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Mar 30, 2010 4:51 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Developers of planned senior housing project in Amagansett hope to move past opposition in next round at town planning board

Mar 30, 2010 4:51 PM

A plan to build senior housing next to St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett is inching its way through the planning process. Developers of the St. Michael’s Senior Housing Development met with officials from the New York State Department of Transportation recently to discuss how to mitigate increased traffic the development could cause and how to maintain safety, said Gerry Mooney, the manager of Windmill and Whalebone villages subsidized apartments in East Hampton and one of the leading forces behind the St. Michael’s project.

Mr. Mooney said that in a meeting with DOT officials and East Hampton Town Planner Eric Schantz, the DOT officials seemed confident that the senior housing development, planned for the 5 acres of land next to the church on Montauk Highway in Amagansett, would not cause undue traffic problems.

“We got a traffic study from the DOT and really, they’ve been doing stuff like this for the last 20 years on senior citizens projects,” Mr. Mooney said.

Mr. Schantz said the DOT is recommending the speed limit on Route 27 be lowered from 45 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour and it would like to install an island to replace one of the two left turning lanes to help slow down traffic. Mr. Schantz said they also recommended a cross walk at Abraham’s Landing Road.

“These are traffic mitigation things and they are generally all standard procedure,” Mr. Schantz said.

Mr. Schantz said that the members of the Town Planning Board are well versed in the other aspects of the application and the remaining issues have been traffic, for both vehicles and pedestrians.

“The IGA and the post office are on the other side of the road, so the board has had a lot of concern about pedestrians crossing the street,” he said. “That will be a big part of the next discussion.”

The application will be presented to the Planning Board again on Wednesday, April 7, and will include the new reports from the DOT, Mr. Schantz said. Mr. Mooney said he’s confident the application will move forward because the DOT has purview over the traffic issue on the state road.

“They basically said, ‘This is our highway and we’re going to tell you what you have to do,’” Mr. Mooney said. “That takes care of debating it for months.”

The application for an affordable senior housing development at the location has endured its share of debate, Mr. Mooney said. Members of St. Michael’s Church first expressed interest in developing senior housing in 1995 and brought in Mr. Mooney and the Windmill Housing Development Fund. Mr. Mooney was also involved with the development of the Windmill and Whalebone apartments, but he said the St. Michael’s development has been the only one that has been met with any opposition.

Mr. Mooney, who was honored on Saturday by the Long Island Progressive Coalition for his leadership and success in the affordable housing movement on the South Fork, said he has been happy to comply with all the Planning Board’s requests because it will make the public hearing portion of the application more constructive.

“We’re trying to get all these questions answered before the public hearing,” he said, so that they will be prepared for any public concerns.

Mr. Schantz said he was preparing the application to send to the Town Board, which will have to approve the transfer of development rights—a system created to regulate density that allows the town to transfer credits from one hamlet to another. The St. Michael’s project would require 13 credits and Amagansett yields only eight. The rest would need to come from the town’s credit bank and be transferred from sites in East Hampton, Springs, Montauk or Wainscott.

Tom Ruhle, the town’s director of housing and community development, said the town has been the biggest user of the transferable development rights but it doesn’t have a written process in the code for using the rights for private projects, even for not-for-profit groups like Windmill. He said that town would act on the transfer after a recommendation from the Planning Board, and Mr. Schantz said the Planning Board has already passed on its recommendation. He said he believes the Town Board will likely hold a public hearing on the request, even though it is not required.

Jon Tarbet, the attorney for Huntington Sheldon, who lives on Atlantic Avenue next to the St. Michael’s property and opposes the project, said he believes more people will join his client in his opposition when it comes up for public hearing.

Mr. Tarbet said Mr. Sheldon is not opposed to affordable housing or senior housing, but he believes the project is too big for the lot. He also said he believes the project is being rushed through the Planning Board because there is a September expiration date on the Housing and Urban Development grant St. Michael’s has received for the project.

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Thanks to Gerry Mooney and the Windmill and St. Michael's Church boards for filling a sore need in the community. I hope that those who think East Hampton is only for the super rich are not allowed to block this project.
By Tony Ernst (10), Southampton on Apr 1, 10 4:43 PM
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