Sag Harbor Group Sues to Stop Affordable Housing Project

From left: Save Sag Harbor's Barbara Roberts and Hilary Loomis (Getty, Save Sag Harbor)

From left: Save Sag Harbor’s Barbara Roberts and Hilary Loomis (Getty, Save Sag Harbor)

There are three constants in life: death, taxes and controversy over affordable housing in small towns.

The latest example comes from Sag Harbor, where a proposed 79-unit, mixed-use development in the village center has divided residents. On one side are supporters of Conifer Realty’s development, and on the other side are critics led by the community group Save Sag Harbor, which sued last week to tank the project.

The development is already being tried in the court of public opinion. Residents have taken to the neighborhood network website Next Door to express their opinions.

“Yes to an affordable housing development. No to this retail stuff. We’re gonna look like Port Jefferson, but with high end shops. I almost want to cry,” wrote Marjorie Silver.

Lindsay McNeil voiced a common objection to development, writing, “Where will they be putting it?!!! It is already like a death match trying to find parking.”

A number of residents have backed the project as an opportunity for wage workers to live in the community, which has about 2,800 year-round residents and far more during the summer.

“Glad someone is doing the work to focus on affordable housing,” Michael Scissons wrote. “The location seems great. Highly walkable. On the town’s sewer system. Design can address flooding risk. Location would put much less of a burden vs. other remote options.”

Save Sag Harbor insists its suit isn’t about stopping affordable housing — which they concede the town needs — but to prevent adverse environmental consequences. The lawsuit, filed in Suffolk County Supreme Court, seeks to overturn town laws passed this year which created an affordable housing program and changed zoning laws to allow for larger, mixed-use developments.

“We strongly believe the village needs affordable housing for our workforce and families,” said Save Sag Harbor co-director Hilary Loomis. “But this law encourages large-scale development in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of our village, and one already plagued by parking and traffic problems.”

The lawsuit filed by Save Sag Harbor argues the laws permitting the development should be thrown out because the environmental review before their implementation was insufficient.

“This project would drastically increase density, involve excavations on a toxic waste site, put massive structures in an area known to flood regularly, have serious impacts on parking and traffic congestion, and it could threaten the scale and historic character of the village,” the group wrote to Sag Harbor Mayor James Larocca.

Sag Harbor Treasurer Barbara Roberts supported the group’s claim of toxic waste by pointing to a Southampton Press story detailing Superfund cleanup at a site she said abuts the development site.

Adam Potter, chairman of Friends of Bay Street, a local nonprofit, proposed the three-story, $70 million project in June. It would span 106,000 square feet, about a third of which would be commercial space. Plans call for 62 one-bedroom units and 17 two-bedroom units with maximum rents of $1,542 and $1,847, respectively.

There’s a dire need for affordable housing in Sag Harbor and the Hamptons at large. Blue collar workers and middle-class families — on whom the ultra-wealthy rely to maintain their properties, staff local restaurants and sell them groceries — are increasingly priced out of the area.

Pro-development resident Michael F. Daly pointed to the project’s economic benefits in his Next Door post.

“Local businesses and essential workers really need affordable housing,” he wrote. “Not JUST this one development, but others too!”

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