The Southampton Town Board voted unanimously March 28 to approve a zone change that would allow a new affordable housing complex in Speonk.
The Speonk Commons mixed-use retail and 38-unit workforce housing project is proposed for a 4.28-acre parcel near the Speonk Long Island Rail Road station on North Phillips Avenue.
The front acre-and-a-half of the property along the street is zoned for village business, and the back portion is zoned for half-acre residential lots.
Developers Georgica Green have asked the town to consider slightly modifying the line between the village business and residential zoning districts, and rezone the back portion of the property from half-acre zoning to to MF-44, a multi-family affordable housing zoning designation that would allow 12 units per acre.
The project will now go to the Southampton Town Planning Board for site plan review.
The rental units wound range from studio to two-bedroom apartments. Based on current guidelines, rents would range from $930 to $1,750 per month and the apartments would be made available to people who earn between $37,200 and $86,040 per year.
While members of the community were initially skeptical the proposal, after several months of public hearings and a reduction in number of units form 51 to 38, the sentiment shifted more favorably by the most recent public hearing on March 22 at the Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School.
The site, which is readily accessible by public transportation and within walking distance of the small number of shops in Speonk, has been singled out in town planning studies as one that would make sense for workforce housing.
On the property now is a towering, dilapidated former hospital and boarding house, which was once the cottage of W.H. Fordham, and later was known as the Hoag Hospital, where many Speonk residents were born in the 1920s.
“I ask the town board to make Speonk Commons a reality for the teachers, firefighters nurses, and workers in this community,” Georgica Green principal David Gallo told the board at the March 22 hearing. “I promise Georgica Green will keep its commitment on a project that we can all be proud of.”
Craig Catalanotto, a founding member of the group Remsenburg, Eastport, Speonk Communities United, or RESCU, said he’s done an informal analysis that 62 to 64 people could live at the site under the existing zoning, while 71 people would be the maximum occupancy of Georgica Green’s plan, a nominal difference.
“When we started RESCU, we told the town board we’re not against attainable housing, but we wanted protection from overdevelopment and we were looking to find a fair and equitable solution for 41 North Phillips,” he said. “This does conform to the town’s master plan and was always designated as an ideal location for attainable housing.
Remsenburg-Speonk School Board member Dierdre DeVita reminded the board of how small their school district is.
“While we truly welcome the new residents that the proposed development will bring, an influx of students, even as few as four, could significantly impact our budget and force us to cut program or ask district residents to pay a higher tax levy,” she said.
“Thirty-eight units is acceptable. The reason this compromise works is because we’re dealing with a unique situation. It had a preexisting apartment and was a blighted spot,” said John Barry or Remsenburg. “This isn’t a precedent to say up and down North Phillips we’d like to see more things.”
Speonk-Remsenburg Civic Association Co-President Bob Moser said his group is also concerned that the zone change will set a precedent for other private developers, especially of properties on North Phillips Avenue.
“There are still many land parcels in our hamlet that, if developed under an approved zone change, could destroy the rural character and quality of our life in the hamlet,” he said. “The reason we came here was to get away from the up-island condition.”