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Southampton rental units on hold amid protests

An affordable housing project in Southampton is on hold after residents protested that the proposed 34 rental units would worsen traffic, impact groundwater and was a rushed revamp of an earlier project the town had approved.

The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday night closed public discussion on the Sandy Hollow Cove apartments and promised to hold more meetings with residents. The affordable rental housing would have been one of the first projects in years in the wealthier part of Southampton, known as "east of the canal."

Supporters of the proposal, which included some neighbors, said Southampton desperately needs housing for service workers.

"It sounds like the opposition is more a class thing than anything else," said John Strong, a 40-year resident of Southampton, at the meeting.

But opponents bristled at that characterization and said they were unfairly labeled "NIMBYs" -- Not In My Back Yard(ers).

"This is the old Vegas switch," said Stan Fayman, a neighbor of the project. "It's not the same project sold to residents years ago."

The town approved the plan for the 2.6 acres in 2008, as 16 two-bedroom condo units for sale. That project was no longer profitable for the developer, said Richard Blowes, executive director of the Southampton Housing Authority.

The new project would be 26 one-bedroom apartments and eight studio apartments. Rents would be restricted based on income. One-person households could make no more than $44,500 a year and two-person households no more than $50,850 a year. The project would be assisted by $7 million in federal tax credits.

Blowes said starting from scratch on the project was unnecessary because the most recent design's footprint is the same as the old one's and the number of people expected to live there are about the same.

David Gilmartin, attorney for the developer, said the plan is not dead.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who had supported the project, formed a panel with housing experts and concerned residents to try and work out a compromise.

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