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Jul 28, 2016 4:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Proposed Speonk Affordable Housing Project Met With Community Opposition

Dozens of residents came to the July 28 work session in opposition of zoning change.   JEN NEWMAN
Aug 3, 2016 9:05 AM

A proposal that seeks to nearly double the permitted density on a Speonk lot by altering the zoning on about two-thirds of the land to allow for the construction of 51 apartments—units that would be rented as affordable housing—faced strong though mostly silent opposition at last week’s Southampton Town Board work session.

Only a handful of residents addressed the board on Thursday, July 28, to express opposition to the idea. But about three dozen people, including many of those sporting “No Zoning Change” pins, sat in the audience at Town Hall to demonstrate their resistance to the plan for 41 North Phillips Avenue in Speonk, put forth by Georgica Green Ventures LLC, a for-profit Jericho-based company that builds affordable and workforce housing.

The meeting marked the first time that the development, dubbed “Speonk Commons” and now estimated to cost $15.8 million to construct, was presented to the full Town Board, though an earlier and similar version was discussed at a public forum late last year and was greeted with similar opposition.

The proposal targets 4.28 acres on the west side of North Phillips Avenue, just south of the railroad tracks, and now has six buildings—five single-family houses and a shuttered two-story apartment building that once featured 10 units. The land is owned by Sanborn Land LLC of Wantagh, according to town records.

As was the case in December, residents attending last week’s work session said they are concerned about the density of the proposal and its potential impact—as well as the impact of a second, unrelated apartment complex planned just up the road at 85 North Phillips Avenue that would require a similar zoning change—on the Remsenburg-Speonk School District. The second project has been proposed by Centereach-based All Island Purchase Corp and calls for 44 three-bedroom apartments on 7 acres.

Residents are also concerned with the possibility of the property at 41 North Phillips Avenue being removed from the tax rolls as Georgica Green Ventures is partnering with the Southampton Housing Authority on the initiative and, as a result, intend to create a not-for-profit entity that would run the apartment complex. Town records show that Sanborn Land paid $11,602.36 in taxes on the land in 2015.

“There’s so much growth going on in our town, we can’t possibly support all of this,” Dianne Renna of Speonk said while addressing the board. “We need stuff that will want to bring people into our community, not overburden it.”

“As I learned in my life, nothing is free,” added Joyce Duck of Eastport, referring to the suggested tax breaks that Georgica Green Ventures would receive. “There’s going to be somebody that’s going to have to pay for the amount of students that are going to be attending our schools, emergency services and hospitals … so please listen to the people of the community.”

Craig Catalanotto of Speonk, a founder of the group Remsenburg Eastport Speonk Communities United, which was created in response to the influx of building applications in the community, told board members that most of his neighbors are not opposed to the construction of workforce housing in the area. But he noted that they will not support an application that seeks to alter zoning in order to allow for the construction of more apartments than legally permitted.

“We are not opposed to an affordable housing model at 41 North Phillips,” Mr. Catalanotto said. “Our issue here is density. When the train is in the station, you will sit there for 10 minutes. Most of my community rejects this mass density per-acre model, but we do not reject affordable housing.”

Documents presented on the development defend such high-density models, specifically citing a passage from the 2009 Long Island Visioning Initiative Final Report. It states that “with a limited amount of unprotected open space and infill capacity, it would be difficult to accommodate much more single-family development without changes in existing zoning to allow higher densities in new single-family neighborhoods.”

Opponents note that the apartment complex would most likely attract working-class families with children who would attend the Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School and, as they grow older, the Westhampton Beach middle and high schools. If the land is removed from the tax rolls, they said, the cost of educating those students would be passed on to other taxpayers—a scenario that many are simply unwilling to accept.

David Gallo, president and principal of Georgica Green Ventures, explained that his company would still pay some commercial taxes on the proposed retail building that could house up to three businesses. He also noted that residents’ concerns about taxes could be offset through potentially securing a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT. The development itself, meanwhile, could then be funded through a low to moderate state income tax credit program, according to Curtis Highsmith, executive director of the Southampton Housing Authority. Mr. Gallo told board members that their other affordable housing project in the town, a 28-apartment complex that will eventually be built in Tuckahoe and known as “Sandy Hollow,” will have a similar payment plan in place.

“The state is going to issue dollars for this project and mandate that the property is affordable in perpetuity,” Mr. Gallo told the board.

Mr. Highsmith said more details about how the complex would function and the tax credit program would be discussed publicly soon, though a specific date has not yet been selected.

Georgica Green Ventures is requesting to change the zoning of about two-thirds of the property, presently a mix of residential and village business. Specifically, it wants the zoning of the 2.83 acres that sit to the rear of the property to be altered from residential to multi-family to permit the construction of 51 apartments—a mix of studios, and one-and two-bedroom units. The change would allow the construction of about two dozen more apartments than currently permitted.

The application, which has the support of the Southampton Housing Authority, calls for the construction of 41 apartments in five different buildings on 2.83 acres. Additionally, 10 studio apartments would be offered on the 1.45 acres that would retain its current village business zoning; six of those units would be built above a 3,882-square-foot building that would house three different retail stores while the remaining four would be located on the second floor of a 2,932-square-foot community building that would also offer storage, a fitness area and laundry facilities. Plans also call for the construction of an on-site sewage treatment facility that would service all of the apartments, as well as 101 parking spaces.

The 10 studio apartments would measure between 450 and 550 square feet, the 25 one-bedroom units would be between 600 and 725 square feet, and the 16 two-bedroom apartments would measure between 750 and 950 square feet, according to the application. The monthly rates for the 10 studios would range from $930 to $1,434, according to Mr. Gallo. He also noted that the one-bedroom apartments would cost between $996 and $1,500 a month, while the two-bedroom units would range in price from $1,195 to $1,750 per month—though he stresses that those figures could change.

The plan is to market the apartments to working middle-class families, including teachers, nurses, police officers and even town employees, according to Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. Higher priority during the screening process would be given to active firefighters, ambulance personnel and veterans who reside in the community. Eligible renters must earn between $37,000 and $86,000 annually, with the higher number allotted to a family of four.

Mr. Highsmith said the town desperately needs more affordable housing, and encouraged concerned residents to contact his office with their concerns.

“This is not a war,” he said. “This is a difference of opinion.”

Though he wants to see more affordable housing constructed in the town, Mr. Schneiderman said more research must be done to figure out how to offset the potential tax burden that could come with approval.

“If creating housing for our workforce in this area places a burden that causes taxes to increase, we’ve basically made it affordable for those residents and made it less affordable for everyone else,” he said.

Town Councilman Stan Glinka emphasized that the plan was preliminary and that Georgica Green has yet to submit a formal application to the town. He also said there has been misinformation about the development, particularly regarding its status with the town, and that he wants to improve communication moving forward.

“I share the concerns of all the constituents,” he said. “The residents are really upset. They’re not against affordable housing—they’re concerned about the density.”

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That area has a number of as of right projects that will be bringing the community significant density increases. Holding out hope that there's a better solution at 41 North Phillips that includes attainable units.
By Craigcat (254), Speonk on Jul 29, 16 7:06 AM
If the maximum salary eligible to qualify is 86,000 then this is not "working middle class housing " for police officers who make twice that. So stop saying that Jay - police officers will not be living here so don't use it as a selling point
By CaptainSig (712), Dutch Harbor on Jul 29, 16 7:40 AM
Same with teachers.

By susgeek (41), Speonk on Aug 4, 16 7:45 AM
1 member liked this comment
What is the Town doing about the ridiculous tax rate for the Speonk/Eastport residents who fall into the ESM school district boundaries? Highest rates in the town: nearly triple that of SH or WH school taxes.
By Mouthampton (428), Southampton on Jul 29, 16 9:14 AM
same as I have told you on prior occasions. The town is not doing anything. It is not their responsibility. You need to attract commercial development to the school district. Got it?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Jul 29, 16 1:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thanks for the hostile comment Blank. I was simply making a point that the Town does not seem to encourage development whatsoever in this area. There have been pushes in the past for more access to Sunrise Hwy so that there would be more commercial development in the corridor, but that fell by the wayside and was never revisited. Every commercial project that is introduced is then met with opposition... I agree that density is an issue that needs to be examined carefully, but no where in this town ...more
By Mouthampton (428), Southampton on Jul 30, 16 10:09 AM
1 member liked this comment
Which sounds like exactly what this proposed project is. This is a quality development that looks to capture an opportunity.
By SqueakyWheel (28), Flanders, New York on Aug 2, 16 2:49 PM
The opportunity is multi faceted:1.Creating greater housing choices. 2. Creating rental apts for working people, not large homes for families. 3. Reducing the burden on our schools 4. Keeping school taxes from going up 5.Building a Sewage Treatment Plant to improve water quality, 6. Bringing more customers for local merchants. I agree , Lets not miss this opportunity.
By Correct.the.Record (7), remsenburg on Aug 2, 16 3:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
There are many places within the town for this type of project, Speonk/Remsenburg is not one of them. North Phillips cannot handle the density at the location by the train station. The reality is that the TB is scared to do it in Hampton Bays or Southampton.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Jul 29, 16 9:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
They did. Sandy Hollow which is East of the canal.
By CommunityMinded (20), Southampton on Jul 29, 16 10:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
This location is perfect for workforce apts, at the intersection of a regional rail line, a county bus line and the main N/S & E/W roadways serving the hamlet. They can get to work using public transport. Your concern w/ density is legit. The existing Single family Housing (SFH) zoning will flood the school. whereas changing it to studios, ones, and two's will virtually eliminate this influx. No need to fear working people in small apts, good reason to fear large low end SFH near the railroad.
By Correct.the.Record (7), remsenburg on Aug 1, 16 6:21 PM
To hell with that The Real World,

Hampton Bays is not your dumping ground anymore, our waterways kick your around the block so if anything our land is more valuble than yours now that the bars are gone.

Get " Real"
By Erin 27 E (1225), hampton bays on Aug 11, 16 8:18 PM
I recall the community having the same "density" arguments for that Speonk Plaza where Brewology is located. Just think, the end of the world never came like what was presented by the opposition and there sure are a lot of locals loving it now.
By CommunityMinded (20), Southampton on Jul 29, 16 10:54 AM
Unfair to compare bagel stores and pizzerias on Montauk Hwy with 51 units/67 bedroom apartments on N. Phillips Ave? Look at the overall big picture in our area. We are going to have a real density problem here. The last thing we need is to be down zoning parcels that already have as of right density yields that exceed anything else on N. Phillips. So far we've seen 1 proposal from Dave and Curtis. You aren't working with us, you are working at us. We've asked the town board to help change that dynamic. ...more
By Craigcat (254), Speonk on Jul 29, 16 12:21 PM
The existing R20 Single Family Homes (SFH) zoning would add 36 bedrooms, 30 of which would be for school age children. School taxes will go up for everyone with the existing SFH zoning. The GGA proposal eliminates the SFH's , changing those bedrooms to studios and one bedrooms for local working people, not children. Let's push for a village green, a park, in lieu of the VB commercial development, This will improve values for everyone.
By Correct.the.Record (7), remsenburg on Jul 31, 16 7:41 AM
2 members liked this comment
How many 6 BR homes exist on N Phillips or in Speonk for that matter? The notion that the 6 homes would have 6 bedrooms is false. The R20 home segment = 6 units, a single family home on ea .5 acre parcel. The VB yield = 16 apartments. By adding an accessory apt to each R20 segment the total yield becomes 28. I'm not sure how the pre-existing nonconforming plays into as of right yields, but maybe they get 2 more? Anyway, before accepting 51 units and 67 bedrooms as the only solution here, I think ...more
By Craigcat (254), Speonk on Jul 31, 16 8:35 AM
Fact: All homes in Suffolk can have 6 BR, if they have a 1500 gallon septic tank, or other approved systems. The GGV proposals' density is based upon a delicate balance of the number and mix of units that both State and County will support, because they provide financing and the density written into the Town Code for affordable workforce apts. Your questions help all of us think thru the issues at stake. I am concerned the existing R20 zoning will overwhelm our schools , and the 60,000 sf of ...more
By Correct.the.Record (7), remsenburg on Jul 31, 16 4:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, I think some equitable solution will be found. GGV has shown us one model to date. Like anything in life, we shouldn't assume that 41 NP is a single solution issue. The alarming thing about the installation of sewage treatment systems is they can be tapped into. With a developer already looking to down zone 85 NP from 7 single family on 7 acres to 44 3 BR unit apts, we need to consider if 41 NP makes that scenario more likely.
By Craigcat (254), Speonk on Aug 1, 16 8:37 AM
I agree. Good point. If true, The TB can designate as a condition of approval the STP shall be limited to the original units in perpetuity. The County and State will not finance an STP unless it has meaningful impact. i.e. a reasonable density. I maintain that the VB area is the biggest threat to the character of the area. What else are you concerned about?
By Correct.the.Record (7), remsenburg on Aug 1, 16 5:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Mostly the cumulative density. I think down-zoning N. Phillips is a tragically flawed idea. Imagine a scenario where we have Hampton Villas on the corner, 51 units at 41 NP and another 44 units at 85 NP. That's crazy density for this area. N. Phillips Ave being the main connector of Montauk Hwy and Old Ctry Rd will be a complete mess. It already is without the added density.
The owners at Woodfield Gables are motivated to do something. That's 38 homes. Serenity Estates got beat twice by the ...more
By Craigcat (254), Speonk on Aug 1, 16 8:44 PM
Every property is unique , its location , its history , its size, etc. Arguing against the merits of one , because of fears of others prevents progress on any. One at a time. Each stands on its own. Eliminating SFH that will flood our schools , in favor of small apts is a good thing , regardless. I think you get it. Those who argue against 'density' per se, without making the distinction between the occupants of those bedrooms are missing the point. Thanks for having this exchange. Its important.
By Correct.the.Record (7), remsenburg on Aug 2, 16 9:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
I appreciate the respectful dialogue. The irony here being GGV/TSHA have made our community examine the perils of overdevelopment here, and our group has helped create awareness and acceptance for attainable housing. Honestly, the lines of division aren't that great. We are talking about zoning and density, not people. I think that's a good thing.
By Craigcat (254), Speonk on Aug 2, 16 1:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
When did the Sandy Hollow project get approved??
..
Mr. Gallo told board members that their other affordable housing project in the town, a 28-apartment complex that will eventually be built in Tuckahoe and known as “Sandy Hollow,” will have a similar payment plan in place.
By dave h (193), calverton on Aug 2, 16 9:13 PM
Mr Gallo (makes me think of gallows) saving long island 1 profitable low income , high construction cost at a time ..
I heard he builds at $650\sq foot for reimbursement costs ... thats a great deal FOR HIM
No one needs mr gallows around..hebisbhelping homsrlf to public monry under the premusr of lie income housing. . Expensive low income housing
By dave h (193), calverton on Aug 4, 16 12:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
sir, You are spreading misinformation. The great thing about America is the free enterprise system. Competition forces the most efficient to succeed. Before you make outlandish statements , get the facts, try reading the proposal. The facts might help cure you of unabashed and unwarranted cynicism. ( you could also try a spell check before you submit )
By Correct.the.Record (7), remsenburg on Aug 4, 16 8:48 AM
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