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:
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.
The Walsh Park Board
Andrew Burr, Co-President
Ned Carlson, Co-President