working Group on Fishers Island.
  • Other development opportunities over the last 10+ years have been not viable or have fallen through.
  • Great location in the vibrant west end area. Ability to build with similar density, scale and aesthetics to the surrounding neighborhood.
  • Sale of the property will be authorized by the registered voters of Fishers Island.

History of this Project

  • Project was first considered and discussed over twenty years ago.
  • Winter of 2019: a Letter of Intent was signed with the Fishers Island School District and initial outreach to the community and the neighborhood was conducted.
  • Fall and Winter 2019: communication around WP’s plan to file for change of zoning was completed and the application was filed with the Town of Southold.
  • Throughout 2020: numerous communications and discussions were had with the Town, the Island Community Board, the Fort Wright Neighborhood Association and the community at large.
  • Fall of 2020: an agreement was reached with the FWNA, the Town and the community to restrict the number of potential units to be developed on the site to 4 down from a potential of 8-9 as would have been allowable under the proposed zoning application.
  • December 2020: the Town approved WP’s application for a change of zoning on the property.
  • Throughout 2021: Walsh Park continued to work through the planning and approval process with the Town in consultation with our engineers, architects and legal counsel for a required subdivision of the property and preliminary Plat Plan approval.
  • During 2022: Walsh Park has conducted multiple discussions, communications and public and private meetings with members of the community. During these, Walsh Park shared its initial site plan and unit design thoughts and solicited feedback from the community on these plans.
  • If approved, Walsh Park will purchase the property from the School District and continue the long and thoughtful process of final site plan, infrastructure assessments and unit design. This process will take multiple years and be done in ongoing partnership with the Town and the community.

Key Issues raised by the community and Walsh Park’s Response Maintenance – WP has not taken adequate care of its existing properties

  • Valid feedback
  • Steps taken / in process
    • Over the last 5 years approximately $1.4mm has been invested in capital improvements and maintenance projects
    • WP now has a building committee that has completed an initial review of all properties and created a phased plan of investment – critical down to aesthetic
    • WP has allocated and will continue to allocate approximately $150k a year in its annual budget for capital projects
    • WP plans to include in its capital campaign for this project a target $ amount specifically allocated to capital improvements in the existing portfolio of properties

Parking – not enough off-street parking in initial design plan

  • Valid feedback
  • Future iterations of the site plan will include additional off-street parking

Infrastructure – existing sewers & utilities should not be impacted

  • Valid feedback
  • WP recognizes the concerns about placing an undue burden on the existing infrastructure. We intend to comply with all requirements of the various regulatory agencies that oversee infrastructure matters, and to invest as needed any potential issues. These concerns will be addressed during the permitting and construction phase of the project.

Design

  • Received a great deal of positive feedback on the design
  • Some have also expressed a strong desire to have the buildings conform more specifically to the existing aesthetics of the neighborhood
  • As can be expected, there are multiple viewpoints about specific design elements like windows, roofing, siding, doorways etc. WP and our architects are aware of and will remain sensitive to these issues as the preliminary designs are finalized.
  • It is critical to note that these designs are preliminary and will evolve based on among other factors feedback, initial cost, anticipated maintenance expense and the ongoing iterative nature of the design process.

Access

  • Previously have shared the process and analysis behind the decision to pursue a Winthrop Ave. access point.
  • Some have pushed for a reconsideration of a Whistler Ave. access point
  • We continue to feel strongly based on feedback from our expert advisors and consultants that the Winthrop Ave. access point remains the best option
  • Minimizes impact in the form of additional road surfaces to the surrounding neighbors
  • Allows for maximum utilization of the odd shaped lot and the best potential layout of the units while trying to maintain green space
  • Affords necessary regulatory considerations/compliance – required setbacks, emergency vehicle access, deference to existing utility right of ways etc.

Site Layout – have received some feedback on the layout of the units within the property

  • Having agreed to limit the scope of the project to only 4 units, WP also took into consideration prior feedback from the community on the desire for low profile, less visible structures. Given that feedback, four single story detached units have been scoped and placed as efficiently as possible within the lot.
  • The units are laid out as they are due to the size and shape of the lot and required setbacks, emergency vehicle access requirements, existing utility right of ways etc.

Landscaping – thoughtful investment in landscape design and installation will be helpful in assuring the new development fits into the surrounding neighborhood

  • Valid feedback
  • WP agrees that a thoughtful landscape design plan will be needed and is committed to investing in one as part of the ongoing design and final installation process

Conclusion

As confirmed by multiple studies, additional year-round housing is essential to the prosperity and long- term viability of Fishers Island.

Walsh Park, has from the onset of its exploration of this partnership with the School District, communicated with and solicited feedback from the community. WPBC remains committed to continuing to engage with and listen to the views of the community and will proceed in a thoughtful manner, sensitive to all interests.

This project will take several more years to complete and will be dependent on successful capital raising and other factors.

This project has been endorsed by both the Fishers Island School Board and the elected representatives of the Island Community Board (ICB).

We urge all eligible votes to please vote in the referendum on Tuesday November 8th.

Signed,

Board of Walsh Park

Printable version of WP Letter 11/3/22

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