August 02, 2006

Residents Protest Village Green

Stop the Village Green Project: Odds are, residents of Remsenburg and Speonk are familiar with these words, the oft-heard refrain of those opposed to a proposed new development many fear would have a significant impact on the quality of life in their sleepy hamlets.

Members of the Remsenburg Association have flooded mailboxes and stood strong outside the post office recently, imploring residents to take notice and speak out about a project they believe is too high in density and which features what they consider an undesirable sewage treatment plant.

Carrying signs and clipboards, the group collected approximately 250 signatures from others who share their belief that the proposed development would shatter the serenity of Remsenburg and Speonk forever.

And, last Tuesday, members of the Remsenburg Association turned out for an informal meeting geared toward galvanizing and joining forces in an effort to go head-to-head in a battle with developers and the Southampton Town Board to put the brakes on the Village Green Project before it speeds out of control.

The meeting was held on the same day initially scheduled for a public hearing on the Village Green project. After George Tsunis, the attorney representing the Cassata Group, the developers behind the project, requested an adjournment, the hearing was rescheduled for September 26.

Some Remsenburg Association members questioned the rescheduling, stating their belief that the attorney asked for a change in date because he'd caught wind of the large contingent of unhappy Remsenburg-Speonk residents who'd planned to turn out and voice their opposition to the project: The Remsenburg Association had hired a bus to transport residents to the hearing at Southampton Town Hall.

At the heart of the heated disagreement is a proposed action that consists of a change of zone from Residential R-20 to Residential Planned Development for the Village Green at Southampton — a development that would accommodate 11 single-family residences and 48 multi-family condominium units on approximately 15 acres in Speonk, behind the old Woody's gas station. Under current zoning, developers could build 12 to 13 units on the parcel.

The proposed 11 single-family homes are slated to be 4,500 square feet in size, each with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a garage. Eighteen of the 49 condominiums, which would be geared toward workforce housing, would be 1,100 square feet, each with two bedrooms and one-and-one-half baths.

The remaining 31 condominiums would be 2,400 square feet and would have two bedrooms, two-and-one-half bathrooms and a garage. Access to the property would be via a main entrance on the north side of Montauk Highway. A cross easement access agreement with the property owner to the east would provide access for emergency vehicles and a walking trail to the Speonk train station.

The 18 units of affordable housing would be priced at $137,000; houses would start at $595,000.

Those opposed to the project voiced their apprehensions about the sewage treatment plant. "It would be a horror," said Michael Pope, president of the Remsenburg Association. "The last thing we want is a sewage treatment plant at the gateway to Remsenburg."

Others questioned the impact of the development on area schools as well as the environmental concerns raised by storm water runoff due to 60 leaching pools on the property.

The bottom line, said Remsenburg Association member Sue Edmonson, is that no one questions the need for affordable housing — it's the density that's at issue.

To that end, members rallied to present at the next hearing, which will be the third on the proposed development. Plans were made to hire an attorney and raise funds for that endeavor. A series of meetings are planned for the future, so the group can present a united front at the next hearing.

The hope is that when the developer sees the pressure put on him by the community, he might "just go away," said one resident.

Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney pointed out that it is the developer's right to build on the property. But, rather than McMansions, the goal is that 30% of the project is slated for moderate and middle-income units that would go hand in hand with "the town's effort to provide workforce housing."

Heaney added, though, that the process is just beginning, and that there will be many more opportunities for public input. As for the change of zone, Heaney said, "None of us is ready to make a decision yet, one way or another."

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