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Jan 5, 2016 5:08 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sandy Hollow Affordable Housing Lawsuit Dismissed By State Supreme Court Justice

A rendering of the Sandy Hollow Cove Apartments.
Jan 6, 2016 11:41 AM

A lawsuit seeking to stop Southampton Town’s development of a 28-unit apartment complex in Tuckahoe has been dismissed by a State Supreme Court justice.

The suit had been filed by five homeowners living near the Sandy Hollow property after the 28-unit affordable housing proposal was approved by the Town Board on June 12, 2014. The suit argued that the Town Board’s approval of the project violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act by not looking closely enough at how the project would affect traffic, groundwater and wildlife.

The decision handed down by State Supreme Court Justice W. Gerard Asher on December 29 said that the petitioners’ arguments against the project were “superfluous,” because an Article 78 lawsuit cannot petition the validity of a legislative act such as a zoning ordinance.

The decision notes that the town followed the appropriate procedure in enacting the law—if it hadn’t, that would have been grounds to challenge the validity of the action in court.

The suit named the Town Board, the Southampton Town Housing Authority, Georgica Green Ventures and Glesir Development, the current owner of the property, as defendants.

Ground has not yet been broken for the approved project, a partnership between the Town Housing Authority and Georgica Green. It calls for 28 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, intended for middle-income tenants. Government tax credits that would be used to fund the construction require that most of the apartments be offered at varying fractions of open market value, based on the income levels of potential tenants. The apartments are to start at about $950 per month, the developers claimed during the application process.

This week, David Gilmartin Jr., attorney for Georgica Green Ventures, said the developers were pleased with the determination, adding that they will be filing for a building permit in the next few days to start construction as soon as possible.

“We are very happy with the outcome,” he said. “It was a very thorough and detailed decision, and we look forward to building a project that, ultimately, the community can be proud of.”

According to Southampton Town Deputy Attorney Kathleen Murray, the main claims against the town were that it had violated SEQRA and its own Comprehensive Plan by approving the project, both of which the decision disputed.

The decision goes on to say that the fact that the neighbors do not like the town’s decision does not make the project illegal: “Although the petitioners may not be satisfied with the board’s determinations, they have not produced any competent evidence to controvert the analyses prepared by the board, and thus, have not established that it failed to take a ‘hard look’ at the zoning impacts or lacked ‘reasoned elaboration’ for its analyses and findings.”

This week, Nica Strunk, attorney for the neighbors, said they are disappointed with the decision, adding that the judge repeatedly mentioned a prior approval for a smaller version of the project in 2009. However, she said, there were key differences between the two proposals that the decision does not address.

Ms. Strunk added that her clients are currently reviewing their options, and said an appeal is possible.

“Obviously, my clients are very disappointed,” she said. “We really thought there was a very clear violation of the town code violations, and we are disappointed the judge didn’t focus closely on that.”

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A parting gift from our very own political prostitute.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jan 5, 16 9:46 PM
Its going to be a slum as there is no pride in ownership.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jan 6, 16 6:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
Tell that to the teachers and Town and Village workers who will be living there. Not to mention the young people in our community who will have affordable apartments to live in.
By tenn tom (259), remsenburg on Jan 6, 16 7:38 AM
If you accept zoning changes and added density based on a single issue, then you accept unbridled over-development and you will watch the east end turn into Anytown USA. It's a land use issue and TSHA has zero respect for Southampton Town's zoning standards. You can defend the need for workforce housing, but should be very careful about how it is implemented. Yes to one is yes to all. The developers are already lining up.
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Jan 6, 16 9:41 AM
Absolutely untrue. All of these types of projects are looked at on a case-by-case basis, and in this case, the town went with the benefits of providing affordable workforce housing, something we sorely need. There is no precedent-setting here, so your "sword of damocles" cry will get you no more than maybe a pie in the face (with a nod to Moe).
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Jan 6, 16 11:03 AM
The zoning change sets the precedent. Remember, it's TSHA and Georgica Green asking for special considerations, not the communities. All the communities are asking is the town to maintain its own regulations. So it's not pie in my face as much as a punch in the face to anyone that expected the town to adhere to its own rules. You argue workforce housing, I argue zoning and density. Truth is, I actually have the town plan on my side. Also, Jay Schneiderman has stated that he'd like to see affordable ...more
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Jan 6, 16 11:59 AM
A PDD is looked at on a case-by-case basis. The potential applicant, before they even officially apply, needs to apprise the town board of its plan and needs to essentially be invited to submit. There is no precedent-setting, since if the town board in it's initial consideration doesn't think it's worthy, it can refuse to consider it, with absolutely no ramifications. I can agree with you that wanton and unrestrained PDD approvals would be a bad, bad thing, but this process I believe is set up to ...more
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Jan 6, 16 2:00 PM
Speaking about Speonk-Remsenburg, PDD's were denied on N Phillips on a few occasions. Developers now have targeted that area by way of MF44 zoning. If the 2 most recent get their projects done using numbers that they have presented, there will be 201 new bedrooms on 1 road by way of zoning changes. 69 on one 4 acre parcel and 132 on one 7 acre parcel. That combined with the 55-65 "as of right" bedrooms that 95 N Phillips is building gives us well over 250 bedrooms in a quarter mile strip. This also ...more
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Jan 6, 16 4:11 PM
I don't know if those numbers are exact but agree with the premise.
It demonstrates why standing by the town master plan is the only protection in this case. I think you have to consider what the town will look like if you allow multiple zoning + density changes.
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Jan 6, 16 4:32 PM
Thanks to ATH and Bender, Speonk-Remsenburg gets to have the same battle with the same players. TSHA is bringing the same mess to the new board, only this time it's larger, and sits on top of a solvent plume. With the Riverside project approved and 5 miles to the north, one might think that zoning changes and over-development on N. Phillips Ave wouldn't be worth the inevitable fight. Hopefully, Jay Schneiderman will be more sympathetic to the wishes of the community, and maintain zoning standards ...more
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Jan 6, 16 9:36 AM
... I would like to see affordable housing plans used successfully in other parts of the country. Let's see how they were planned, built. Lets see who the stakeholders are, what is "affordable", renting without discrimination, environmental issues/ impacts. Then formulate a model based on input from local government and citizens relative to the east end.

I am sure there is something in town hall resembling this, but it is not been presented/promoted effectively.

Otherwise, continue ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jan 6, 16 10:48 AM
Soo the neighbors went in to the court house with the legal argument of "we don't like this, they are big meanies"?

Yeah not surprised the judge came back with the legal equivalent of "seriously?"

Good to see Ms. Strunk getting paid for this. She's probably making a small fortune representing these people and the homeowner that doesn't want locals on the ocean beaches
By Inch_High_PI (29), Southampton on Jan 6, 16 12:30 PM
You are totally off base. Residents of Southampton Town went to the meetings opposed to this high density project because of traffic safety concerns, building a sewage treatment plant over a main aquifer that supplies clean water to the town, and fire safety concerns. The Southampton fire department is on record as opposing this project due to their safety concerns over one entrance/exit into the project. There were residents from all over the town opposed to this project, not just the "neighbors." ...more
By Long Island Viking (28), Southampton on Jan 7, 16 11:02 PM
We defend "as of right" developing by citing that the authors of our zoning codes did so for a purpose, and that standard should be strictly followed. However, we conveniently overlook that the same authors made provisions for modifications in existing zoning for workforce housing. If the defense stands for one, it must qualify for the other.

Second, if the zoning is modified and specified that ALL tenants qualify under a certain income parameter, it can't be altered. (meaning no section ...more
By CommunityMinded (20), Southampton on Jan 6, 16 1:38 PM
3 members liked this comment
Over-development in the name of workforce housing is still over-development. It's a land use issue, not an emotional one. The town asks homeowners, actually they force homeowners to adhere to certain standards. When we don't they lower the hammer on us. When a community asks the town to maintain their own zoning standards, suddenly we become irrational, mean spirited people who want to build walls. So if I understand this correctly, developers get one set of rules and everyone else gets another, ...more
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Jan 6, 16 6:29 PM
Keep pushing "as of right" development and the developer is going to have a 30 bedroom section 8 project. (not that it would be bad, but I'm sure it also would be protested)
If that photo is the type of complex that's being purposed, jump at it. Far better then that condo complex next to it.

As for the mean spirited people, I read where the community was rude and interrupting the developer while he was attempting to explain the development. Adjectives surfacing like slum, that garbage, ...more
By CommunityMinded (20), Southampton on Jan 6, 16 7:51 PM
Yes, Curtis has threatened a few people with "bringing us section 8" on a few occasions. Funny how nobody I know has brought up that narrative though. In the end I guess this debate really benefits a few... Like land use attorneys etc ;)
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Jan 6, 16 8:29 PM
Most are not arguing against WFH. In Speonk-Remsenburg...they are putting it in the wrong place and all on one street over a solvent plume. The town already denied Mr. Bernstein's initial proposal at 95 N Phillips Ave, Speonk (2 times) - this plan called for 55+ condos - he was denied with the reasons; added density, open space issues, ground water concerns. He is presently approved for 13 luxury homes in the same spot, which is in tune with "as of right" zoning, etc. Now, the TSHA and Mr. Gallo, ...more
By eastendmom (11), Speonk on Jan 7, 16 7:38 AM
Well put. It should be remembered that it is Workforce housing, not welfare housing.
By tenn tom (259), remsenburg on Jan 6, 16 6:22 PM
You can watch Curtis Highsmith saying no to people on roof color as chairman of the ARB in Southampton Village. Then during the day on the housing authority he will ram 28 units on 2 acres of the worst construction. What gives with this guy?
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 6, 16 7:58 PM
The Court decision only validates the "legality" of the procedures that led to the approval of the development. The blame for this colossal mistake lies with the Town Board, who faced with overwhelming constituent disapproval, succumbed to the influence of the developers. These Town Board members, if any are left, should be held accountable on the respective eve's of their election cycles. Moving forward, the Town officials need to be told in unequivocal terms that voting for zoning changes that ...more
By Sleeping Giant (20), Southampton on Jan 7, 16 9:29 AM
Correct. And if the town board acts in the interest of developers or special interest, then we move on the incorporated village idea. I think we are close to having the support, and the taxation issue is almost negligible.
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Jan 7, 16 11:01 AM
2 members liked this comment
Everywhere I go this week that is all I hear about...the Village of Remsenburg Speonk....People feeling the Town is just too big for real representation and consideration of local issues. Sagaponack provides a good model of a bare bones village. I'm all for it.
By littleones (23), Remsenburg on Jan 7, 16 11:46 AM
2 members liked this comment
Is there a Class C Plume in Sagaponack? I would not rent or buy over a plume and I don't think building should take place until it is cleaned up...would you want your kids playing on top of it...then don't expect other kids...rich or Section 8 for that matter...everyone has a right to the best life, but putting future resident's health and the health of the whole community and water! Think Twice
By eastendmom (11), Speonk on Jan 9, 16 7:39 AM
1 member liked this comment
I agree littleones I am still drinking my coffee this AM and misunderstood what you said at first and can't delete my post. Any how, yes I am hearing the same sentence going around about the Village of Remsenburg Speonk.
By eastendmom (11), Speonk on Jan 9, 16 7:43 AM
Craigcat mentions above that Jay Schneiderman has proposed using accessory apartments linked to existing dwellings to provide at least some measure of workforce housing.

Not only would this initiative spread out the workforce housing footprint, as Jay notes, but it would also generate income for owners to help pay the property tax bill and thus stay in their homes, and it would be a desirable alternative to illegal and possibly overcrowded rental of the space.

This idea seems ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jan 7, 16 10:06 AM
Accessory apartments linked to existing dwellings was brought up by residents as an option to look at during the town board meetings. None of the board members were interested in pursuing this. It's a good alternative to high density housing and benefits everyone. I guess it's not lucrative enough for the developers and too much work for the board.
By Long Island Viking (28), Southampton on Jan 7, 16 10:39 PM
It is mentioned in their plan though, maybe it needs to be re-read.
By eastendmom (11), Speonk on Jan 9, 16 7:46 AM
If I were Jay Schneiderman or any member of the Town Council, I would look closely at Mr. Highsmith's tactics. For him to be threatening the Speonk community with Section 8 housing is despicable and insulting to the very people he is supposed to be serving. I heard him say that with my own ears and thought to myself, "Wow. This guy is must not be very good at his job if he has to take that approach". Perhaps if he located the areas where there are unfilled jobs due to housing shortage, he might ...more
By littleones (23), Remsenburg on Jan 7, 16 11:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
How can we trust this developer Dave Gallo and Curtis Highsmith when from the beginning this project had the involvement of Brad Bender. Curtis Highsmith is threatening Speonk and Remsenburg neighbors openly at a meeting that if they have to "build as of right," "He will ensure that the entire Apartment complex is filled with section 8." When asked who will manage this apartment complex at N. Philips, Curtis Highsmith and Dave Gallo ensured that they will screen every person themselves. Does ...more
By emsters16 (3), Speonk on Jan 7, 16 12:37 PM
Foreclosed, and running the housing finances? I find it hard to believe the town would be so stupid.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 7, 16 4:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By emsters16 (3), Speonk on Jan 7, 16 9:04 PM
FYI .. Not true. But sure it doesn't matter.
By CommunityMinded (20), Southampton on Jan 31, 16 9:08 PM
We started a group called RESCU - Remsenburg, Eastport, Speonk Communities United. The mission is to stop over-development by way of changes in zoning and/or density increases. Although the name only mentions three towns, the group is open to all who are concerned about over-development. Today it's Sandy Hollow, tomorrow it's Speonk, next week it's your town. We have members on the CAC-West as well as local Civic Associations. Although the group is in its infancy, our database is already 400+ people ...more
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Jan 7, 16 4:30 PM
Where were you people when the Drag Strip was sold and the 5 acre zoning was changed to allow 200 homes to be built. Oh, I forgot, no one cared because they were million dollar homes. Where was the big protest then? You can be sure if it was Workforce housing there would have been a stink.
By tenn tom (259), remsenburg on Jan 7, 16 10:35 PM
Sir, we are a new group dealing with current issues. The focus is on over-development via zoning changes and density increases. Nobody in our group is making a stance against workforce housing. To the contrary, the developers and TSHA have only offered one solution, and that is their way or no way. Their way yields max density per acre and max dollar per bank account. You may be angry with the wrong people.
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Jan 7, 16 11:08 PM
I remember signing a petition regarding the drag strip...I also remember fighting a zone change behind a pumpkin farm as well...that never happened because the a few in the community got together...I also remember paying monies into the CPF Fund when we built our house...people need to sit back and really get a visual as to what is going on and stop bashing others
By eastendmom (11), Speonk on Jan 9, 16 7:55 AM
I am not angry with anyone. I have lived here for 25 years and my 21 yr old son can't find an affordable apartment in the place in which he grew up. Wait till your children grow up and watch them move away. We need transitional housing for young adults.
By tenn tom (259), remsenburg on Jan 8, 16 8:00 AM
Tenn Tom - I understand that, but is your situation justification for zoning changes and added density? I won't bore you with my history, but it didn't start with Remsenburg. I achieved Remsenburg through hard work and diligent savings. Along the way we rented in a host of different areas. I'll expect the same from my kids. If you truly want to have a honest conversation about development, then I'm all in. In the case of 41 N Phillips, the difference between max build out via "as of right" vs. ...more
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Jan 8, 16 9:23 AM
2 members liked this comment
Of our seven children, four have moved away. None moved away because of a lack of housing, but to follow the career of their choosing.

There are available rentals (vacant) in Riverhead.
By susgeek (41), Speonk on Jan 10, 16 6:50 PM
IMHO the Town of Southampton has no business being in the housing business, workforce or otherwise.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jan 11, 16 11:36 AM