Eliminating the “Nay” for New Downtown Neighborhoods

July 31, 2015

It has been the lament of Long Island for many years that we are losing young professionals (the “brain drain”) and burgeoning industries to the rest of the country. The lack of affordable housing, high taxes and a crumbling transportation infrastructure all contribute to this problem. However, local governments are starting to address these concerns with targeted zoning.

Numerous villages and towns have recently codified new zoning statutes and district overlays that seek to encourage  multifamily housing with accessibility to mass transit. Transit Oriented Development has now become the poster child of smart growth. Municipalities are realizing that by offering incentives or density bonuses for projects constructed in concert with rail stations or bus hubs, developers would be willing to make the capital investment in these municipalities.

In addition, local community interests and voters are starting to accept the argument that the creation of vibrant downtown areas will lead to broadening the tax base and lowering taxes, the improvement of the quality and quantity of mass  transportation facilities and creating housing choices that will appeal to the next generation of Long Islanders. There are many examples of projects that show the acceptance of multifamily housing projects that make sense for the community.

In West Hempstead, the local community was outraged about a local hotel with a nefarious reputation. Responding to the community, the Town of Hempstead took a bold initiative by creating a new zone in the town known as a CA-S Residence Zone with the hopes of attracting development for the site. The new zone offered increased bulk requirements of height and lot coverage and greater density if construction occurred in close proximity to railroad stations. Seizing on these incentives, Mill Creek Residential was able to construct 150 market rate units at West 130, and nearly all of the units rented in less than 10 months following completion.

In Lindenhurst, Tritec Real Estate announced plans to develop 7.1 acres in close proximity to the Long Island Rail Road station where they are seeking to construct 260 multifamily units. This project seeks to duplicate Tritec’s recent success in the Village of Patchogue, where zoning changes allowed for the approval of 291 multifamily units.

In Mineola, the completion of the Winston project with 275 units, within walking distance of the Mineola train station, by Mill Creek Residential was born from the Village modernizing its view on zoning.

Relying on the same smart growth principles, Lalezarian Developers currently is seeking approval for 296 multifamily units in the Village of Mineola. Other municipalities including the Villages of Hempstead, Port Jefferson and Farmingdale are including development incentives for transit oriented developments in their zoning code or master plans.

Real estate professionals need to be aware of these zoning incentives when advising their clients looking to develop multifamily residential projects. A smaller parcel of land that is strategically located near mass transmit may yield more density than larger parcels. Communities once overlooked due to stringent zoning regulations are now becoming more amenable to development. With the recent efforts of local government to implement zoning modifications accepting transit oriented development incentives, development will be able to flourish and hopefully help put Long Island back on track.

Reprinted with permission from CIBS.  All rights reserved.

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