Rather than focus on the specific purpose of the two Southampton City Council hearings to seek input on potential environmental impacts and zoning to allow for a large affordable housing project on Quiogue on Tuesday evening February 22, speakers gave a broader view of the project as a whole, with a number speaking of the need for affordable housing in general.
If approved, The Preserve at South Country would consist of 104 apartments on 17.5 acres bordered by South Country Road, Corwin Lane, East Lane and Montauk Highway on Quiogue. There will be eight two-story apartment buildings, a clubhouse, open space with a walking path, 148 parking spaces and an on-site sewage treatment facility. Large treed buffers are proposed to maintain the scenic quality of the roads, with access only from South Country Road.
The NRP Group, a nationwide multi-family housing developer, is looking to rezone from a one-acre single-family residential zoning to a multi-family planned residential development. MFPRD is a type of multi-family group which, according to a report by Southampton City Deputy Director of Planning Clare Shea, “has stricter design requirements and reserved open space than any other category”.
The project is designed on two plots – one is vacant and the other houses Strebel’s car wash and laundry. A request to separate the Strebel operation from the total area is pending in tandem with the request to change the area. The site’s neighbors are the Suffolk Pines Mobile Home Park to the west, J&V Auto Salvage to the northwest, and single-family homes to the other borders.
Tasked with reviewing the rezoning, the City Council made the decision regarding the potential for the project to have a negative impact on the environment.
On January 24, the council determined that the project had the potential to create a significant negative environmental impact. Faced with this determination, the proponent will have to compile an environmental impact statement.
The process towards an SIA starts with a public scoping session where community members can list the items they want to see covered in the SIA.
Tuesday night’s two hearings focused on range and area change.
Prior to the hearings, the Planning Board provided its comments.
Members asked the developers to verify the number of children they expect to join the Westhampton Beach School District, as well as other districts that offer special services.
During the hearing, housing advocate Michael Daly, a founding member of the group Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY), said the developers used a commonly used method created by Rutgers University to determine the number of schoolchildren that the development would house. “Thirty-three is the number,” he said.
“I don’t think they’re being honest about the effect on schools and traffic,” said Lisa Beth Meisel, owner of a Quiogue home. “I’m not saying don’t build it. Don’t build it that size.
Other speakers echoed Meisel’s concerns about the size of the project and its impact on traffic.
Kathryn Biddinger, who lives near the site, said it was hard to imagine the size of the project. People need to understand how huge this project is, she said.
She compared the traffic to the specter of all the cars that can park on Main Street in Westhampton Beach going to work at the same time.
Daly countered that single-family homes “as of right” would have a greater impact on traffic. He agrees with the proponent’s traffic study which states that the project would not degrade the level of service at the intersection.
But what about its impact on regional traffic? Eastbound traffic jams start in Westhampton, Biddinger said. “The traffic starts where we are,” she said.
“We all go east to make money,” David Celi said. Traffic jams cause him more than two hours a day of lost productivity. He agreed that the size of the project is too big for the community. The western sections of the city of Southampton are bearing “the brunt” of affordable housing efforts, he said. The proposal is too much for the hamlet. “You can’t put 10 pounds of stuff in a 2 pound bag. We’re a 2 pound bag,” he said.
David Schreier echoed the comments of other speakers. There’s no question there’s a need for affordable housing, he said, “it just can’t be by me.”
Addressing traffic, Schreier said people were all heading east for work. “The people who are going to live there are the people who are going to use the leaf blowers that you talked about for two hours before this,” he exclaimed.
He suspected that there might be an environmental impact associated with the historical use of the dry cleaner in the field. “Where did their PERC go? he asked, referring to the solvent perchlorethylene. “Where did all their schmutz go? You want to put low-income people on top of an environmental disaster.
“We can’t just say we want him, but we don’t want him near us,” Steve Giuffre offered. He thinks affordable housing should be allocated by school district.
“In the East End, wherever we put multi-family housing, it will be difficult for people who live nearby,” noted retired teacher Janet Grossman. A supporter of the project, she said: “It’s not fair that unless you have a lot of money you can’t live here.”
Another housing advocate and East End YIMBY member, Bryony Freij, acknowledged neighbors would be affected, but said, “We have to do it.”
‘We can’t have the East End being reserved for the wealthy elite and all the labor we care about being driven out of West Suffolk every day,’ said Anthony Hitchcock . Inclusiveness makes America strong, he said.
In addition to creating jobs and stimulating the economy over the two-year construction period, the project will help the city meet its affordable housing goals, Daly said. The new zoning designation is an important step in providing the housing stock necessary to foster a sustainable community.
Comments will be incorporated into the project scoping document. When the final scope is adopted by the city council, the process of compiling the draft environmental impact statement begins. There will be a combined hearing on rezoning and DEIS in the future.