Huntington Town Board closes ‘loophole’ in developers’ parking requirements

The Huntington Town Board has approved a measure that further limits the expansion of multistory apartment buildings in its downtowns by clarifying rules on parking requirements.

Town Supervisor Ed Smyth said developers of apartments can now no longer rely on municipal parking lots to satisfy their off-street parking requirements.

Smyth sponsored the resolution that clarifies in town code the rules regarding parking requirements related to converting existing multistory structures within 300 feet of municipal parking lots to residential use on the upper floors.

“We closed a loophole,” Smyth said, adding that the town’s goal was to limit development of apartment buildings in downtowns such as Cold Spring Harbor and Huntington, which have commercial centers.

Previously a building owner could use the calculation for parking needed for construction approval if the building had a preexisting nonconforming use variance from the town, he said. Nonconforming use means a property is in a zoning category that does not match how it is being used.

Generally those designations go to buildings that were constructed before zoning codes were put into place.

The measure was approved at a June 14 town board meeting 4 to 1. Member Joan Cergol voted against the resolution.

Huntington based attorney James Margolin is representing a client that is seeking to convert the upper floor office space to apartments at 263 Main St. in Huntington, which formerly was occupied by a Loft clothing store. The building, built in 1884, does not meet the current parking requirement standards, and therefore is considered a nonconforming use.

Smyth and Margolin agree that this application is what triggered the town board to make the amendment.

Margolin said the application of his client, 263 Main Street Development LLC, is before the town’s zoning board of appeals to get an “interpretation” of its plans and how it will account for parking spaces.

Margolin said the plan is now probably going to be denied because of the “shortsighted” amendment.

“There was no grandfathering in the legislation even though we requested it,” Margolin said. “The zoning board has to apply the law that exists when they make the decision and now the new law exists.”

Cergol also criticized the legislation because it only targets apartment development and not retail or office space.

“But there is limited market for retail or office,” she said. “We know office and retail trigger far more need for parking.”

Cergol said the board needs to be careful when restricting owners of buildings, especially those built before the town had zoning codes and that the amendment is essentially “tying the hands” of such historic building owners.

“It’s a noble goal to try to preserve parking,” she said. “But apartments are not the biggest users of our parking, it’s our vibrant entertainment and service economy that draws large numbers of people, often within a short space of time, to Huntington, and they need places to park.”

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