Walsh Park Letters to the FI Community re: School Land Project

February 25, 2020

To the Southold Town Board and Planning Committee:

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

Almost four years ago, Walsh Park Benevolent Corporation started a conversation with the Fishers Island School District about a potential partnership to develop affordable housing for year-round residents of Fishers Island on a parcel of land owned by the School District and for which the School District had no other practical use.  This was the continuation of a discussion that began almost 20 years ago. Our partnership with the School District has been welcomed by both parties because of the need to create more affordable housing on Fishers Island and thereby increase the number of permanent residents on Fishers Island. It is hoped that a growing population will benefit the entire Island community and the School District in particular.

Last year, after signing a non-binding Letter of Intent to purchase the property from the School District, Walsh Park introduced to surrounding neighbors the concept of developing housing on the property for permanent residents of the Island.  At that same time, we sent the community a letter outlining our initial plans. https://fishersisland.net/a-note-to-the-community-from-walsh-park/

Subsequently we filed an application with the Town of Southold to request Hamlet Density zoning on the property and the requisite statutory notice of our change of zone application was sent to surrounding landowners. We have since been in regular communication with the community, including the neighbors, other interested Islanders and other Island organizations, to keep the everyone up to date on the status of our plans. https://fishersisland.net/walsh-park-letter-to-the-fi-community-re-school-land-project/

As we have listened to the issues raised by interested parties, we have modified our application to reduce the number of allowable dwellings from 8 to 6 and we have stipulated that only year-round residents will occupy the housing. We have also offered suggestions (e.g. No Parking and additional STOP signs) to address concerns about parking and traffic and we have begun work with Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects on preliminary site planning and design.  Tod and Billie are well-respected architects who have renovated a historic personal residence on the Island and who have been our partners in the renovation of the Freight Terminal.

Our primary goal is to provide additional housing for year-round residents in order to increase the year-round population, consistent with the recommendations in various studies undertaken over the years.  We believe that the site we have identified is ideally suited for Hamlet Density development because of its central location and surroundings Most recently, in 2013-2015, a Land Use Working Group on Fishers Island looked at the zoning on the Island and, among many issues, sites for affordable housing. At that time, School land was identified as a possible site. (See attachments)

To date, we have received a great deal of positive support for our project and we have also heard concerns from members of the community that generally fall into the following categories:

  • Size/Density

In response to comments about density, we have modified our application to limit the number of dwellings to 6 (instead of the maximum allowable Hamlet Density of 10 units or the originally proposed 8).  We believe that this is a reasonable compromise and could be accomplished without any significantly adverse effects on the character of the Fort Wright area. Our research has unearthed a photograph showing that in the Fort Wright days, this area actually had 11 units on it. (see photo). Furthermore, although the area along Winthrop Drive is zoned R-40, no current lot meets the R-40 one-acre size requirement. It appears that the properties are all pre-existing, non-conforming lots ranging in size from .30 to .85 acres. Our proposal of up to 6 units on 2.74 is certainly in keeping with the current density of the surrounding area.

  • Character of the neighborhood – Traffic, Noise, Safety, Parking

If we are able to acquire the property and obtain the requested variance, we intend to complete a formal traffic and safety study in conjunction with formal site planning.  The results of this study will be shared with the community and will inform the final site plan.  At present, we envision two points of entry to and egress from the property and expect that all dwellings will have driveways and ample off-street parking. We are certainly amenable to additional STOP and No Parking signs to mitigate the traffic issues cited.

  • Infrastructure

We have been in touch with the Fishers Island Utility Company to understand where there may be requirements for additional investment to support the water and power needs of the proposed development. The Utility Company has shared that its existing water distribution system will likely need support and we are prepared to invest in partnership with the Utility Company to ensure this development does not place an unsustainable burden on the existing infrastructure.   This is a similar to the approach Walsh Park followed with the renovation of the Freight Building. Walsh Park made a significant investment to support the project, but also to benefit the surrounding property owners.

  • Development Process

At this point we do not have detailed plans for development of the site. Walsh Park has not hired landscape engineers, we have not developed cost estimates for construction, and we have not secured any funding for the project.  These steps were not taken because of a desire to avoid spending donor funds on a property that we do not own or on a project that might not come to fruition. In the past month, we have begun work with Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects, our partners on our Freight Building project, on preliminary site and design options for the property, with a maximum density of up to 6 units, aligned with our application. We plan to continue to work with the community on the best way to address expressed concerns regarding the impact on the neighborhood, including traffic, parking, design and infrastructure and will enlist the help of additional experts to ensure that the development addresses the issues that have been shared with us.

  • Why Not Build Elsewhere?

This project has been under consideration off and on for over twenty years. It has continued to be pursued because the alternatives are few and demand for year-round housing continues to be strong. Walsh Park has looked at many alternative sites over the years and all have fallen through for various reasons.  This particular property has a unique appeal because of its location, availability, the existing Hamlet Density zoning status of a portion of the property and the large percentage of Hamlet Density property in the area. It also has the added benefit of providing funding towards the school’s 2020 capital plan.

NEXT STEPS

If the zoning change (and the contingent yet to be submitted or approved subdivision application) is approved, the Fishers Island School District will then conduct a referendum of eligible Fishers Island voters to secure their approval to sell the property.  The timing of this referendum will depend on several factors including the zoning approval process timeline, the School Board’s determination and the voting cycles typically utilized.  Walsh Park understands that the registered voters of Fishers Island will have the final say on the sale of this property.

In closing, we can confirm that Walsh Park has no interest in doing anything that is not in the best interest of the Fishers Island community. We also appreciate that this project, if completed, will involve some compromises. We have taken previous conversations and feedback from the community to heart and will continue to do so as we move along this path.

Thank you for consideration of our zoning application.

Sincerely,

The Walsh Park Benevolent Corporation Board of Directors

Frank Burr Sr., Chairman Emeritus
Andrew Burr, Co-President
Ned Carlson, Co-President
Christian Arsenault
David Burnham
Peter Crisp
Gail Cypherd
Trudi Edwards
Mark Gaumond
Allison Goss
Ellen Harvey
Mary Horn
Jeff MacDonald
Donald Young

Link to post on Town website. Go to (current as if 3/2/20) page 11.

February 13, 2019

An Update from the Board of Walsh Park to the Fishers Island Community

We are writing to further update you on the status of our project to expand the inventory of much needed housing for full-time residents of Fishers Island by purchasing and developing a parcel of land currently owned by the Fishers Island School District.

This week our application for Hamlet Density (HD) zoning was accepted by the Town Board and sent to the Planning Staff for its review and recommendation. When that recommendation is complete and depending on that recommendation, the Town Board will schedule a public hearing on the application. Those who would like to provide their perspective on this project can submit comments by emailing Elizabeth Neville: E.Neville@town.southold.ny.us

As part of our ongoing dialogue with the Town and the community, and our efforts to balance the island’s need for additional year round housing with maintaining the character of the West End, we added additional specific restrictions to our application. Most notable of these include revising our application to a maximum of 6 units, as opposed to the 10 allowed by the zoning code and the 8 depicted in our original application. We have begun to undertake preliminary site planning and design work with Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, highly respected architects who have been our design partners on our Freight Building apartment project. Tod and Billie have a demonstrated history of designing projects that keep with the character of and respect the history of the west end community. In addition we also added specific restrictions aligned with our mission that any housing units on the property will only be for year round residents as requested by the neighbors.

While we have limited the total number of units to 6, we are still determining the best utilization of the space. It is our intention to align housing units on the property with the existing density of the surrounding properties. We feel it is crucial to take advantage of the unique opportunity the property affords to meet the island’s needs for additional housing while also addressing the concerns we have heard. We look forward to ongoing collaboration with the town, the community and the neighborhood to further refine our development plan.

The Walsh Park Benevolent Corporation Board of Directors

Frank Burr Sr., Chairman Emeritus
Andrew Burr, Co-President
Ned Carlson, Co-President
Christian Arsenault
David Burnham
Peter Crisp
Gail Cypherd
Trudi Edwards
Mark Gaumond
Allison Goss
Ellen Harvey
Mary Horn
Jeff MacDonald
Donald Young

January 27, 2020

An Update from the Board of Walsh Park to the Fishers Island Community

We are writing to update you on the status of our project to expand the inventory of much needed housing for full-time residents of Fishers Island by purchasing and developing a parcel of land currently owned by the Fishers Island School District.

Since our last communication, we have been in active dialogue with the community to solicit perspectives and understand peoples’ concerns. This has included conversations with interested individuals and participation at the last two ICB meetings where the project was discussed extensively.

We have received a significant amount of supportive feedback from many people who see this project as a positive step forward in our mission to expand the year-round housing inventory. We have also had pointed feedback and opposition from others who feel that they were not consulted as we formulated our plans and or that the development of the site will have an adverse effect on the Fort Wright neighborhood.

We first introduced the idea to most of the surrounding neighbors a year ago. We have subsequently been in regular communication with them, other interested Islanders, and other Island organizations, to keep the broader community up to date on the status of our exploration. Our counsel also served the requisite statutory notice to all surrounding landowners prior to filing the application. Notwithstanding our efforts to be transparent, we now recognize that we did not adequately communicate our intentions and goals for the project to all surrounding neighbors and concerned members of the community. As such, we would like to clarify a few points that we believe have been of particular concern to people:

SIZE/DENSITY

We have applied for a change of zoning classification to Hamlet Density (HD) on a portion of the subject property that is to be purchased by Walsh Park. The remaining portion of the parcel is already in the HD zoning district. In our application, we included a preliminary conceptual site plan that depicts 8 residential units on the property. This preliminary site plan was developed in consultation with the Town’s planning staff and is intended as a placeholder and we should have communicated it to you as such.

We want to assure you that Walsh Park does not intend to build the maximum density allowable (in this case 10 units). Rather, we envision a development that is smaller in scale than that depicted on the preliminary site plan, designed to attract families with school age children and in keeping with the character and feel of the neighborhood. If the project advances, we look forward to engaging more proactively with neighboring property owners as we evaluate the style and design options for the proposed new homes.

DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

At this point we do not have any detailed plans for development of the site. We have not engaged architects or landscape engineers, we have not developed cost estimates for construction, and we have not secured any funding for the project. We have deferred these steps intentionally because we do not want to spend donor funds on a property that we do not own or on a project that might not come to fruition. We understand that our inability to be more specific about development plans may be frustrating for people who want a better picture of the end state.

In response, we will continue to engage in thoughtful dialogue with the community about the best way to address expressed concerns regarding the impact on the neighborhood, including traffic, parking, design and infrastructure. We will also explore the opportunity of doing additional preliminary design work to provide clarity on our likely development plans. We are confident that we can address these concerns in a way that is satisfactory and ask that people allow us to demonstrate our ability to do so.

WHY NOT BUILD ELSEWHERE?

This project has been under consideration off and on for over twenty years. The reason it has continued to be pursued is because the alternatives are few and demand for year-round housing continues to be strong. We have looked at many alternative sites over the years and all have fallen through for various reasons. This particular property has a unique appeal because of its location, availability, the existing Hamlet Density zoning status of a portion of the property and the large percentage of Hamlet Density property in the area. It also has the added benefit of providing funding towards the school’s 2020 capital plan.

NEXT STEPS

Our zoning application has been filed with the Town (available here: http://bit.ly/WalshParkApp). The Town Board must now decide whether or not it will consider the application since review is discretionary under the Town Code. If the Town Board elects to consider our application, they will refer it to the Planning Board for review and recommendation. Depending on that recommendation, the Town Board will schedule a public hearing on the application. We have been advised that the review process may take several months and that the Town Board may impose certain conditions upon which the change to HD zoning would be dependent. If the zoning change (and the contingent yet to be submitted or approved subdivision application) is approved, the Fishers Island School District will then conduct a referendum of eligible Fishers Island voters to secure their approval to sell the property. The timing of this referendum will depend on several factors including the zoning approval process timeline, the School Board’s determination and the voting cycles typically utilized. The registered voters of Fishers Island will have the final say on the sale of this property to Walsh Park.

In closing, we want everyone to know that Walsh Park has no interest in doing anything that is not in the best interest of the Fishers Island community. We also appreciate that this project, if completed, will involve some compromises. We also want you to know that we have taken previous conversations and feedback to heart and will continue to do so as we continue along this path.

We encourage all interested Islanders to reach out directly to any Walsh Park board member to share your views and ideas. All feedback is welcome and appreciated.

Thank you for your continuing support of Walsh Park.

Sincerely,

The Walsh Park Board

Frank Burr Sr., Chairman Emeritus
Andrew Burr, Co-President
Ned Carlson, Co-President
Christian Arsenault
David Burnham
Peter Crisp
Gail Cypherd
Trudi Edwards
Mark Gaumond
Allison Goss
Ellen Harvey
Mary Horn
Jeff MacDonald
Donald Young

WALSH PARK BENEVOLENT CORPORATION P.O. BOX 684 FISHERS ISLAND, NY 06390 WWW.WALSHPARK.ORG

 

December 17, 2019

To the Fishers Island Community:

As you may recall, in February 2019, the Walsh Park Benevolent Corporation took advantage of a unique opportunity to help Fishers Island by signing a non-binding letter of intent with the Fishers Island School District to acquire a 2.4 acre parcel of land at the intersection of Winthrop and Equestrian Avenues. Buying this land would allow the Fishers Island School to receive funds for improvement while also providing Walsh Park with space for additional housing for year-round residents of the island.

This transaction has been under consideration, off and on, for over 20 years. The Fishers Island School Board concluded that a sale to Walsh Park is the highest and best use of the property. All proceeds will go to the school for improvements. Walsh Park will be positioned to further its mission of developing a supply of attractive and affordable housing for full-time residents of Fishers Island.

Our letter of intent is conditioned on obtaining from the Southold Town Board a change of zone for a portion of the property from R-40 to Hamlet Density, which the other portion is currently zoned, to allow for the creation of additional housing. Thus, to meet that requirement, we recently filed a zoning application, a copy of which can be found at the link below:

http://bit.ly/WalshParkApp

Presently there are no scheduled public hearings nor is there a set timeline for review by the Southold Planning and Zoning board. We have been advised that the process can take several months.

Although we are currently focused on finishing the project to add apartments atop the Ferry Freight Building, we nonetheless jumped on the rare opportunity to acquire a buildable lot on the west end. Most of our efforts and finances are focused on the Ferry Freight Building. As we are nearer to that completion, we are turning our focus to the School property.

At this point, the Walsh Park Board does not have specific development plans. Our intention is to acquire the property only if we are able to gain approval for the zoning and subdivision changes. Due to our resources, it is necessary to take this step before we devote our limited resources to detailed planning. We have not yet confirmed the exact housing type for which there is demand, developed cost estimates of what might be economically feasible, developed an appropriate site plan, undertaken a traffic study (including reviewing potential access points and safety considerations) or secured funding for the project. All of this work is ahead of us and is expected to take several years to do so thoughtfully, thoroughly and in partnership with the community.

To provide flexibility, we have applied for Hamlet Density zoning, which would allow up to 10 housing units (Note: the application refers to four, 2 family units). We were encouraged by the Town of Southold to apply for a change of zone to Affordable Housing Density but chose not to do so because of our concerns over the impact on the neighborhood and some of the regulatory requirements that attach to an Affordable Housing designation.

We have been open and timely in communicating with neighbors about the status of the project, starting in the winter of 2019 and more recently prior to the zoning application being filed. Since signing the LOI, we have been in direct dialogue with many interested parties regarding their specific questions and concerns. We believe that now is an appropriate time to share more information about our goals for this potential project with the broader community.

The decision to move forward with the exploration of the viability of this project comes after many years of Walsh Park considering and pursuing other building options on the Island. These efforts have included the acquisition of undeveloped land and joint ventures with other landowners. With the exception of our joint project with the Ferry District, all have fallen through for various reasons and others have gone dormant. Frankly, none of the options we have considered are as attractive as the school property, due to the proximity to the school and the ferry. Unfortunately, there are very few parcels of land on the island that would be available, affordable and suitable for higher density year round housing.

We recognize that the proposed building site is in an established neighborhood and want to reassure all parties that anything we might ultimately develop will be done in the Island’s best interests and in consideration of the neighbors’ understandable concerns about size, density, traffic, noise, landscaping, aesthetics and safety. Walsh Park’s ultimate goal is to continue to be a good steward of our properties and to have the community’s interest aligned with our mission of supporting the year-round community.

We plan to keep the Island and surrounding neighbors informed of our progress and encourage you to share your views with the Walsh Park Board. We are making great strides toward addressing housing needs on the Island and are grateful for your continued support of this crucial need.

Sincerely,

The Walsh Park Board

Frank Burr Sr., Chairman Emeritus
Andrew Burr, Co-President
Ned Carlson, Co-President
Christian Arsenault
David Burnham
Peter Crisp
Gail Cypherd
Trudi Edwards
Mark Gaumond
Allison Goss
Ellen Harvey
Mary Horn
Jeff MacDonald
Donald Young
Change of Zone Petition Submission by WP

Check Also

IN MEMORIAM: Harry P. Rogan

Harry P. Rogan 93, formerly of Springbrook Road, died Sunday, April 5, 2020, at the …