Crossed-Signals Confuse Developer and Town Board on Review Process for Affordable Condo Plan

Southampton Town Hall

Hearing nothing from him for months, the town supervisor thought the non-profit developer of a 60-unit affordable housing project he wants to build on five acres behind the Full Gospel Church on County Road 39 in Southampton might have abandoned the project.

The developer, Ralph Fasano of Concern for Living in Medford, first described the concept to the Southampton Town Board at a work session in early February. But he has spent months wondering when the board would get around to deciding whether or not to even consider the zone change for the project, according to a representative who spoke before the board late last month.

“We were expecting him to come back to us,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman told Michael Daly, a member of a non-profit East End housing alliance that is working with Mr. Fasano to promote the project. “I haven’t heard a peep from him” since his appearance in February.

Mr. Daly attended the May 28 Town Board work session to submit 60 letters he said had been signed by “community members, community leaders, local clergy, local veterans, local educators, local business owners, as well as local business people and employees who see this as a possible good step in helping” address the “affordable housing crisis that were in.”

He warned the board that Mr. Fasano faced an end-of-June deadline to agree to buy the site from the widow of the late Rev. Donald Havrilla of the Full Gospel Church.

“If we do not give him the support to at least accept his application and move forward,” Mr. Daly told the board, “he can’t put the additional $300,000 to $500,000 dollars” that he’d have to spend “at risk. So he will rescind his application. He’ll withdraw his application. And my concern is that sends a message to the developers that … Southampton’s not open for this type of business.”

He noted that accepting the application for a zone change did not mean the board would grant the change.

“You’re not approving the project,” he said. “You’re just accepting the application so it can go forward, and the community will have plenty of time to give feedback” during the public hearing process on the zone change request.

Currently zoned R-20, which allows up to 10 single-family houses on the site, the property would have to be reclassified MF44, which would allow up to six attached units per acre unless they are kept affordable according to state definitions, in which case up to 12 units would be allowed per acre.

Even if the Town Board granted the zone change, there would also have to be public hearings on the project itself before the Southampton Town Planning Board.

“We asked him to talk to the community” and report back about a number of issues, including proposed access roads that would connect into adjacent neighborhoods, Mr. Schneiderman said.

Mr. Daly said Mr. Fasano did meet with community members. “Already Ralph has addressed three of the issues, such as coming through the Hillside area,” Mr. Daly said, referring to the Hillcrest neighborhood. “We’ve successfully discussed with the Southampton Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing about the use of the fire road behind there,” he added, which he said would preclude the need for access into Hillcrest. Mr. Fasano is also willing to “right-size” the project’s sewage treatment plant to serve nearby local businesses and possibly the Hillcrest neighborhood, Mr. Daly said.

Mr. Daly seemed to believe the board might have heard from residents who opposed the project because when Mr. Fasano met with community representatives “you know, the classic NIMBY things all came out,” he told the board. “You know: the density, they’re all going to kill us.’”

Councilwoman Christine Scalera told him density was a legitimate concern and prodded for a concession toward reducing it from the 12-units-per-acre currently planned.

Mr. Daly said no discussions could proceed until the board agreed to weight the needed zone change. “He’s open to discussing it all and he’s happy to, but we can’t even discuss if we don’t accept the application.”

Mr. Schneiderman told him that, before the board makes a decision, Mr. Fasano should come back for another work session to report on his discussions with community members.

The project has already obtained a $20 million state grant toward its $28-million estimated total cost, which “shows how enthused the state is about the possibility,” Mr. Daly said, describing it as “one of three projects on Long Island that the state has granted funds to.”

The 36 one-bedroom units in the proposed project, which the company will manage, would rent for between $550 and $800, Mr. Fasano said in February; its 24 two-bedroom units would rent for $1,000 to $1,200 a month. Fifteen units would be reserved for veterans; the others will be made available through a lottery system, Mr. Fasano said.