Some good, conscientious people in Southampton are concerned about affordable housing and what to do about building it. Other good, conscientious people in Southampton are opposed to affordable housing when it is proposed for a bad location, increases density, increases traffic and taxes, overloads infrastructure and services, and involves unacceptable zone changes.
These people aren’t “racists,” “bigots,” “elitists,” NIMBY-ists or any of the other ugly things they have been called by the proponents of the 60 “affordable” housing units proposed by Concern for Independent Living from Medford.
As a person who has attended the few meetings and discussions that have surfaced about this very controversial proposal, I want to say that no one opposed to it could ever be called a racist or a bigot. Those who oppose it bring up legitimate questions about how it applies to local needs, and the very inappropriate location on crowded County Road 39, and many other environmental and financial concerns.
I implore the Southampton Town Board to start looking at the issue of housing in a more rational and strategic manner — and involve the public early and often.
One indispensable effort would be to create an inventory of current affordable housing and Section 8 housing, as well as one that identifies appropriate properties now available, and those that might come on the market, and scrutinize them — rather than haphazard, knee-jerk “yes” votes on projects that sound community-minded, and make politicians feel good and look good. The traffic congestion of the rush-hour “trade parade” will not magically disappear by adding more and more high-density developments and calling them a solution.
I find it ironic that when free-spending politicians out here who enjoy the benefits of a local economy based on the tourism and trade industries, and capitalize on the open space and the ocean, constantly undermine those assets by promoting development and zoning compromises that will destroy it. Politicians and people must come together to define and mitigate the housing problem. Let’s start with a look at the free-standing houses on Bailey Road as the gold standard and not the exception.
We cannot keep looking west to solve problems that, with proper planning and input from our communities, can be solved locally. Those solutions like the one that came from Medford may work in urban areas but are outweighed by the problems they cause for us.
Furthermore, our discourse should not echo that of Washington, D.C., where self-interest and hyper-partisanship have normalized name-calling and lies and other obfuscations. We need to meet and talk and get something done that doesn’t pit one group against another.
Joseph R. McLoughlin
Mr. McLoughlin is a member of the Southampton Village Planning Commission —Ed.
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