A proposal to construct a 60-unit affordable housing apartment complex behind the Southampton Full Gospel Church on County Road 39 in Southampton has some people worried about the increased density it would create and the type of people who might live there.
Residents in neighboring communities have expressed concerns about the routes for traffic going in and out of the complex, through their neighborhoods, and the thought of additional traffic near the busy North Sea Road and County Road 39 intersection worries others.
But another group is taking the opposite stance.
Michael Daly, a member of the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals, the PEER NExtGen Housing Collaborative and East End YIMBY—or “Yes In My Backyard”—presented 60 letters to the Town Board at a meeting on May 28, all in support of the project. The letters were from community members, leaders, clergy, veterans, educators, business owners and others, Mr. Daly said, who see the project as a good step in helping to address the “affordable housing crisis” in the town.
The project calls for six 10-unit buildings, with at least 15 units for veterans, and the rest used as workforce housing and affordable housing for people with disabilities, on a 5-acre portion of a 9.4-acre vacant parcel owned by the church.
In February, Ralph Fasano, the executive director of Medford-based Concern for Independent Living, presented conceptual plans for the project to Town Board members to gauge their interest before filing an official application. At the meeting, Mr. Fasano was told to reach out and get feedback and then come back to the Town Board. Since then, he has not communicated with the board nor filed an official application.
“He’s gone radio silent,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said last week, noting that he was surprised to see that Mr. Fasano’s organization had been awarded millions of dollars in grant money to support the project. “I thought, actually, he had abandoned the project—and then I read in the paper he gets awarded $20 million.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in early May that millions of dollars in state and federal funding would be used for the project. The New York State Homes and Community Renewal program granted $8.9 million to the project, though the actual funding the developer would receive would be closer to $20 million.
Approximately $1.2 million of the $8.9 million will come in the form of a low-income federal tax credit and will cover the first year. The $7.6 million of the original amount will come from the state, and the additional $12.3 million will come from federal tax credits.
Mr. Schneiderman said it is not uncommon for developers to get grant money in place before filing an application, adding that sometimes it actually strengthens the application.
“You have to understand that the thing that’s the most expensive is going through the permitting process at the local level—it could take a lot of time and money, ” Mr. Schneiderman said. “If the project is contingent upon certain grants and tax credits, and you spend all that money at the town level, and then find out you don’t have the tax credits, then the project dies. So it makes sense to have the tax credits first. You don’t have the money but a promise tied to the project as you then go try to get it approved.”
Diana Weir, the town’s director of housing and community development, confirmed that efforts are still underway by the developer, and at the local level through Mr. Daly, to get support for the application. Mr. Fasano is even offering tours of another development up-island to show off the quality of the units.
On Wednesday, Mr. Fasano said he has taken input from members of the Hillcrest community and worked with neighboring businesses to adjust the plans. He added that he plans to schedule another meeting with the Town Board in the coming weeks.
Mr. Daly told board members that he would like to see them give their support to allow the application to be filed, stressing that it does not guarantee that the project will go through.
“Ralph is committed to doing this, ” he said of Mr. Fasano. “We can’t even discuss it if we don’t accept the application.”
Time is running out, though, according to Mr. Daly. He explained that Mr. Fasano has a contract with the church and could lose money if the project is delayed.
“He has a contract that goes hard, as is said in the real estate business, at the end of June,” Mr. Daly said. “If we do not give him the support to at least accept his application and allow him to move forward, he can’t put the additional $300,000 to $500,000 at risk, so he will rescind his application.
“That sends a message to developers … that Southampton is not open for this type of business,” he added.
The supervisor said he hasn’t taken a position on the plan, but he noted that he doesn’t think the location is bad. Still, he said, there are questions about the layout, restrictions and density.
“I think the developer needs to try to get more support from the community,” he said. “The concerns I’ve been hearing about this project are: Who’s going to live there? Where are they from? Are they local, or are they people who have no connection to the area or are going to be moving into the area? I think if the people living there are already working in the area, it will help, but there may be limitations about how you are able to achieve that.”
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