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Sep 16, 2009 11:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bailey Road residents oppose Southampton Village development

Sep 16, 2009 11:43 AM

Residents of Bailey Road in Southampton Village are fighting plans to build affordable housing there because, they say, it will add unwanted density to their quiet, tree-lined street.

Southampton Village owns a 1.64-acre parcel of land on Bailey Road, which Suffolk County seized for tax delinquency in 2001 and deeded to the village for use as affordable housing later that year. Now the village is planning to either change the zoning on the land—to allow half-acre lots, rather than the 1-acre requirement currently in force—or to get a variance to create two 35,000-square-foot lots to accommodate some form of affordable housing there. Creating two lots would require approval from the Village’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

John Bennett, a lawyer in Southampton, told the Village Board last Thursday, September 10, that his clients, a group of Bailey Road residents, oppose the project. “We don’t object to affordable housing, we object to increased density,” he said at a public hearing on the zoning change option.

Mr. Bennett railed against the building plans, explaining that Bailey Road is only 16 feet wide, perhaps less in places. A typical right-of-way for a road is around 50 feet, he said, which means that Bailey Road is too small for added development.

He also said that the Bailey Road residents purchased homes on the street with the understanding that they were going to live in a neighborhood that has 1-acre zoning and don’t want to see it changed.

Mayor Mark Epley listened to the complaints but said the village has to move forward with the affordable housing development on the property or risk losing the land—Suffolk County would likely move to repossess it and build its own affordable housing, or sell it to a developer charged with the same task, if the village fails to act. The county has given the village three extensions over the past seven years to build affordable housing. It set a final deadline of early September for beginning the process of building affordable housing on the lots, Mr. Epley said.

Mr. Bennett demanded to know what the village was planning to build on the parcel—whether there would be one, two or three houses or accessory apartments. Mr. Epley said there would be no accessory apartments, but how many houses would be built has not yet been decided. He did say that the structures would be designed by Southampton architect John David Rose.

Southampton real estate agent Raphael Avigdor also spoke during the hearing and said that he and a few other investors purchased four lots on Bailey Road and consolidated them into two larger lots, essentially voluntarily upzoning a portion of the road. “The investors will be blindsided when they hear about down-zoning,” Mr. Avigdor said. “I oppose down-zoning.” He suggested instead that the village build one house and a park on the lot.

Jim Supple, who owns two homes on Bailey Road, suggested that the village sell the 1.64 acres, purchase land elsewhere and build affordable housing there—but Mr. Epley replied that the county would not permit that.

“We’re looking at this as a negative, but maybe this is actually a positive thing,” Trustee Bonnie Cannon said of affordable housing, urging residents to consider the police officers and teachers who have to commute to Southampton from westerly parts of Suffolk County.

The Village Board decided to keep the public hearing on the zoning change option open through the board meeting on October 8.

More Density Debate

The members of the Southampton Association, led by President Jay Diesing, also spoke out at the Village Board meeting on what they see as increased density in the neighborhood surrounding the hospital, which includes Meeting House Lane, Old Town Road, Little Plains Road and Toylsome Lane. Mr. Diesing asked the board to consider creating a zoning law that prohibits lots smaller than a half acre there. He explained that in the current financial climate, developers and landowners may be looking to cash in on properties they own, and that subdividing them may prove more lucrative. “We should not let them slaughter the calf of Southampton,” Mr. Diesing said.

Mr. Diesing, who lives on a lot that is about a third of an acre, explained that one major issue with permitting subdivisions is that developers are building homes that are 3,000 square feet, which is too big for small lots. He also said that traffic and parking problems plagued the neighborhood all summer.

“If the village doesn’t see what I’m talking about, I’m wasting my time,” Mr. Diesing said, after Mr. Epley and the Village Board’s attorney, Richard DePetris, disagreed with his request.

Village Trustee Paul Robinson, who has two applications for subdivisions in the neighborhood surrounding the hospital pending before the village Zoning Board of Appeals, said that the traffic in the neighborhood is due to increased activity at the hospital, including expansions of the building and parking lots.

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Affordable housing should be built in areas that are already high-density (Southampton village, Sag Harbor, etc.)- and are already served by public transport, water lines, etc.

This patchwork policy of scattering affordable housing all over the town is stupid, and will just anger the neighbors who will always resort to this density argument. Also, its at odds with overall "smart growth" ideas that the town supposedly embraces. Stick density where there is density already.
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Sep 24, 09 5:42 PM