A rendering of the Liberty Gardens housing complex that had...

A rendering of the Liberty Gardens housing complex that had been proposed for the Town of Southampton. A town board vote this week rejecting a zoning change blocked the 50-unit affordable housing project, where half the units would have been set aside for veterans. Credit: Concern Housing

The Southampton Town Board denied a zoning change this week with a vote that blocked a proposed 50-unit affordable housing complex that would have had 25 apartments for veterans from going forward.

Board members cited traffic and environmental concerns before Tuesday's 4-1 vote and said the proposed location on County Road 39 didn't support the construction of the complex, which had been under consideration for years.

The 50 units, in what would have been called Liberty Gardens, would have carried a maximum annual household income restriction for tenants.

“It’s a good idea but it’s in the wrong place,” Councilman William Pell said.

Ralph Fasano, executive director for nonprofit developer Concern Housing, said in a statement the town rejected the Medford-based organization's proposal “despite good faith efforts to address all legitimate traffic, water treatment, and logistical issues.”

He added: “The town voted down this plan to increase affordable housing and support veterans without allowing Concern or any project advocates to be present to rebut inaccuracies.”

The developer is reviewing legal options as a next step, Fasano said.

The board’s resolution also ended the environmental review for the project that spanned nearly three years, with a findings statement that said in part that “the proposed action does not meet the spirit and overall objectives of the Town of Southampton's long-term planning efforts.”

Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni cast the lone vote for the zoning change, saying he has supported the housing project since its beginning and the developer has “done everything the town has asked them.”

He noted the town invited Concern Housing in 2018 to consider developing the site.

“I am unapologetically in support of veterans,” said Schiavoni, a Democrat running for New York State Assembly.

Supervisor Maria Moore said the location has “always been problematic” and board members had proposed alternative locations that Concern Housing found to not be “workable.”

About $38 million in state funding for the complex wouldn't have been transferable to another location, according to Concern Housing.

The zone change denied this week would have allowed an increase in residential density to build the development. 

Councilwoman Cyndi McNamara, the lone Republican on the board, said the denial doesn't reflect her view or support of veterans.

“We were tasked with looking at the facts and determining whether this project is right for this location,” she said. “That’s it. Who the project is for shouldn’t even enter the equation. But the applicant has made that the focal point knowing it’s really hard to say no to our nation’s heroes.”

Several board members cited wastewater sewage treatment as a concern that wasn't adequately addressed.

Concern Housing, formerly Concern for Independent Living, has built dozens of single family and multifamily homes in the past 50 years, including four others that cater to veterans in Amityville, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Brooklyn.

Councilman Michael Iasilli said he visited the 77-unit Liberty Station facility in Port Jefferson that opened in 2021. He said while the development was “beautifully constructed” and the people were “wonderful,” the differences in location didn't make for a direct comparison.

He said the proposed zoning change didn't conform to the town’s comprehensive plan.

The proposal drew significant community feedback, with more than 50 people speaking at an October 2022 public hearing as part of the project's environmental review. While some speakers supported the project and cited the need for affordable housing, specifically for veterans, others raised concerns about traffic and density.

Board members on Tuesday noted they've taken several steps to address affordable housing, specifically after voters in November 2022 approved the new Community Housing Fund that generates money for affordable housing initiatives through a .5% tax on most real estate transactions.

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