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Sep 30, 2015 1:12 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Discovery Land Company Attorney Wants To Control Discussion On 'The Hills'

Sep 30, 2015 1:35 PM

A lawyer representing Discovery Land Company, the firm looking to build a luxury golf community in East Quogue, recently sent a letter to the Southampton Town Trustees demanding that they stop discussing the project with members of the public.

Authored by attorney Wayne Bruyn of O’Shea, Marcincuk & Bruyn LLP in Southampton, the letter alleges that the Trustees are violating the law by scheduling public discussions on the project, dubbed The Hills at Southampton, and that such actions “violate the basic tenets of fairness and due process.”

The letter, dated September 10 and also sent to the Southampton Town Board and town attorney’s office, demands that the board “cease and desist from such actions,” while also noting that the application is not subject to the review of the Town Trustees.

But Town Trustee Eric Shultz said this week that his board did not violate the law, noting that all discussion about the application—which seeks permission to construct 108 single-family homes, 10 condominiums attached to a clubhouse, and an 18-hole golf course centered on 168 acres along Spinney Road in East Quogue—was brought up by residents during the public comment portion of his board’s meetings.

He also noted that his board has not scheduled any hearings on the application, as has been suggested by Mr. Bruyn.

“The Trustees have always prided themselves about allowing anyone to speak about any topic during the public portion of the meeting,” Mr. Shultz said. “I understand the developer’s concerns, but I’m not going to shut my ears. The public has the right to speak in the public portion of the meeting.”

Town Trustees President Ed Warner agreed with that stance, stressing that his board’s meetings are always open to the public. “The letter was generated from their lawyer, Mr. Wayne Bruyn, but, personally, I’m not going to tell people that they can’t come before our board,” Mr. Warner said. “The letter said we shouldn’t entertain people coming before us—but we would never stop people from coming before us.”

Mr. Bruyn did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Discovery Land officials are now working to complete the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or DEIS, as required by the Town Board, as part of their company’s change of zone application for the project. In order to move forward with the complex, the Arizona-based development company must convince the Town Board to approve a planned development district for the land. In addition to developing the 168 acres, the company intends to set aside more than 400 acres in East Quogue as open space, according to the application now on file with the town.

As work progresses on the DEIS, the developer has already held three informational meetings at restaurants in East Quogue, urging hamlet residents to attend and learn more about the project and its associated benefits. Town officials have not been invited to those events. A fourth meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 6, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Cucina Family Style Ristorante on Montauk Highway in East Quogue.

Group for the East End President Robert DeLuca said Mr. Bruyn’s letter, combined with a series of developer-sponsored informational meetings, is sending a mixed message to those who want to talk about a project that targets the largest remaining piece of undeveloped land on the South Fork.

“It works both ways,” Mr. DeLuca said. “If they are going to have meetings on their own terms, and be giving out food and drinks, they shouldn’t be, conversely, writing a letter like this to the Trustees.”

Attendees of the first three meetings hosted by Discovery Land have enjoyed complimentary food and drinks, all on the developer’s dime.

“If you want an even playing field, we should have an even playing field,” Mr. DeLuca added. “I have absolutely no problem with that. But, at the same time, don’t be telling people to not show up [to Town Trustees meetings].”

He went on to say that the threatening tone of Mr. Bruyn’s letter strongly suggests that the developer wants to control what people are saying about the application that continues to divide many in the hamlet. It is pitting those who oppose such intense development against those who think it is a fair trade-off for the proposed benefits, which include millions in new tax revenue for the cash-strapped East Quogue School District.

“I think people are a little confused here about what’s the right thing to do,” Mr. DeLuca said. “Is Discovery Land the only place where you can go to discuss the issue? There’s a problem with that, because there is a public portion at the end of the [Town Trustees] meetings where people can talk about anything.”

Mr. Shultz also said the letter struck him as odd, noting that this is the first time he has received such correspondence from an attorney demanding that he censor discussion at public meetings.

Mr. Bruyn’s letter was penned shortly after Mark Hissey, vice president of Discovery Land, requested that East Quogue Superintendent Robert Long sign a “letter of understanding” confirming the benefits his district would receive if The Hills eventually gets a green light from the Town Board. Mr. Long signed the letter, which acknowledges the potential benefits of the development to his school district, including a $500,000 cash donation, on September 16.

But Mr. Long has stressed that his signing of the letter should not be interpreted as the school district either supporting or opposing the project. Instead, he and the East Quogue Board of Education decided that he should sign the document because it clearly outlines all of the benefits that would be provided to the district, again assuming that the project gains approval.

“As we stated at the meeting, it is not indicating our support or our opposition to the project,” Mr. Long said last week. “It’s just us saying we understand the benefits for the school.”

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Seeking to control the conversation is what this is all about. Particularly at meeting where they provide refreshments. Clearly the company is trying to weigh the scales in their favor. But it does not seem to be a project in the publics favor. I just do not see the public benefit. And the Quogue School Superintendent really needs to put his ACKNOWLEDGEMENT int he proper context, in other words a written statement that says they do not accept, agree to or are willing to abide by these terms.
By AL (83), southampton on Oct 1, 15 8:50 AM
2 members liked this comment
A new low for Mr. Bruyn. As a former Town Attorney, he should know better - anything for a buck I guess.

Good for the Trustees, once again standing up for the citizens of the Town of Southampton. Like the individuals on the Board or not but they always have the common man's back it seems.

As for the actual letter - what a crock. Press, can you get a copy and post it? I'd love to read what Mr. Bruyn thinks (or is it what his clients think?).

Anyone else see the irony ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Oct 1, 15 9:24 AM
2 members liked this comment
Put the date of the Town Board hearings for this on your calendar & call your friends & family.
Go & have your voice heard!!!
And, vote on Nov. 3rd.
I love that saying:
If you don't vote - don't complain.
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Oct 10, 15 12:30 AM
Why is the attorney for the Discovery Land Company trying to censor what residents have to say about this project?

Hiring a person to do public relations and giving away "complimentary" dinners & drinks at local restaurants while touting them as, "factual & information" meetings is just trying to buy off uninformed residents. These meetings are conducted solely by the developer with the "experts" in their respective fields on the Discovery Land Companies payroll. Why were no SHT elected ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Oct 1, 15 10:51 AM
Do you have to live in the area to go to the free Dine N' Wine's? sounds like great free stuff opportunity.

I suppose there is nothing wrong with packing their meetings with opponents raising questions?

As for Mr. Long...Larry, Moe or Curly?
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Oct 1, 15 11:07 AM
... keep in mind this was the same guy that stood before the Town Board and said that a public benefit of this horrendous project would be that the people of Southampton would be allowed, on occasion, to eat in the restaurant they would build on the site.

Regarding the "basic tenets of fairness", how about the "fairness" of ramming an 86 home development down the Town's throat for preliminary board approval, then two weeks later changing it to 118 homes on 68 acres?

When things ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Oct 1, 15 11:53 AM
Boy oh boy, talk about mistakes. This attorney -- who should know much better, having been involved in Town matters for a long time -- tries to muzzle citizens, tries to tell the Trustees how to conduct their meetings, and tries to push the Trustees out of the process, and all the while his client is having these brainwashing "dinners" to sell this pig to the people.

This one alone may kill The Hills. At best, it's been a disastrous week for the project, at worst, it may have been the ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 1, 15 12:32 PM
3 members liked this comment
Discovery should call the PDD "The Hills at East Quogue" not Southampton. i'm tired of developers trying to turn a hamlet into something it's not. On the other side of EQ, you have "The Southampton Pines". Again, EQ is not Southampton, but part of the township of Southampton. Similar to developers trying to call the Moriches areas "The Hamptons". smh : /
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on Oct 1, 15 11:40 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Oct 2, 15 7:23 AM
How stupid for a school official to allow his name to be used in such a way. Is it in his job description to consider zoning applications?
By InnerBay (72), Southampton on Oct 2, 15 6:25 AM
- Interesting quote from the letter. Apparently DLV feels that no evidence outside of their own DEIS is able to validate claims that this project has an effect on the bays or 'other things'.

" Although the Board of Trustees has no jurisdiction whatsoever over this matter, it has come to our attention that certain parties opposed to the project are appearing at public meetings of your Board alleging, without the benefit of the DEIS or any substantial evidence, that The Hills project has ...more
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Oct 2, 15 7:30 AM
... see the Trustees meeting of 9/9/15 video on the Town web site. Go to the 44:30 - 50:00 minute mark. Who is out of line here; the speakers, the Trustees or Discovery?
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Oct 2, 15 12:28 PM
Finally agreeing with you Turkey, SCHULTZ, PELL AND CORWIN ONLY!!! We are allowed to vote for 5 Trustees , these three are the only ones worthy of our votes these days.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Oct 2, 15 1:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you, bigfresh. Stars must be in some kind of strange alignment.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 2, 15 1:55 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Oct 2, 15 9:23 PM
Love the fancy legalese and round the bush reasoning, but there's this thing called the 1st Amendment which seems to have been overlooked. The letter sounds like a meted paroxysm. Seems like someone is having a bit of a hissy fit.

Seems to me water quality IS part of the trustees domain, and the vast majority of what enters the water table and a portion of the rainfall does make it's way into the bays and other water bodies in this town including runoff and septic leachate.. My suggestion? ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Oct 6, 15 5:02 AM
shazam, I agree with Mr Z on this too!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Oct 6, 15 6:49 AM