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Nov 4, 2008 9:07 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

New plans bring same objections to affordable housing in East Hampton

Nov 4, 2008 9:07 AM

The owners of a 9-acre property on Oak View Highway in East Hampton tagged for an affordable housing development plan to present the town with a revamped plan for the project later this month. It calls for 60 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment units in 12 “manor house” style buildings.

Ronald Webb Sr. and Ronald “Budd” Webb Jr. sent their consultants last Tuesday, October 28, to present the new plan to a crowd of neighbors, who had organized in opposition to the original plan for the property. They heard many of the same doubts and objections they’ve heard before. The new proposal will be presented to the Town Planning Board for the first time on November 19 at 6:30 p.m.

Residents said that if the Webb property is developed as planned, or in any high-density manner, traffic on the narrow streets of their neighborhood would become unbearable. Many said that traffic on Oak View Highway in particular is already too high because of trucks from a nearby sand pit and vehicles using the road to bypass traffic along North Main Street and Cedar Street.

“I want to hear somebody tell me what’s going to happen with the traffic going by my house,” Gail Gibbons said.

The original plan, submitted to the Town Planning Board last winter, called for 57 individual cottages of about 800 square feet each on the property. Several developers have proposed constructing affordable housing at other locations but all have given up in the face of opposition from neighbors. The zoning code allows for multifamily projects and increased density in certain zones if the developer provides assurances the units will be made affordable to low- and middle-income people. The Webb plan was developed according to the town’s workforce housing regulations.

The town, meanwhile, has sponsored the development of more than 400 low- and middle-income affordable housing units throughout the town over the last 25 years.

The new proposal calls for 12 manor house structures scattered around the property, each containing five dwelling units. They would be sold to individual buyers and the entire property would be managed and maintained by a homeowners association. The manor house design was conceived by architect Amato Ortiz for the Town Housing Department, which plans to use the design for a town-sponsored development in Springs. After the single-structure plan was rejected by the Planning Board, town planners recommended the manor house design, according to Mr. Webb’s development consultant, Laurie Wiltshire.

The Webbs’ property, which they have owned since the 1980s, is zoned to allow single-family houses on 3-acre lots. But it is located in an “affordable housing overlay,” a special zoning relief clause that allows much higher density development as long as the units are offered well below market rates.

The 2005 Comprehensive Plan Update, which decreased the density of the area’s zoning from a 1-acre minimum to a 3-acre minimum in order to reduce development density, does not address the property’s density overlay status specifically, though it does recommend leaving other such overlays in place on properties in the surrounding area.

Dozens of residents turned out for the pitch scheduled by Ms. Wiltshire’s firm, Land Planning Services of Wainscott, which sent more than 30 invitations to neighbors and opponents to the meeting at Neighborhood House on Three Mile Harbor Road. They queried Mr. Webb’s representatives about the environmental impacts, septic systems, groundwater flows and the economics of keeping the proposed development “affordable.” They primarily objected to the development because, they said, there are already two other high-density housing developments in the neighborhood.

“I don’t think anybody in this room is against affordable housing,” said Maggie Kotok, a resident of the neighborhood, which was once known as Freetown. “We are against this high-density development in an area that is already high-density. We are not in favor of this for many justifiable reasons.”

Ms. Wiltshire said the Planning Board application, if it gets beyond the preliminary stage, would include a detailed traffic study, a comment that was met with grumbles from the audience.

The area surrounding the property owned by the Webbs, which is bounded by Three Mile Harbor Road, Oak View Highway and Middle Highway, does indeed have other high-density developments nearby. There is a mobile home park just across Oak View Highway. The 40-unit Whalebone Apartments is about half a mile up Middle Highway from the Webb Property and the 87-unit Windmill Village Apartments are less than a mile away on Springs-Fireplace Road.

The area also has a long history of affordable housing construction. In the 1980s, the town created the Whalebone Woods development, more than 100 homes built on half-acre lots with town subsidies, on Middle Highway. Many of the residents who have turned out in protest of the Webbs’ plans live in the Whalebone Woods development. The Windmill I and Windmill II affordable housing developments are also less than a mile away.

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