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May 14, 2014 10:21 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sandy Hollow Apartments Meet Stiff Opposition Again

May 14, 2014 10:21 AM

Residents of Tuckahoe on Tuesday applauded Southampton Town’s desire to create more housing that is affordable to middle-income residents and workers, but many redoubled their objections to a specific proposal, targeting a parcel of land in their neighborhood, to do it.

A parade of residents blasted revised designs of a proposed apartment complex on Sandy Hollow Road, saying that the plans still called for far too many residents to inhabit a 2.6-acre lot on an already busy road, despite the admittedly desperate need for more affordable housing in the town.

“I thought this was insane at the first proposal—now I think it’s just crazy,” West Neck Road resident Brian Cooke told the Town Board on Tuesday night. “They’ve got some great ideas, some really nice pictures, but it’s just too much on too small a lot.”

“Nobody is against affordable housing. They just think this is the wrong spot,” added Phillip Woodie, who lives near the parcel proposed for the apartments. “Sometimes you have to say, great idea but bad location. There’s a better way to do it.”

The proposal calls for 28 studio and one-bedroom apartments in three buildings on the 2.6-acre lot, which fronts on Sandy Hollow Road near the intersection with North Sea Road. If approved, the developers, Georgica Green Ventures, would partner with the Southampton Town Housing Authority to purchase the lot and construct the apartments, which would be operated by Georgica Green. Rents would be in the range of $950 per month.

Attorney David Gilmartin Jr. told board members and the large audience on Tuesday afternoon that the apartments would provide the sort of modestly priced rental housing that is in significant need in the town for young residents and middle-income professionals like those employed at Southampton Hospital and Town Hall. He pointed to studies that have forecast a decline in the professional workforce on the East End because of a lack of housing options.

“This is for people of moderate income means—you can call it affordable, you can call it middle income, but what it is not is subsidized housing,” Mr. Gilmartin said. “Your predecessors have failed to provide the affordable housing that is needed here.”

Mr. Gilmartin pointed to the town’s 1999 Comprehensive Plan Update, which called for the town to create more affordable housing options, to disperse those options evenly throughout the town, and to leverage partnerships with private entities to do it—all of which the Sandy Hollow Cove project, as it is known, does, he said.

Georgica Green and the Housing Authority have applied to the Town Board for a planned development district, or PDD, a tool the town has used often in the last decade to change the zoning on parcels of land deemed suitable for developments that offer a substantial and identifiable “community benefit.” The zoning in the areas surrounding the property calls for a minimum lot size of 2 acres per single-family house. That also was the original zoning on the targeted parcel, though the board, in 2009, approved a PDD allowing condos on the site.

A new PDD would need to be granted for the proposed project, and approval requires a supermajority of the board, four members, to vote in favor.

At least two board members, Brad Bender and Bridget Fleming, seemed firmly in support of the proposal.

“We do have an obligation to look to the Comprehensive Plan. It says create affordable housing ... but since 1999, there has been almost zero, very few units at all,” Ms. Fleming said. “Our young people are leaving in droves.”

Mr. Bender likewise spoke in favor, saying, “This would be a big benefit to our community.”

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst was absent from Tuesday’s meeting but has expressed support for the siting of a multifamily development on the Sandy Hollow property in the past. That could mean the success of the PDD application will turn on the votes of Councilwoman Christine Scalera or newly elected Councilman Stan Glinka, neither of whom offered impressions of their position in the initial hearing on the latest proposal.

In 2009, the Town Board—which, at the time, included just one of its current members—approved a PDD for the same property allowing 16 two-bedroom condos at the site, to be sold rather than rented, and that proposal did not draw widespread objection from the surrounding neighborhoods. The project died amid the credit crisis, and the developers now say it is not viable and doesn’t address the real needs in the town’s housing shortage.

Last year, Georgica Green and the Housing Authority submitted a new design, asking for 34 smaller rental apartments—double the number of units but with the same number of bedrooms and, thus, they argued, a similar expected occupancy level. That plan was withdrawn in the face of withering opposition from neighbors and reintroduced in slightly pared-down form this spring. They have said that the proposal as designed now is the bare minimum in scale that would make the development financially worth Georgica Green’s investment and effort and make a dent in housing needs.

The parcel of land would be purchased by the Housing Authority, for an expected cost of $1.2 million. Georgica Green, which owns and operates several apartment complexes on Long Island, would offset the estimated $9 million cost of the development with approximately $7 million in federal and state tax credits and benefits.

But the project hinges on the town granting permission for the large increase in development density on the 2.6 acres. Opponents have argued that such steep increases in allowable density should be directed to areas in the immediate vicinity or easy walking distance of hamlet centers, as a recent “Sustainability Element” amendment to the Comprehensive Plan recommended.

The Housing Authority and Town Board have said their attempts at identifying any suitable sites for housing, to say nothing of ideal ones, have been repeatedly stymied by the high cost of land in the region, and by objections from those in the adjacent neighborhoods—hurdles that must be overcome if the region is to address its needs. The Sandy Hollow property presents a rare opportunity, they have said.

“We’re looking to establish a template for housing here on the South Fork, and every place we’ve looked there have been issues,” Housing Authority Managing Director Curtis Highsmith, a Southampton native, said. “There is always going to need to be a compromise between the town and the community so there can be a housing initiative, so that my kids can live here.”

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Whenever a project like this is afoot, nearby property owners show up in large numbers to comment, almost always in opposition, as here. Those who might not live so near, and who might favor the project, are never represented in proportion to their numbers. The Town Board is aware of this recurring phenomenon and will not be swayed by the preponderance of opposing speakers at yesterday's meeting.

One recurrent theme of the opponents, that I don't understand at all, is their complaint ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on May 14, 14 12:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
The point about walking to downtown areas is to not create high density housing areas where all residents have 1-2 vehicles which can increase local congestition and traffic beyond what the roads are capable of handling. While this site is a somewhat non-issue due to two "major" thoroughfares being present, if it was sited on smaller residential streets it could be a problem when you have 20-30 cars leaving for work within 30 minutes of one another.

Additionally, while cars (for work) ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 14, 14 3:43 PM
Heyyy, marlinspike, you must be the guy who wrote Linda Kabot's material in the last campaign for supervisor. Your talk about "random people from Flanders and Quiogue" (great phrase, BTW) and "non property owners" recalls Ms. Kabot's claim that she was better suited than her opponent to govern because she's a married property owner. We all know how well that played.

I'd love to hear your legal authority for why the neighbors' opposition "legally trumps" the views of others. Also, why ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on May 14, 14 9:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
To marlinspike: I think you're wrong, and the key to it is in your own statement that the neighbors' position has greater weight than others', "from a planning and zoning aspect." That's so in the case of an ordinary application for a variance before the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Appeals, but that's not what we have here.

This is an application for a Residential Planned Development District (RPDD), which by its very nature contemplates a departure from the ordinary planning ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on May 15, 14 8:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Forgot to add: If there's a strong argument against the Sandy Hollow project, it's not the traffic aspect, IMO, it's the small size of the parcel. That 2.6 acres is going to be hard sell for the proponents. If you want to beat up on this project, marlinspike, go with that one instead of dismissing your fellow citizens' views as less worthy than your own.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on May 15, 14 8:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
Why would anyone take the close up photo of the hand and sharply? Worse than that, why would you upload with the article? I know photos aren't the main focus of the site, but if you're going to have them, why not have decent ones?

16 two bedroom condos were approved with no squawking from the nieghbors. Now 28 1 bedroom and studios are being considered and there is opposition. Wonder if this is another case of people who moved out here and expected to be the last ones and want to deny everyone ...more
By ICE (1214), Southampton on May 14, 14 1:48 PM
"Why would anyone take the close up photo of the hand and sharply? Worse than that, why would you upload with the article? I know photos aren't the main focus of the site, but if you're going to have them, why not have decent ones?"

I don't know, maybe make that comment on the article that features said photo (HB park). And there's a caption which explains what the person is holding and why.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 14, 14 3:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on May 15, 14 3:39 PM
wish we could keep the limited wooded areas in tact. flanders would value 28 new hard working relaible renters. that would be a dream commute, the drive is beautiful.
also not a fan of that Spinny Hill project that georgica green did. they covered beautiful brick with plastic. gross. their own photos suggest it was beautiful as it was..just need grass!
By david h (405), southampton on May 14, 14 3:26 PM
"flanders would value 28 new hard working relaible renters."

Where would that housing go? The "limited wooded area"?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 14, 14 4:00 PM
did 1 search on mls and ffound 18 acres in riverhead for 700K, ok sorry not flanders, but still an amazing drive and save 2 million bucks thank you.

By david h (405), southampton on May 14, 14 5:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ag parcel - can pretty much guarentee development rights have been stripped off so the only use is ag. I mean, you really think thta there's 18 cleared acres for sale in Riverhead for only $700K and it could hold housing??? open your eyes David
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 15, 14 9:36 AM
I certainly acknowledge what you are saying ..but this Sandy Hollow project is on wetlands or preserved land or something that was supposed to prevent development. .. these towns repeatedly change zoning; so changing the rules is fundamental to the business of government & business of development.
the sod farms in Manorville becoming an instant neighborhood is a bummer. that new golf course/instant neighborhood coming to Quogue also a bummer. condos on the canal, condos on the hill, ...more
By david h (405), southampton on May 15, 14 11:37 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By david h (405), southampton on May 15, 14 12:19 PM

The Town of Southampton has spent $500,000,000 (half a BILLION) dollars preserving open space and farmland since the inception of CPF. What more do you want?

Take a look at a map of Southampton Town (complete with preserved lands layers) and tell me that all of our open spaces are being built on.

That riverhead farm won't see development beyond ag, I can guarentee that. Our ocean front is essentially 100% built out in Southampton Town - what you see as natural ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 15, 14 12:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
Why hasn't Southampton Town purchased the properties that Farrell Builders has taken over and is destroying with awful McMasions; oh wait maybe Farrell could make one of his houses a 28 unit apartment complex. The town has no vision what so ever.
By rvs (106), sag harbor on May 14, 14 9:09 PM
Group For The East End, the renowned environmental experts and advocates, continue to oppose the proposed Sandy Hollow Cove Apartments. It is far too much density for 2.6 acres. We shouldn't make the mistake of conflating the concept of affordable housing with the approval of this specific PDD application. Not every project is a good fit. The location for 3 apartment buildings is wrong. Further, I think it's unfair and inappropriate to characterize those against this project as against affordable ...more
By SPCarr (17), Southampton on May 15, 14 3:41 AM
I don't believe that all people that want this project to go forward understand what is at stake. The town board has been given a great deal of leeway with the PDD law and they are abusing it something fierce. They are SO many inaccurate statements. For example the traffic report states that they will be no impact on the traffic as there will only be 7 to 10 cars either entering or leaving the development each day. 28 apartments and only five cars go and come in a day. What planet are they from? ...more
By maddie1974 (12), southampton on May 15, 14 8:53 PM
2 members liked this comment
For the love of all that is holy please please please let this development plan go through. Its not sorely needed, its not badly needed, This project was needed 15 years ago. I understand ever NIMBY and their mother will complain about the location, size, color scheme, their mother, and the car that the developer drove in on. Thats going to happen no matter the location, time frame, or size. I just hope the town board has the foresight to look over the NIMBYs and do what is right.
By Inch_High_PI (29), Southampton on May 16, 14 12:38 PM
is the developer a NIMBY ?
By david h (405), southampton on May 16, 14 5:30 PM
Nature, Turkey Bridge, maddie1974 and all others,

Assuming that this project is built, what guaranty is there that rents will be "affordable?" Does the Town have the right to control rents in the future?

Seems to me that new units like this will simply be priced at the marketplace levels, which are not really "affordable" to most workers (who obey the occupancy limits) IMO.

Trying to solve the affordability problem on the East End, and arresting the exodus of young folks, ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 16, 14 12:53 PM
They're affordale as per Suffolk County and Southampton Town regulations.

Furthermore, what will keep them "affordable" is this:

The operations and management of the property will handled and supervised by an experienced management
company, with a fully vetted management plan by all relevant stakeholders, including but not limited to, owner
and developer, Town of Southampton, construction lender, permanent lender, Suffolk County office of
Community Development, tax ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 16, 14 2:41 PM
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 16, 14 2:42 PM
Thank you. What is the track record for affordable units like this in other projects through the years? (in the county or other towns, perhaps, if you know)

By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 16, 14 2:48 PM
Don't know - contact David Wilcox at Southampton Town. It's his responsibility
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 16, 14 4:15 PM
By PBR (4956), Southampton on May 16, 14 4:43 PM