Southold Town Council is considering another version of an amendment that would change the existing code to allow property owners in commercial areas to extend buildings to convert them into affordable apartments.

In a regular session on Tuesday, the city council held a public hearing for the local bill on May 24 at 4:30 p.m. A public hearing for an earlier version of the legislation was held in late November.

According to the resolution passed, the proposed changes are intended to more closely regulate the development of affordable units in the town “to maintain community character and manage growth in accordance with the overall plan for the town of Southold”.

Landlords in the R-40, R-80, R-120, R-200 and R-400 Agricultural Conservation (AC) and low-density residential areas would no longer be able to apply for a special waiver to convert existing space to affordable apartments.

The owners, however, in the RO, or residential office; limited business; hamlet trade; General Business; planned light industrial park/office park; and light industrial districts would be allowed to convert and expand existing buildings up to six affordable apartments through a special exemption.

The building to be converted must be located in a designated Hamlet Locus (HALO) area or hamlet center and the apartments must be offered for rent that does not exceed the city code maximum. Eligible rental applicants must be registered with the Town of Southold Housing Registry and the flat must be their primary residence.

Building owners must apply for planning permission for approved construction within one year of the special exception being approved, and apartments must remain affordable apartments for at least eight years. There must also be at least one parking space per apartment.

The plot, the building and the apartments must remain in joint ownership and a communal rental permit must be obtained for each of the apartments.

An earlier version of the amendment would have allowed the building to be extended for affordable apartments in the Hamlet Business and Hamlet Locus areas. City code currently allows landlords in certain areas to convert existing buildings into up to six affordable apartments, although all conversions must be submitted to the Zoning Appeal Board for review and approval of special exceptions.

The idea is to promote the “adaptive reuse of existing buildings”, supervisor Scott Russell told the Suffolk Times ahead of the November public hearing. “We found this code a bit limiting, as there are buildings owners would want to add more than the number of apartments a particular building could house.”

In the resolution passed Tuesday, the city council declared itself the lead in the state’s environmental quality review; requested reports and recommendations from the SEQRA Planning Board and the local waterfront revitalization program; and directed the City Clerk to forward the legislation to the Suffolk County Planning Commission for a report and recommendations.

During a working session earlier today, City Council member Sarah Nappa said she would be willing to have a separate conversation about the potential for affordable apartments in residential areas, but not until six.

“They’re allowed to do that now, but if the issue is more than one, then we should have that as a separate conversation,” Mr Russell said.