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Mar 29, 2017 11:33 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Locals Hike Through 'The Hills' Property Sunday

Jok Kommer, a Westhampton Beach High School teacher, led a hike on Sunday throguh
Mar 29, 2017 11:43 AM

Standing at the northernmost end of Spinney Road in East Quogue on Sunday morning, Jok Kommer was the focus of attention as he greeted community members, old friends and former students.

The dozens who had gathered were looking to the Westhampton Beach High School marine and environmental sciences teacher, whom many of his former students describe as a “big environmental guy,” to share his opinion about the potential impacts that a proposed luxury golf resort community—to be built on the exact swath of land he was standing on—would have on the environment.

Though he stressed that he does not typically support large-scale construction projects, Mr. Kommer said he had a change of heart after reviewing the Discovery Land Company proposal, called “The Hills at Southampton,” and calls for the construction of 118 homes and an 18-hole golf course targeting approximately 150 acres in the hamlet.

He said his opinion of the project being pitched by the Arizona-based developer, which requires the Southampton Town Board to approve special zoning called a planned development district, changed based on the company’s promises to curb potential pollution from the resort complex by lining greens and tee boxes, and installing a sewage treatment facility to service the proposed homes, which would include 95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and 10 clubhouse condominiums.

“Since the opportunity of the land to be preserved for open space has been long since gone—and part of that is because of the disturbed nature of the site—the best thing is to do the best, most sustainable option,” Mr. Kommer said, noting that in his opinion the PDD plan is better for the environment than the as-of-right alternative under existing 5-acre residential zoning.

In the as of right alternative, the developer expects to still be able to build 118 units, though that plan does not include a golf course or community benefits.

Mr. Kommer, who lives in Northampton, said he agreed to lead interested community members on a tour of the property owned by Discovery Land after receiving a slight nudge from his friend and former student Brian Tymann, a Westhampton Beach Village Board member. Mr. Tymann is also a paid consultant for Discovery Land.

Starting at the end of Spinney Road, near where the clubhouse would be constructed, Mr. Kommer led the hikers on Sunday across the property and, along the way, answered questions and spoke about the project’s potential environmental impacts, including nitrogen pollution. Throughout the hike, he pointed to trees killed by the southern pine beetle, noting that the developer would help manage that problem if the PDD is approved, and he talked about the way the developer would recycle contaminated water on the proposed golf course. Along the hike, garbage and debris lined the trail, as well as piles of downed trees that were attacked by the southern pine beetle and other harmful insects.

The hike circled east, where the golf course would be constructed, and back around past the clubhouse, where the bulk of the development would be. Next, the hikers continued north, walking nearly all the way to Sunrise Highway and into the core pine barrens, to get a glimpse of some of the trees that would be preserved. The entire hike was about three miles long.

Some hikers—including Mr. Kommer—remembered hanging out on the property as kids. “This was a haven for cars—and, for me, mini bikes ...” he said as he watched kids on the hike pick up old bottle caps from the ground. “People who don’t know better leave things behind—I don’t think anyone means to ruin a place where they live.”

For others, Sunday’s hike was the first time they were seeing the land.

Judy McDermott of Quogue said she went on the hike so she could see the property for herself. “I’m just curious of what it looks like,” Ms. McDermott said in the beginning of the hike.

Before the hike began Ms. McDermott was a supporter of the project, and her visit to the property affirmed her view. “It’s a wonderful improvement,” she said, noting that there is currently a lot of garbage—including old tires, wood scraps, and empty beer bottles—littering the woods.

Kim Quarty of East Quogue, who also supports the project, said the hike was a good way to get a better understanding of the property that the proposed development would be targeting. “I always think being on site is better,” she said. “Seeing maps isn’t really the same.”

Mr. Tymann added that he liked seeing that the hike also attracted people against the project because it shows that they are open to learning more facts about the development.

Elizabeth Jackson of East Quogue, who is against the project, said she went on the hike to further educate herself about the development that is targeting neighborhood.

Ms. Jackson said the hike—and, most notably, the white signs with images throughout the property representing what the development would look like after it is built—didn’t help convince her that the project would be good for her neighborhood.

“The signage is just pictures of pleasant streets,” Ms. Jackson said. “That’s not the nuts and bolts of what this project will do to the area.”

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... like MacAllister, "big environmental guy" no more.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Mar 30, 17 7:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
So there is no conflict that a WHB Village Board member is a paid consultant for this developer.

And a teacher in our school is telling kids that "contaminated" water from the golf course would be recycled. How did it get contaminated? A teacher is telling kids that taking down trees to build a golf course is a good thing?

This is terrifying. This is the fall of Rome.
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Mar 30, 17 9:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Mar 30, 17 9:14 PM
This article raises a number of questions about connections between the applicant here, Arizona Land, and persons speaking out in support of The Hills' application.

OK, so Brian Tymann is a paid consultant for Arizona Land. I didn't know that before. I know Brian Tymann. I like and respect him, and I don't think his being compensated by the developer would have an effect on his expressed opinion about the project. Still, it's a relevant fact which people have a right to know, and Brian ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 31, 17 9:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
There are still comparisons taking place between the 'as of right' development and the PDD project, like we're being held hostage. Can we separate the issues:

- 'the as of right' option should adhere to all local/state environmental standards (no matter what)

- the PDD should come with some intrinsic public benefit, which it does not.

Why are people comparing these two as if the PDD approval is a given?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 31, 17 9:33 AM