A group of Tuckahoe residents filed a lawsuit challenging Southampton Town’s approval of a 28-unit apartment complex to be built on Sandy Hollow Road.
The lawsuit was filed by five neighboring homeowners, and a citizens group called the Friends of Sandy Hollow, which supporters say comprises a large number of area residents who made donations to the legal fund to fight the apartment complex’s approval.
The suit argues that the Town Board’s approval of the project in July, in the face of vociferous objections by residents, violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act by not looking closely enough at the potential impacts the project would have on traffic, groundwater and wildlife. It claims the town also failed to comply with numerous portions of its own code regarding Planned Development Districts.
“We want them to follow the law,” said Noelle Bailly, an immediate neighbor of the 2.6-acre property where the apartments are to be constructed. “It’s pretty blatant that they broke the law. They can’t be allowed to get away with it.”
Ms. Bailly’s husband, Oliver, is one of the named plaintiffs, along with neighbors Philip Woodie, Jonathan and Jennifer Kayne and Robert Terry. The lawsuit was filed by attorney Nica B. Strunk.
The suit names the Town Board, the Southampton Housing Authority, Georgica Green Ventures and Glesir Development, the current owner of the property, as defendants.
The approved project, a partnership between the town Housing Authority and Georgica Green, calls for 28 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, targeted at middle-income tenants. Government tax credits that would be used to fund the construction require that most of the apartments be offered at varying fractions of open market value, based on income levels of potential tenants. The apartments are to start at about $950 per month, the developers claimed during the application process.
During months of raucous hearings on two different versions of the apartment complex, neighbors repeatedly blasted the project as too big for the small property and as a boondoggle that would burden the neighborhood with overcrowding, traffic congestion and quality of life issues. Residents from throughout Tuckahoe joined the opposition and a petition against the plans drew more than 800 signatures from across the South Fork.
But the Town Board unanimously approved the project. Board members defended their decision by pointing to the dearth of legal, affordable rental housing for middle income workers who cannot afford to purchase houses in the town. The availability of the property, which had already been approved for a 16-unit condominium complex, and the partnership with Georgica Green, was a too-rare opportunity. The original application called for 34 units in four buildings. The final approval allowed 28 units in three buildings. The project is currently before the Planning Board for site plan review.
After the approval, the dozens of area residents who had opposed the project organized to take their fight from the boardroom to the courtroom.
“At the hearings everyone sat there and said, ‘Well, the community is speaking and the town will have to listen,’” said Phil Watson, one of the organizers of the Friends of Sandy Hollow. “And then they approved it and that really galvanized things. That group went to the community and solicited donations from the community and retained legal council.”