November 01, 2006

Board Puts Brakes on Village Green

Residents who've galvanized to garner support for their argument against a proposed development in Speonk have been granted respite. At last week's Southampton Town Board meeting, a public hearing was closed on the matter, essentially putting the brakes on the project – for now.

According to Michael Pope, president of the Remsenburg Association, he and residents of both Remsenburg and Speonk turned out for the town board meeting to protest yet another request by the applicant for a postponement of the hearing.

"We expressed our indignation at, and the great inconvenience in planning, caused by these last-minute postponements," he said.

A public hearing with the Southampton Town Board scheduled for October 24 was postponed; it was the sixth postponement since April.

Pope said the repeated postponements were not only costly to the town, in regard to repeatedly advertised notices, but burdensome to Southampton Town staff members who had been flooded with calls from concerned members questioning the postponements and dates of rescheduled hearings.

"Residents kept showing up because they wanted to be heard," said Pope.

At last week's meeting, the board voted to close the hearing, sending the applicant directly back to square one.

"The general feeling was that they did not respond in a timely fashion," said Southampton Councilman Chris Nuzzi. "They did not have the requested information since June, and it was getting burdensome and ridiculous for residents to have to come out for these hearings only to hear another requested adjournment by the applicant." The councilman added that the application "clearly was not ready to be considered."

The development came after Remsenburg residents — who had been eagerly awaiting their chance to speak out for the first time against a proposed development they feel will threaten their quality of life — were thwarted yet again.

The issue revolves around a proposed zone change from residential R-20 to residential planned development district (RPDD) for the Village Green at Southampton (in Speonk).

The proposed development 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.

The proposed single-family homes are each slated to be 4500 square feet, with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a garage. Eighteen of the 49 condominiums, which would be geared toward workforce housing, would be 1100 square feet, each with two bedrooms and one and a half baths. The remaining 31 condos would be 2400 square feet complete with two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and a garage.

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

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.

Those opposed to the project have expressed fears over density and a proposed sewage treatment plant. They also question the impact of the development on area schools as well as environmental concerns raised by stormwater runoff handled by 60 leaching pools on the property.

To that end, members of the Remsenburg Association have been working to raise awareness of the project, collecting hundreds of signatures outside the Remsenburg Post Office, mailing out flyers and organizing transport to the public hearing.

In recent months, the association has sought donations for a legal fund. "The response from residents," claimed Pope, "has been tremendous. We will not be spectators to the decision-making on this issue."

Pope added that while an attorney for the Remsenburg Association has been named, his identity has not yet been disclosed.

Those protesting say the proposed development would shatter the serenity of their sleepy hamlets of Remsenburg and Speonk forever.

After George Tsunis, the attorney representing Ross Cassata, the developer behind the project, requested a number of adjournments, some Remsenburg Association members questioned the re-schedulings. Many believed 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.

Next, said Nuzzi, the developer has a variety of options, including going back to the drawing board, researching the information requested by community members and the town board, and pursuing the possibility of preservation, "which would, in a perfect world, be very nice." Nuzzi said he has been trying to keep the preservation option alive for the parcel.

Nuzzi also commended the public for turning out to voice their feelings. "They're absolutely right. Continuing in this manner, without answering, was not the way an application should be handled."

Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney was out of the office and unable to return requests for comment by press time.

Tsunis did not return calls for comment.

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