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Mar 23, 2017 11:02 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Approves 38-Unit Affordable Housing Complex For Speonk

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman  speaks at the Speonk Commons public hearing on Wednesday night.BY ERIN MCKINLEY
Mar 29, 2017 11:53 AM

The Southampton Town Board unanimously approved a zone change on Tuesday night that will permit the construction of 38 workforce housing apartments on a rundown property in Speonk.

With the support of the Town Board, the applicants—Georgica Green Ventures, a for-profit Jericho-based company that builds affordable housing, and the Southampton Town Housing Authority—can now move forward to the planning phase and submit a site plan to the Southampton Town Planning Board for review.

After initial push-back, many in the Speonk community put their support behind the affordable housing project, dubbed “Speonk Commons,” after the developers agreed to reduce the number of apartments from 51 to 38.

The Town Board agreed on Tuesday to rezone of a portion of the 4.28-acre property that sits on the west side of North Phillips Avenue, from half-acre residential to multifamily use, to permit the development. A shuttered boardinghouse known locally as “The Castle,” and several single-family houses now dot the property at 41 North Phillips Avenue. A mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments will be built.

“I think the whole board is excited to see it move forward,” Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said after the board unanimously approved the project on Tuesday night.

The application has gone through several iterations, but the most recent and agreed upon version calls for 38 apartments in six buildings. The 12 studio apartments will measure less than 600 square feet each, while the 14 one-bedroom units and 12 two-bedroom apartments will range in size from 600 to 1,199 square feet each. It was unclear how much the rent would be; under the original 51-unit proposal, officials estimated that it could range from $930 a month for a studio to as much as $1,750 for a two-bedroom apartment. The approved plan also calls for several commercial spaces along North Phillips Avenue, as well as the construction of an on-site wastewater treatment system. The complex will feature 102 parking spaces.

Because the apartments will be workforce housing units, renters will need to meet income requirements to live there and will be fully vetted by Georgica Green before being approved. Candidates must earn between 60 percent and 90 percent of the average monthly income for a family of four in the area, a figure that will be determined by the town at a later date. Currently, those incomes roughly range between $37,000 and $86,000.

The plan is to market the apartments to working middle-class families, including teachers, nurses, police officers and even town employees, officials said. Higher priority during the screening process would be given to active volunteer firefighters, ambulance personnel and veterans who already live in the community.

Last week, before the project was approved, roughly 100 residents from the hamlets of Speonk and Remsenburg attended the last public hearing on the proposal before the Tuesday’s vote. While most of the speakers who addressed the board at the Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School supported the proposal, they made it clear that this would be the only time they would favor a project that would bring more density to their two hamlets.

Those who addressed the board said they think the property, which was previously developed and sits just south of the railroad tracks and near the Speonk train station, is ideal for such a development. Many also acknowledged that there is a need to create workforce housing in the municipality.

The application has stirred debate in the past, with Town Board members Christine Scalera and Stan Glinka actually opposing the project last year after they were not included in negotiations that resulted in the number of apartments being reduced from 51 to 38.

But on Tuesday, Ms. Scalera credited residents for their willingness to work with the developers in reaching an agreement. She also noted that the board will keep close tabs on the project to make sure the developers follow through with their promises. “I really want to commend the community who really, really worked tirelessly and who gave a lot of comments and support,” she said after the vote.

At the last hearing on Wednesday, March 22, residents stressed the importance of ensuring that no precedents would be set by allowing Speonk Commons to move forward. Those who spoke pointed to the estimated 700 acres of developable land remaining in the two hamlets, stating that other changes of zone that permit additional density could overburden their schools, roads and community.

“The site plan isn’t perfect yet, but I feel we have made progress,” said Emily Sanz, a Speonk resident and co-founder of the Remsenburg, Eastport, Speonk Communities United group, at last week’s hearing. “As a neighbor of 41 North Phillips Avenue, I support 38 units, but no more than that.

“I feel that, so far, the developer has been open to working with the community,” she continued, “and in order to keep Speonk-Remsenburg’s charm, we need to stay active and work together with the developer to create a collaborative development that we can all agree on and be proud of.”

Others asked the Town Board to consider the potential impact on the Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School, stating that the addition of only four students could drastically alter the district’s budget.

Some residents used the meeting as an opportunity to once again request that the town complete a block study for their two hamlets, noting that the most recent one was conducted in 1992 and last updated in 2004. Town guidelines suggest that such studies should be updated every seven to eight years, according to Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins. He noted that most of the information in the Eastport, Speonk, Remsenburg, Westhampton Area study is now outdated, and the neighborhoods could benefit from an updated assessment. Mr. Schneiderman agreed though he did not say when the document would be updated.

Local architect Peter Podlas was the only person to speak against the proposal last week, insisting that the development would add too much density to the area.

“We want affordable housing, but we also want a site plan that works,” Mr. Podlas said. “So the question I leave you with tonight is simple: Does the affordable housing override the need for an architecturally sound site plan? Does the funding model override a functional site plan for our community? Because we will be living with this for 100 years.”

Reporter Jen Newman contributed to this story

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This obviously will go through. Mr. Podlas is correct. This is a horrible concept at a bad location. There is plenty of affordable housing around if people just go out and look for it. This will kill the school system and be problematic for local traffic. We have zoning laws for a reason, this disregard for original concepts is alarming. If you have enough money and cry bigotry, anything can get passed.
By The Real World (352), southampton on Mar 23, 17 12:24 PM
I challenge you to find a decent, clean, two bedroom house or apartment anywhere within the Town of Southampton for under $2000 a month. Just go out and look for it!

The location is fine - easy access to public transportation and in an underutilized school district with a larger condo complex right around the corner.
By VOS (1155), WHB on Mar 23, 17 3:53 PM
EASY ACCESS?
Are you referring to the Long Island Railroad train that comes by, maybe 2-3 a day as "public transportation"? This is being built for the well connected political insiders and their families. If it was for the work force residents it would be built closer to their jobs in Southampton rather than the fringe of town.
By lightfoot (8), southampton on Mar 23, 17 4:12 PM
Just found one in Hampton Bays Red Creek area for 1700 a month. They are out there....
By Hillsnbells (40), Southampton on Mar 23, 17 4:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Where did you find this, hillsnbells? I'm genuinely curious since YR rentals are so hard to find.
By SH_Res (342), Southampton on Mar 23, 17 4:59 PM
The condo complex around the corner is in the Eastport school district. The units available for rent in that complex go for $1800/ month.
By lifesaver (116), speonk on Mar 23, 17 7:09 PM
Not in my Backyard Mentality, There are many hardworking local people who cannot afford to live in their own hometown, Affordable DOES NOT mean poor, Minority, for any of your fears. Its means middle class hard working families.
By 1percent (51), Quogue on Apr 7, 17 6:58 PM
Why is the Town of Southampton building projects? This is such a con, plenty of <$300k houses in Riverhead.
By dfree (654), hampton bays on Mar 23, 17 3:37 PM
2 members liked this comment
Right across the street is a complex where you can rent a 2 bedroom for $1500 a month. And they even have a pool.
So the town is paying to build apartments were they are not needed, more than market rate, and far away from the services and places that apartment dwellers need. ÀWESOME!!!
BTW, workforce houseing should be near work, east of the canal and traffic. The trains in the morning all run west so being near the station is useless. Also people in apartments need to be near supermarkets, ...more
By Spinny OHO (85), Speonk on Mar 23, 17 7:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
How about a plan to help ease the school tax on the SH residents who fall into the ESM School District?? Highest school taxes in the Town!
By Mouthampton (417), Southampton on Mar 23, 17 7:38 PM
Hills, , Is your apartment in HB legal? I don't know of any apartment complex in Hampton Bays in Red Creek. Most of the properties are zoned one family. Maybe you can provide the address and code enforcement could check it out.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Mar 25, 17 4:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
The town is motivated to address the need for workforce housing using a spread out approach, where each hamlet does its fair share. 41NP was always designated as an ideal location for this kind of model. You don't have to agree with it, but please understand that the dollars and the pressure to get these projects done actually comes from the state. Speonk has now done its fair share in addressing workforce housing. We have a lot of vacant land to protect. Other developers will not be met with the ...more
By Craigcat (249), Speonk on Mar 26, 17 12:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Speonk was never designated as an ideal location for workforce housing. Its not close to work, stores, or entertainment. Problem with this lcation is that it doesn't make sense. No developer would even attempt it because nearby housing is already affordable. The town should spend its money where needed. This place would be good for a mix of summer rental and year round residents that own the condos, but that wouldn't be as profitable.
By Spinny OHO (85), Speonk on Mar 26, 17 7:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
The town master plan and subsequent hamlet study stated that the mixed use zoning at 41 NP made it an ideal location for multi-family, transit oriented, affordable housing. Again, you don't have to agree with the premise, but the facts are the facts in this case, and that is due mostly to the existing mixed use / higher density zoning. Max occupancy using this 38 unit concept = 71 people. There is no max occupancy with the "as of right" model, but we estimated approx 64 people would live there if ...more
By Craigcat (249), Speonk on Mar 27, 17 3:05 PM
Craigcat, what planet do you live on? Yes, you can enforce the occupancy on move in. Good luck when the family starts and there is the possibility of 2 or 3 kids with no viable place for the family to move in. This is a pure scam.
Mar 29, 17 3:35 PM appended by The Real World
Craigcat, what planet do you live on? Yes, you can enforce the occupancy on move in. Good luck when the family starts and there is the possibility of 2 or 3 kids with no viable place for the family to move to. This is a pure scam.
By The Real World (352), southampton on Mar 29, 17 3:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
Earth, and your concerns are valid and have been discussed at length. I can write a dissertation on this file as I spent a year and a half fighting it, talking to town board members, looking for alternatives, learning about the funding and state influence, etc. In the end it was the existing as of right / mixed use use density at 41 N Phillips that changed my thinking on this proposal. If developed as of right, the impact on the school could be worse, and the controls over the rental portion above ...more
By Craigcat (249), Speonk on Mar 30, 17 5:16 PM
Craigcat, I get your point..BUT, we do have zoning ordinances for a reason, enforce them. The commercial portion, as of right, obviously just puts money into the system. The housing portion may impact the school to a degree. Affordable housing by definition will have a far greater impact on the schools. I hope you are right but it is my feeling you were conned. Start off asking for 50 or so knowing you will never get it. Settle on 38 saying that anything less would not be viable. Call you a bigot ...more
By The Real World (352), southampton on Mar 31, 17 7:48 AM
There is that risk. We have a lot of land to protect over here. If there was one parcel that was primed for multi-family, it was 41 NP. Now we have to protect the others. Does 41 NP give us some leverage in defending the other parcels? I think so. Whatever the case may be, we'll need to be diligent and protect the area pretty much forever.
I appreciate the respectful debate.
By Craigcat (249), Speonk on Mar 31, 17 11:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
Funny the board has a problem with 110 houses with seasonal residences on 600 acres in East Quoque. But 40 houses with year round residences using services on 4 acres is ok? Not to mention 5 miles west of Eastport is Mastic with hundreds of affordable homes. The board is asleep.
By chief1 (2605), southampton on Apr 1, 17 1:12 PM