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Jul 1, 2009 12:08 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Many neighbors support 78-unit condo project

Jul 1, 2009 12:08 PM

It became clear at a hearing of the Southampton Town Planning Board last week how many neighbors cannot wait to see a Southampton Village compost heap and industrial site turned into condominiums.

Nevertheless, some who attended the hearing, which focused on a 78-unit project known as the Ponds at Southampton Village, said they were concerned about the number of condos being proposed for the 13-acre site straddling the border of the village.

The hearing on Thursday, June 25, gave neighbors a chance to comment on aspects of the project they would like to see examined during the environmental review, which includes impact on the existing community. The site has been troublesome for neighbors who have complained about fumes and compost fires that have broken out on several occasions, sending smoke over—and sometimes into—houses.

“I don’t think you could have done anything better than buying this property and making something beautiful out of it,” said Evelyn Boxer, a neighbor of the site. “But I think you’re going for the maximum density on earth. The difference between four units per acre and six per acre is a citified place versus a country place.”

Jennifer Hartnagel, an environmental advocate with the Group for East End, agreed with Ms. Boxer and said her organization was concerned with the impact the development would have on the community’s schools and infrastructure.

“The proposed density of 78 units appears to be arbitrarily chosen,” said Ms. Hartnagel. “Even if [half-acre] zoning prevailed over the entire site, only 26 units would be allowed. We would like the applicant to provide written justification as to why there are so many units.”

The complex, which will be located at 229 Bishops Lane, is being proposed by developer George Benedict, the father-in-law of Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley. Mr. Benedict is also proposing to construct a sewage treatment plant at the site that could eventually be tapped into by the town in order to build additional affordable housing in the vicinity.

Ultimately, the number of units at the site will be determined by the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals. However, the Planning Board must finish its environmental review before the ZBA can make its decision.

Previously, Mr. Benedict’s attorney, David Gilmartin of Southampton, said that he and his client had chosen the number of units based on what the town has approved in the past, and noted that they are not considering reducing the density at this time. Nevertheless, they will be required to include a statement in the environmental review justifying the number of units.

Another neighbor at Thursday’s hearing, Frances Genovese, disagreed with the first speakers’ statements and argued that the benefits outweighed any possible negative side effects.

“I find this to be a strange critique because we’re not in an ideal world,” she said. “We have a 13-acre open cesspool. In an ideal world it would be nice if the density would be less ... we are looking at a crisis situation and we want it corrected. We want to work with this developer to get him what he needs.”

Another neighbor, Joan Worthing, agreed with Ms. Genovese. “I don’t really care about the size—I’d just like to have something besides the noise and the dirt,” she said.

Responding to the neighbors, Mr. Benedict argued that the development would not have any effect on the school district because it will be condominiums, not single-family homes. “I’ve wanted to do the right thing from the start, so I went to the community and asked what they wanted,” he said. “They said, ‘Please get rid of the dump.’”

Mr. Benedict and Mr. Gilmartin added that time is of the essence in the evaluation of this project, because Mr. Benedict currently has a three-year lease-to-own deal with James H. Rambo Inc., which owns the site between Magee Street and Bishops Lane. Guillo Contracting Corporation currently operates its recycling and materials division 
there. The deal between Mr. Benedict and James H. Rambo Inc. will last for another 15 months, and Mr. Gilmartin said that his client already lost time in the deal because of the County 
Road 39 moratorium, which suspended consideration of projects along the corridor. That moratorium ended in late March.

In addition, Mr. Benedict expressed frustration with certain aspects of the review, naming in particular a request from the town that he undertake an archaeological survey of the property because it is located in an archaeologically sensitive area.

“At some point, common sense has to take over. Someone asked me what’s going to happen with the Indian artifacts,” he said. “I have a hole 28 feet into the ground, and if anyone believes Indians buried something 28 feet below, they should let me know ... it gets ridiculous, really, absolutely ludicrous.”

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Be carefull about the density !!!!! If you think the Town Board will look out for you, you are wrong.They will look out for the developer first. You may end up with a bigger mess on your hands
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Jun 30, 09 1:37 PM
Mr.Benedict-stick with your Westhampton business and leave the building and infrastructure to the citizens that want to live here.
The youth of the community that want to work and live here would rather have their own home and yard where they have a more safe and secure environment.
Also they can pay into THEIR OWN HOMES and not await any raises on rent or caretaking fees that increase at your or anyother business man/supposed not for profit -agency/LLC.
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 1, 09 6:24 PM
PS Your article shows a couple of neighbors that would want this...I know for a fact that the MAJORITY WOULD NOT WANT TO HAVE OR LIVE NEXT TO OR NEAR A RENTAL COMPLEX!!!!! (and wondering the few that say they do...will they be living in the area once this project goes through...I BET NOT!)
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 1, 09 6:28 PM
To respond to the above uninformed comments: l) NOTHING and I mean NOTHING could be a bigger mess than the Guillo/Rambo operations that have all but destroyed the surrounding neighborhood. Crack houses would be an improvement. 2) The condos are not rental properties. If the "youth of SH" want houses with backyards, there are plenty on the market thanks to the rising taxes and waning benefits SH has to offer. 3) Let this biased poster, check the over 160 petition letters from neighbors who want ...more
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Jul 1, 09 7:06 PM
To respond to the above uninformed comments: l) NOTHING and I mean NOTHING could be a bigger mess than the Guillo/Rambo operations that have all but destroyed the surrounding neighborhood. Crack houses would be an improvement. 2) The condos are not rental properties. If the "youth of SH" want houses with backyards, there are plenty on the market thanks to the rising taxes and waning benefits SH has to offer. 3) Let this biased poster, check the over 160 petition letters from neighbors who want ...more
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Jul 1, 09 7:07 PM
Phanex---YOU FIND A CRACK HOUSE TO BE BETTER TO LIVE NEXT TO THAN GUILLO/RAMBO??? (I don't need to write anything more ...you proved MY point!)
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 2, 09 4:18 AM