Southampton Town has closed the public hearing on changes to a proposed affordable housing project in Tuckahoe known as Sandy Hollow Cove, after neighbors who originally supported the project told the town they thought the new proposal was a ‘bait and switch,’ as it was called in a recent editorial in the Southampton Press.
Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst maintained throughout a public hearing Tuesday that she would like to leave the public hearing open until Oct. 22, while a group of affordable housing experts and concerned citizens worked out an alternative plan at one or two work sessions earlier in October, but agreed to close it after realizing many members of the board did not support leaving the hearing open.
A planned development district already approved at the site would allow 16 affordable two bedroom condominiums, but the proposed amendment would change the ownership structure and size of the units so that 34 one-bedroom rental units could be built at the site, after the developer deemed that the original ownership structure would not be economically feasible.
Proponents of the change argue that the design of the buildings and the number of people who could live at the site would remain the same, since the units would be half the size originally proposed.
While at previous hearings, many young people said the new configuration would make it easier for them to live in Southampton, Henry Jones, a recent college graduate looking for a job, told the board he thought “the proposal has morphed into a monster.”
Noelle Bailey, who lives in the neighborhood, sassed town board members for considering the change.
“Bridget — this is not the place to start your experiment with these systems that require daily monitoring, ok!” she told Councilwoman Bridget Fleming of the project’s proposed sewage treatment system.
“Anna, you owe us an apology because you called us NIMBYs,” she told the supervisor. “You’ve left us with only one way to vote. To vote you out. i own a home. You do not.”
Ms. Throne-Holst said that she had actually said that affordable housing always brings out concerns from neighbors.
“It’s always a great hurdle,” she said. “I wasn’t speaking to any of you specifically.”
Resident John Strong said he thought the opposition to the project was “more a class issue than anything else. Ee’re talking about working people who need to have a place to stay in our area.”
Scott Carlin of Hampton Bays read a letter from the town’s green committee in support of the project. He said the project would have a state-of-the-art sewage treatment system that would work better than those of existing houses in the neighborhood, the buildings would be efficient, and the “farm complex aesthetics” of the project would be a good fit for the community.
“The green committee supports the development as an important start toward working with the community to make housing once again affordable for the work force,” he said, adding that he was glad the debate on the project “has been robust and constructive.”
A work session on changing the project will likely be held Oct. 10.
The Southampton board also agreed Tuesday to recirculate a proposal to not require building permits for small storage sheds, after civic groups suggested that property owners should sign a sworn affidavit, saying the shed will meet setback requirements, before it is built. Sheds must be at least 10 feet from the property line of properties that are two acres or less.
Southampton also agreed to use CPF money to buy eight more acres owned by the Mulvihill family around the Mulvihill Preserve in the Long Pond Greenbelt between Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton.
Mary Anne Mulvhilll Decker told the board the property was a beautiful piece of woodland on the edge of an expanding subdivision.
“Every piece left wild is acreage that can protect the South Fork from flood water,” she said.
Dai Dayton of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt agreed.
“Our 270 members are in full support of this purchase,” she said. “It’s a beautiful area for trail walking and the existing trail cuts the area already.”
“We are so excited to add it to our roster here of great properties,” said Ms. Throne-Holst.
Large-scale solar energy projects don’t seem to strike the fancy of too many members of Southold’s Town Board, but they are of some interest to renewable energy developers attracted by the town’s large tracts of farm fields, which, in addition to being great for growing corn, are also great for harnessing the sun’s energy.
The town’s principal planner, Mark Terry, came to the board at Tuesday morning’s work session asking for guidance on how the town should proceed with requests from developers who want to build commercial-scale solar facilities. He said such facilities are again in the spotlight because the Long Island Power Authority just released a new request for proposals for new feed-in tariff projects to provide alternative energy to the utility company. Southold applied for a feed-in tariff project at the Cutchogue landfill last year, but wasn’t awarded the bid, and Shelter Island is currently in the process of completing an application to pursue a similar project on their landfill.
Southold’s town law currently prohibits energy production as a primary use. Mr. Terry asked the board to consider allowing solar energy production in agricultural, light industrial and light industrial office zones.
Councilman Bill Ruland, a farmer, wasn’t keen on the idea of allowing energy production on “prime soils,” which are ideally suited for agriculture..
“Electricity is not an agricultural product,” he said. “From a crop producing perspective, they [solar panels] are going to get in the way.”
Town Supervisor Scott Russell added that one third of Southold’s agricultural land is fallow, and the town has set a goal in its current comprehensive plan to put that land back into agricultural production.
He said the light industrial and light industrial office zones might be the best locations in town for solar energy production, as long as they are at least 20 acres [parcels next door to one another could be combined to meet the 20 acre requirement].
Southold’s department of public works has also been looking into the feasibility of making the beach at Goldsmith’s Inlet on the Sound in Peconic a public bathing beach, but the town board nixed the idea after they received a cost projection in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Several neighbors of the inlet asked the board two weeks ago why “No Swimming” signs had suddenly been posted at the beach, but members of the town board said they’d been advised to put them there by their insurance company to reduce the cost of the town’s liability insurance.
Public works director Jeff Standish told the board it would be difficult to drill a well for potable water at the beach, due to the proximity of neighboring cesspools and the shallow water table there. A public bathroom with potable water is required by the Suffolk County Health Department at all bathing beaches that have a lifeguard on duty.
Mr. Standish added that the areas where most people swim at Goldsmith Inlet are actually owned by New York State.
“I thought it was dead in the water when I got the cost projections,” said Councilwoman Jill Doherty.
Robert Dunn, who lives near the inlet and has been very concerned about what happens there, agreed.
“To spend this money is just insanity,” he tod board members.
Mr. Russell said the town did its due diligence looking into the possibility of creating a bathing beach, but that it was “just irresponsible” to spend so much money on the project.
Shelter Island is the latest East End town to try to win a renewable energy bid from the Long Island Power Authority to install solar panels at the town’s landfill. Last Friday, the Shelter Island Town Board agreed to let American Capital Energy Inc. to design the photovoltaic system for the town. Southold Town attempted to win a similar bid from LIPA last year, but failed. LIPA is looking to approve a total of 100 megawatts of power to be fed into the grid throughout its coverage area, and is considering proposals for systems above 10 megawatts. More information on the feed-in tariff program is available here.
Riverhead Town wants input from its citizens in a new survey being conducted as part of a $567,000 brownfields grant from New York State on why they visit downtown Riverhead and what would entice them to visit more often. The survey is available online here. More information on the grant is available here.
A nifty press release about the survey from Town Supervisor Sean Walter is available here. Mr. Walter says you can win gift cards to downtown businesses if you participate. So, get on it!
East Hampton Town
East Hampton Town has the week off. Try again next week.