Decision Before Southampton Town Board About 104 Affordable Housing Units, But Is It Too Much for Quiogue?

The Preserve at South Country Road, Quiogue, NRP Group
A rendering of the property
NRP Group

Most everyone will agree that affordable rental opportunities are desperately needed in the Hamptons. A proposed large-scale workforce housing project in Quiogue would provide more than 100 units, but it has left some questioning the scale, particularly in a small hamlet west of the Shinnecock Canal.

The NRP Group, one of the largest multifamily developers in the country and with offices in 15 states, proposes building The Preserve at South Country Road, a 104-unit project on a currently vacant 17.34-acre site with 100% workforce housing. Another five-acre property will remain in use by Strebel’s Laundromat and Hand Car Wash.

The current design calls for 40 one-bedroom units, 48 two-bedroom units and 16 three-bedroom units across eight two-story buildings. A clubhouse is also proposed for the property that runs from South Country Road down East Lane and along the newly developed Carwin Lane.

NRP has been working on The Preserve at South Country Road project since 2019, but the application was formally filed in 2021. To move forward, the project requires a zone change from a single-family CR-40 zone to a Multi-Family Planned Residential District (MFPRD), which requires 25% of the woodland property to remain undisturbed open space.

Density was raised yet again, including by Town Councilman John Bouvier.

We are comfortable with the density,” said John Bennett, the lawyer representing NRP at the hearing. NRP considers it a low-density project as the numbers break down to six units per acre.

Initially, 184 units were proposed, which would be 12 units per acre, but the figure was lowered following community and staff feedback ahead of a State Environmental Quality Review undertaken.

The Preserve at South Country Road, Quiogue, NRP Group
Another rendering of a buildingNRP Group

“This is an opportunity to provide for housing that makes sense from a cost point of view and it reminded me of the old early SEQRA case called, ‘The Chinese staff worker’s case,'” he said, going on to explain that a development project in downtown Manhattan “was going to remove affordable housing.” Following a suit, the Court of Appeals sent the project back to the City of New York “because the city hadn’t addressed the impact that the development was going to have on affordable housing.”

“It’s interesting,” Bennett continued, “affordable housing and workforce housing is part of the beneficial environmental impact that’s been identified as part of the SEQRA process.”

“I’m a firm believer in workforce housing,” Bouvier responded. “We clearly need it in this town. I think there are ways this project could be made better. The biggest comment I’m getting is, reduction in density.”

“The real harsh reality of it all — and we might as well get it on the table and you guys are going to have to struggle with it,” Bennett said, “is that at a certain point if the density is reduced, the project doesn’t make sense. And I’m sure you know that, we’ve said that before.”

“Not necessarily. We’ve had success where we’ve reduced the density in response to the community,” Bouvier responded. “I can look at several projects across the town where that’s been successful. I wouldn’t take that as a given personally.”

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman added that in the past there were additional subsidies that had to be brought in from the state or other entities to make the numbers work because of reductions in density.

The Preserve at South Country Road, Quiogue, NRP Group
NRP Group’s presentation shows how the complex will be laid out.NRP Group

He was curious about the mobile home park next door on a narrow strip of property. “I don’t know how many units per acre that is, but what’s being proposed here is six units an acre, which is much, much less dense than the neighboring property,” Schneiderman said.

“I can’t help saying it’s also much less than the governor’s thoughts that we’re all horrified by,” Bennett said, referring to Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed mandate that sets a goal of increasing affordable housing by building 800,000 new residences over the next decade. Options could range from 15 to 25 units depending on the acreage.

As part of the governor’s executive budget for the 2024 fiscal year, the state would be given new authority to override local zoning laws in cases where municipalities resist. Concerns have been raised, particularly on Long Island, about how that would change the communities here.

While it remains to be seen how the governor’s proposal shakes out, the town board previously modified the MFPRD district to eliminate a 75-unit cap it once had in order to support creating affordable housing.

If the property on South Country Road was developed as one-acre housing lots, 17 houses could be built with swimming pools and/or tennis courts.

In July 2022, NRP provided the town with a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), which looked at natural environmental resources, such as topography, as well as human environmental resources, like transportation community character and community resources.

NRP feels shows the project will have no substantive negative impacts for the property, which includes a small previously mined sand and gravel pit. In fact, in some ways, the improving on existing conditions, NRP’s lawyer said.

A hearing was held November 22, 2022, on the content of the DEIS and the proposed zoning change, but due to an issue that was raised with noticing the hearing properly, the town board and the applicant decided to hold an additional hearing on March 28, 2023.

Barbara Weber-Floyd, who lives on South Country Road, asked the board to deny the zoning change until concerns were addressed. In the DEIS, she felt, “Every member of the planning board member expressed concerns about the size and design of the project,” she said, adding that she felt every issue raised in the DEIS was “glossed over.”

Among them, the fact there was only one access road, inadequate parking, low estimates for traffic and low estimates for school-age children entering the school system. Even the overall estimated number of people that would live there, 250, according to the report, would be closer to 355, she says. 

“This is a tremendous amount of density,” she said. Even at 250, it increases the existing rural population by 46%.

The Preserve at South Country Road, Quiogue, NRP Group
A view of the proposalNRP Group

The projections are too low and the system can’t support it, then you have to have fewer apartments,” she said. “The bottom line is this project is too big and the negative impacts on our neighborhood will be too great.”

We all know that is a very conservative number,” Emily Sanz, the chairwoman of the Westhampton, Speonk-Remsenburg, Eastport, Quiogue Citizens Advisory Committee, told the board.

CAC West feels there are too many negative environmental impacts from clearing 12 acres of land. Increased stormwater runoff, displaced wildlife and a big impact on emergency services and schools.

While they understand the need for affordable housing, they want to see it spread throughout the town — the Speonk Commons affordable housing, completed in 2019, brought 38 units to that area. “Housing on the east side [of the Shinnecock Canal] is a higher priority,” she said, adding the board should conduct an analysis of the stock throughout the town.

The NRP Group’s presentation shows the garden-style community will have “ample open space and naturally landscaped recreational areas for residents,” including a walking trail and children’s playground, according to a presentation from NRP.

The property will utilize all-electric energy systems and LED lighting, as well as Energy Star products, materials and appliances. They promise the architectural style of the buildings at The Preserve will be contextual for the area.

NRP feels the project meets the town’s goals as outlined in its 1999 Comprehensive Plan Update, while directly addressing housing affordability issues.

Rents are projected to range from $724 to $2,884 per month for those with income ranging from $32,700 to $120,880 annually.

In a presentation, NRP noted that the starting salary for a Southampton Town police officer is $64,773.  The average salary of a teacher in the Westhampton Beach School District is $61,225.

The hearing is now closed and the applicant will now have a chance to respond in writing to the comments.

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