What Are We Doing? - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2245234

What Are We Doing?

In Michael Daly’s April 1 Letter to the Editor [“Forward, Not Back”], he writes, “Hi, it’s me again. Your good conscience whispering in your ear.”

Well, let me whisper in the other ear while using data and a calculator.

Multifamily apartments are not subject to market rate taxation. Instead, they pay a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes). So, each time we build multifamily apartments, the developer pays pennies on the dollar in taxation as compared to the amount they would have paid if the parcel was developed as of right.

These PILOTs are woefully underfunded. Using the 38 units at Speonk Commons as an example — which I supported and enjoy new friendships with some of the folks who live there — the school financial impact was over 30 times greater than what was received by PILOTs.

How’d that happen? Well, the Nelson Pope Voorhis school impact study stated that Remsenburg-Speonk school would see an increase of four children. The actual impact was three times greater. There was no follow-up validation of the NPV study. Fair to say, we need PILOT reform on the state level.

There’s an approved application for 80 affordable units on Quiogue. That’ll be a lot of kids. That PILOT could potentially look ugly. That’s also a lot of new cars on the road, in a township that’s already struggling with traffic.

The argument being, “Have people live closer to work and it’ll reduce traffic.” Cool story — but there’s no data and/or vetting criteria that (A) proves where tenants work and (B) determines which direction they’ll be traveling. More, there’s no data from already-built apartments proving a net increase in housing for first responders, teachers and local workers.

So, what are we doing? We have this mad rush into trying to solve a complex problem with quick fixes, and some reek of politics. The state is talking about circumventing local law with Faith-Based Affordable Housing, allowing for up to 50 units per acre on tax-exempt land.

Tommy John Schiavoni, who’s running for State Assembly, proposed modifying Article 330-11.2 of the town code to allow for affordable secondary rental dwellings on half-acre parcels. That’s madness. What are we doing?

Take a breath. Take some inventory. Be smart and strategic.

We have the Community Housing Fund, which will continue to grow. This will bring funding for adaptive reuse opportunities. Perhaps we can rehab zombie homes and provide paths to homeownership. We can create apartments over village businesses. And, yes, sometimes multifamily solutions will make sense.

That said, if we accept bad local legislation, New York State land use control, and choose the quick fix over pragmatism, we will lose the rural charm and beauty of Southampton.

My conscience is clear.

Craig Catalanotto