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Jun 10, 2014 9:44 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Could Approve Sandy Hollow Apartments Thursday

Jun 16, 2014 11:47 AM

The Southampton Town Board is poised to approve a much pilloried apartment complex in Tuckahoe at a special board meeting on June 12.

On Tuesday afternoon, following a nearly four-hour public hearing on the project, a Planned Development District known as Sandy Hollow Cove, the board shelved plans to vote on the project and scheduled the special meeting solely to do their final deliberations and vote. The board said holding the special meeting would give them time to consider the comments made at Tuesday’s hearing but still allow the developers and town Housing Authority to meet a deadline for applying for Suffolk County grants that will help fund the project.

In private conversations after Tuesday’s meeting, none of the five board members voiced strong opposition to the plan and all five seemed to be leaning in favor of it. Only two—Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst—said they were firmly in the “yes” column.

If approved, the 28 apartments would be made available to middle income workers, earning between $60,000 and $85,000 per year. The monthly rent for the apartments will be about $950 per month.

The project was brought to the Town Board by the Southampton Town Housing Authority, which would purchase the 2.6 acre property off Sandy Hollow Road for what is believed to be about $1.2 million in grant funding. The three apartment buildings would be constructed and managed by a private company, Georgica Green Ventures, which also built and runs the Woodbridge senior housing apartments in Hampton Bays.

The project relies on more than $800,000 in county grants and several million in federal tax credits to keep the costs at a level the apartments can be rented at affordable rates.

As a PDD application, the project will have to receive four votes in favor in order to be adopted.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet,” said Councilman Brad Bender, who lives in Flanders. “There is still some research that I’ve promised to do. But, personally, I’ll say this: I got lucky, I was able to buy my first house and fix it up and make some money on it...so my mortgage now is less than most people pay in rent. But if I wasn’t where I am with that, I would probably be in line to get myself into one of those apartments.”

Councilwoman Christine Scalera said she was still making up her mind and voiced empathy for the residents and the reasons for their objections. But she also said that she sees the project not as a choice between 28 apartments or two single-family homes, but between the apartments and 16 two-bedroom condominiums that were approved for the property in 2009. Even though that project’s approval expired, the property zoning still allows for it to be built, a prospect she said might not be so far fetched as the local economy roars back to full speed, and the current proposal would mean less density on the property.

“I am really struggling with it,” she said. “I understand the point that the that parcel is maybe not ideal but I also hear the urgent need for affordable housing townwide. It’s a hard thing to balance.”

Councilman Stan Glinka was non-committal but said he has heard many appeals from the business community and emergency services personnel for the town to find a way to create affordable housing in the town.

“We need workforce housing in the town,” he said. “I went to fire department dinners all spring and it’s all these young couples and I commended them on the jobs they’re doing finding young people to fill their ranks and the chiefs said to me: we need housing for them.”

While the need for housing throughout the town has been well documented in studies and personal accounts, if the board is about to approve the Sandy Hollow project it is sure to be an unpopular one with the residents of the Tuckahoe and North Sea neighborhoods that surround it.

Opponents submitted a petition on Tuesday with more than 800 individually filled out sheets in opposition, most sighthing concerns about traffic, overdevelopment and potential water pollution from the project.

For more than three hours on Tuesday afternoon, as they have done in several hours-long hearings on the proposal and a similar one a year ago, residents lined up to air passionate appeals for the Town Board to reject the apartments.

“I have 823 signed petitions saying we do not want you to do this,” Noelle Bailly said. She began flipping through the thick stack of petition sheets, reading off the comments signatories had left as reason for their opposition: “One or two homes, they’re crazy, traffic, traffic, traffic, density, don’t we have enough traffic, the approval process is being made a mockery of....”

The project’s location, far from a village downtown and not near public transportation routes, drew sharp criticism since the town’s own planning guidelines demand that it be within half a mile of a business district. Town planners noted that it would lie .53 miles from the North Sea business district, a faint representation of the sort of “walkable communities” that are spoken of in planning reports.

“Let me tell you what’s within half a mile: you have three bars and a liquor store,” said Dave Steiber. “And if you want to walk to them, God bless you. That is a dangerous road.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said the board had decided to waive the half-mile requirement for the project because it was essentially half a mile from North Sea’s small business district.

“At best, I think the people in this room would say you are being dismissive of their comments,” Stan Feyman said to the board, before directing his comments to Councilwoman Fleming, who has made her support for the project clear throughout, “Madame, you should have recused yourself after the first meeting when you indicated your bias for it. “

Ms. Fleming responded that the board had, in fact, heeded the residents comments and that was why the original 48-unit design had been shelved. ‘

“We do want to be responsive,” she said. “Folks who are here should understand the enormous impact they have had. There’s a whole building that is not there. On this Town Board the community has had a tremendous impact and on this project in particular.”

Some residents also picked apart the technical application, a point that the Town Board took heat for last year when it seemed to be hastily pushing a 48-apartment design toward approval to meet funding application deadlines. Neighborhood resident Justice Phillips asked the board why the project had no per-application hearings or per-application summary report, as is required under the PDD guidelines. The supervisor said that while it was technically a new application, since a larger version had been presented and vetted already they town did not see a reason to go through the full per-application process.

“But what about a report that I can look at when I get home from work at 9 p.m.,” Mr. Phillips said. “It just seems rushed.”

The supervisor gaveled the meeting into a brief recess after one resident, Sharon Carr, refused to yield the speakers podium when her three-minute speaking time ran out before she was finished going through a laundry list of factual mistakes she had identified in the thick application document. Opponents took the opportunity of the recess to approach board members one-on-one to share more of their grievances.

Town Planning And Development Administrator Kyle Collins countered calls by the residents in opposition for the town to seek to address its housing needs through the creation of apartments in homes and accessory buildings. Incentives for homeowners to create legal apartments in their homes have yielded just 125 units since 1999, Mr. Collins said. Incentives to developers for additional units in subdivisions if some are sold at below market values have generated just three, he added.

“So even with all the incentivizing and encouraging of accessory apartments, the town has not generated the affordable housing that is necessary,” Mr. Collins said. “The most recent affordable housing study by the county, in 2007, outlined demands for the town: 3,500. It projected that 7,500 units will be needed by 2020.”

Mr. Collins said that a lack of sewer systems on the East End has been the primary roadblock to apartment-style development. The town has a multifamily zoning designation in its code but it has never been used. On-site septic treatment, like the Baby BESST system the Sandy Hollow developers have proposed, appears to provide a potential solution to the hurdle, though many residents also raised concerns about the effectiveness of the system.

Group for the East End representative Jen Heartnagle said that what should be considered is the overall impact of whatever development is done, not just what the improvement in one design is with the addition of a high-tech treatment system.

Amid a chorus of calls for the hearings to continue, the board voted to close the public portion of the review process. There will be a public comment period at today’s meeting, though the comments would not be part of the official record on the application.

Neighbors have threatened to sue if the project is approved.

There was some confusion among residents about when the special meeting would begin. Ms. Throne-Holst, in announcing the board’s plans for the special meeting, said it would be at 1p.m. But when the board approved the scheduling later in the evening, after most of the residents had departed, the timing was set for a noon start. Ms. Throne-Holst said later that the board had initially planned to hold the meeting at 1 p.m. but had decided to move it up in order to allow more time for public comment because the meeting had to adjourn by 2 p.m. so the town Planning Board could start it’s regularly scheduled meeting. She said on Tuesday evening that the official public notice for the meeting would be left at 1 p.m. so no one would miss the chance to comment before the board votes.

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Is some private agenda fueling the apparent rush to approve this?

Is two days notice legally sufficient for the Thursday meeting?

The need for this type of housing is clear.

Not so clear is the justification for this hasty process, in my opinion.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 10, 14 9:56 PM
The noon meeting on Thursday has not been posted on the Town's website. Thus NO notice has been given.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 10, 14 10:03 PM
1 member liked this comment

I agree the need is clear but they are making a mistake in pushing it though without addressing the issues first. We have over 1487 signature against this (867 this time and over 600 on file). I collected many myself and I listened to the people. More than 90% of the people I asked signed and were happy to help.
So why the rush? And why are the very important questions being ignored?
By kip (4), Southampton on Jun 11, 14 5:01 AM
Kip can you please provide a link to sign this petition?
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please provide it for reference only so big brother does not delete my or your comment for rue or redundant
By david h (405), southampton on Jun 11, 14 12:19 PM
For the record, yes, if you want to put an address for the petition in a comment, that's fine--just don't make it a hot link, please. We don't allow that to protect our subscribers from potential security issues upon clicking links.

We're not real keen on addresses for other sites either, but in this instance, we'll let it slide...
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Jun 11, 14 12:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
thanks for (finally) providing a bit of clarity on this policy
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 11, 14 1:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
The notice for tomorrow's meeting has just been posted, approximately 23 hours before the meeting:

southamptontownny [dot] gov [slash] AgendaCenter

1 PM is the announced time.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 11, 14 2:08 PM
We have not done any online petitions or we would be happy to provide it. Every petition that was received was by a member of this community going out and informing people about this project. If you would like any further details about this project and the inconsistencies you can email me instead and I will provide you with either the info or the number of the person to reach out to. Joe I hope this is ok! noelle.niles@gmail.com
By Noelle (15), southampton on Jun 11, 14 6:23 PM
800 people against this project is a strong no vote. Goverment doesn't need to be involved in housing. Its a joke. The history of low rent housing is they turn into dumps.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jun 10, 14 10:45 PM
They get rundown only if they are not maintained by management. If these apartments really are for first responders, as a "chief", I would think you would be in favor of them.
By oystercatcher (126), southampton on Jun 11, 14 12:24 AM
2 members liked this comment
Typical anti-authority mentality. Blame the gov't, not the people running it.

Private enterprise is just as vulnerable to greed, mismanagement, and corruption as government. Mainly because PEOPLE are involved. Anywhere in the nation where private industry has taken over a formerly public has managed to fleece the public. Chicago's parking meter debacle is a prime example.
Jun 11, 14 1:23 AM appended by Mr. Z
EDIT:"formerly public entity" **** FACTS:"For 100 years after the American Revolution, legislators maintained tight control of the corporate chartering process. Because of widespread public opposition, early legislators granted very few corporate charters, and only after debate. Citizens governed corporations by detailing operating conditions not just in charters but also in state constitutions and state laws. Incorporated businesses were prohibited from taking any action that legislators did not specifically allow." "States also limited corporate charters to a set number of years. Unless a legislature renewed an expiring charter, the corporation was dissolved and its assets were divided among shareholders. Citizen authority clauses limited capitalization, debts, land holdings, and sometimes, even profits. They required a company’s accounting books to be turned over to a legislature upon request. The power of large shareholders was limited by scaled voting, so that large and small investors had equal voting rights. Interlocking directorates were outlawed. Shareholders had the right to remove directors at will."
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 11, 14 1:23 AM
Thats another lie. By law they can't pick and chose a tenant and give special treatment to fire fighters and first responders. And the people who do the picking are some corporation somewhere not a local person
By maddie1974 (12), southampton on Jun 11, 14 4:34 AM
The meeting was a farce. We were not allow to ask questions of the "experts". What about left turns? someone shouted. The Queen Anna said we could question him later and by then he was gone. When the Baby Bestt guy got up and we asked question we were told we could ask them in the HALL!! not on the record. The guy clearly was reading from a script and didn't know or care about our questions.
The citizens of Tuckahoe have rallied 30 to 50 people each meeting despite the fact that the board ...more
By maddie1974 (12), southampton on Jun 11, 14 4:40 AM
Mr Gilmartin, the attorney for the developer, was served with an affidavit at the town meeting. The taxpayers and citizens against this project want him to sign and therefore cetify that this long list of statements that the developer has put forth are true and accurate. Will Mr. Gilmartin do this?
By kip (4), Southampton on Jun 11, 14 6:24 AM
The public hearings held on this controversial project took the Southampton Town Board to a new low -- even for them. 835 Petitions against the project were brushed aside like confetti. Arguments and experience provided by many members of the public were ignored in favor of an obvious done deal and a deal done to please Anna Throne-Holst. .None of the boners in the application and "reports" were addressed. And Atty Tiffany Scarlatto had to be awakened from a stupor to answer a question to rousing ...more
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Jun 11, 14 7:45 AM
The town board is acting like any opposition to the project is a joke. I personally fit the profile for someone who could live in this type of housing, and I want to make everyone involved aware that this is NOT the kind of housing that we want. The town board will pass this through, despite numerous health threats (fire, ground pollution), community concerns and traffic problems, and then use it their support of "affordable housing" to look good during their campaigns. There are many other, safer ...more
By MarayaFrazier (1), Hampton Bays, New York on Jun 11, 14 11:53 AM
You would think this was the countdown to when Armageddon strikes! Its just something for the younger workforce. Everyone needs to get less heated...
By Inch_High_PI (29), Southampton on Jun 11, 14 5:47 PM
I really think we need this development.I know many young adults who are simply leaving because jobs do not pay enough to either afford the rent or gas from driving from so far away. As gas prices rise and population increases, these costs will only go up. I have not yet heard one argument or study from anyone who did not hate this development from its inception that there is any real reason why 28 apartments cannot be built at that site. It' rather sad that members of the town board are being ...more
By sailthebay (3), Southampton on Jun 11, 14 5:49 PM
I've heard a couple of people say that they have been harassed by members of the opposition into keeping quiet. Some have been downright intimidated by those that do not want this development to occur. Its so sad when a group of people act so forcefully to restrict the opportunities of the younger generation.
By FarSight (1), Southampton on Jun 11, 14 10:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
If you understood the project better you would be against it. It is not about affordable housing. Its about the board breaking the laws of this Town and this state. Its about high density construction in SH. It's about developers doing whatever they want now and in the future
By maddie1974 (12), southampton on Jun 12, 14 7:04 AM
And it is also about many many unsafe conditions both for the residents and the surrounding homes. And its about lies. The attorney has been served with an affidavit to say everything is true. Do you want to run a bet he won't sign it?
By maddie1974 (12), southampton on Jun 12, 14 7:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
We requested another evening meeting to have all of the people in this community to be able to come and voice their opinion. The Town Board did not want to do that. Many of the people which did turn up at the lunch time meeting took unpaid leave from their work to attend this meeting. The community is all in agreement about affordable housing just done in the right way. IE not turning Southampton into Manhattan.
By Noelle (15), southampton on Jun 11, 14 6:20 PM
Well said Noelle. Sadly, what continues to be missed is that the community opposed to this application have embraced affordable housing, including on this property. The opposition is based solely on excessive density and the resulting fallout. Too much density created by over development causes problems with traffic, health and safety, environmental, water quality, over taxing the local school district to name but a few. There is an existing housing stock on the same street as the proposed ...more
By SPCarr (17), Southampton on Jun 11, 14 7:13 PM
As someone who manages a couple stores in the town I definitely see and feel the need for affordable housing. This development needs to happen. My fellow employees are strained enough as it is with an hour commute to and from home even though they live right across the canal. If we just had ONE option to live where we work thats a victory in my book.

Hopefully the board does the right thing here.
By MerrissaMelissa (1), Manorville on Jun 11, 14 7:56 PM
3 members liked this comment
I'm not one of the people that could afford to take part in politics. But this housing is needed. If nothing is done now the problem is only going to be worse and soon enough there will be nothing left for our children. I don't want to see a Southampton without locals in 10 years.
By UglyMo (1), North Sea on Jun 11, 14 8:04 PM
4 members liked this comment
Agree. I have two kids that live out of state but there are worse things than having the locals leave and it's having ruined lakes, un drinkable water, high traffic, and apartment building all over the place. If my kids can't live here at least they enjoy coming back.
PS. They both took jobs elsewhere ....it wasn't housing that made them leave
By Mit (4), Southampton on Jun 12, 14 8:07 AM
This better be approved. There is a silent majority that are solidly for this to pass and would love the chance to fill the available slots. The only people against this are those that can afford to be and those that have no clue the troubles of this town.
By RoughSabes (1), North Sea on Jun 11, 14 9:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
I understand the need for affordable housing, but there are existing buildings that could be used. STOP overdeveloping. Keep our natural resources. This will only create more government control and the need for more government services, more traffic, etc. Why is it so hard to afford to live here; that should be the issue. Work on ways to make it affordable to live here, starting with gasoline prices.
By rvs (106), sag harbor on Jun 11, 14 10:18 PM
"Why" in one word: speculators
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 11, 14 11:02 PM
"Why is it so hard to afford to live here"

Supply and Demand. God's not making any more land in the Hamptons, and people are willing to pay a premium to own it.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 12, 14 4:26 PM
Its time to get moving on affordable housing in this town. Starting with this. Build these houses and lets make sure SH stays local and not just a summer cottage home for the Kardashians.
By GMary (1), Water Mill on Jun 11, 14 10:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
They're not houses, they're apartment buildings. That's the problem - the density of 46+ residents in 3 buildings on 2.61 acres. The neighbors embrace affordable housing. including on this property. It's just too much density for the size and location of the lot.
By SPCarr (17), Southampton on Jun 12, 14 1:44 AM
As someone that fits this demographic, 99% of the people I've talked to are all for this. This project is needed and now. Lets make it happen
By Ymz (1), Southampton on Jun 11, 14 10:40 PM
100% of the people ive talked to say this deal is already signed!
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before the 'vote'. .. strange conjecture indeed.
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75% of my office commutes an hour and more. those with less of a commute pay a premium not to commute.
..
the Sandy Hollow & Mt Laurel Lanes areas all had previous development halted because of a local endangered lizard/salamander type or reptile i think & also because of swamp water issues /high water table issues. why is this not relevant all of a sudden ...more
By david h (405), southampton on Jun 11, 14 11:36 PM
3 members liked this comment
Who wants to pay $950 plus utilities a month to live in a glorified motel room? There are two members on the Town Board who are so pro- development that they had their minds made up on this project before it was even presented. 28 apartments on 2.6 acres is way too much. Don't let them turn us into Nassau County.
By Mit (4), Southampton on Jun 12, 14 8:00 AM
I agree 100% with this comment and your previous one. Excellent points!!!
By Long Island Viking (28), Southampton on Jun 15, 14 12:17 PM
New article out.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 12, 14 5:34 PM