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Jul 4, 2017 3:28 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Discovery Land Files 'The Hills' FEIS With Town; Developer Wants To Buy And Preserve Another 33 Acres

The East Quogue property.
Jul 5, 2017 2:41 PM

The Arizona developer looking to build a luxury golf resort community in East Quogue keeps sweetening the pot.

In addition to addressing scores of concerns raised over four lengthy public hearings, Discovery Land Company revealed in its highly anticipated Final Environmental Impact Statement, filed on Friday with Southampton Town, that it now intends to buy—and preserve—an additional 33 acres in the hamlet on which 29 new single-family houses could be constructed.

The developer already owns nearly 600 acres in East Quogue, on which it wants to build an 18-hole golf course, a 155,760-square-foot clubhouse and 117 residential units. In its filing, the company says it is now in contract to buy the 33 acres, located between Montauk Highway and Old Country Road, from the Parlato family.

Earlier this year, the family filed an pre-application with the town to subdivide the parcel, on which the Hampton Fruit & Vegetable farm stand currently operates, into 29 housing lots. The property sits to the east of the nearly 600 acres already owned by Discovery Land.

The developer is seeking Town Board approval of special zoning, called a planned development district, or PDD, in order to construct “The Hills at Southampton” golf course community. Most of the development would be constructed on 168 acres along Spinney Road in East Quogue.

Randall Weichbrodt, a private attorney in East Quogue who is representing the Parlatos, said on Friday that the contract between his client and Discovery Land specifically states that the sale will only happen if the Town Board signs off on the PDD.

“If The Hills doesn’t get approved, they don’t have to close on the land,” Mr. Weichbrodt said.

Sidestepping Rules

On Affordable Housing

Another change to the proposal—an expected one, town officials say—calls for the elimination of one of the 10 proposed clubhouse condominiums, reducing the number of units from 118 to 117. By doing so, Discovery Land can avoid potentially paying millions of dollars into the town’s affordable housing fund, according to Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

He explained that a state law requires that developers either sell 10 percent of their units as affordable housing or set aside funding—to the tune of almost $300,000 per residential unit—to help build affordable housing elsewhere in the municipality.

But the state law has a loophole: A developer can simply reduce its total density, even by one unit, to sidestep the requirement.

Discovery Land could have been required to pay an estimated $3.5 million into the town’s affordable housing fund, according to Mr. Schneiderman. The developer now intends to build 117 housing units, including 108 single-family homes, as well as the 18-hole golf course, according to the FEIS.

The supervisor noted that most developers, not just Discovery Land, have been able to avoid the affordable housing requirements due to the loophole in the state’s Long Island Workforce Housing Program. A new law introduced by Councilwoman Christine Scalera, and recently approved by the Town Board, closes that loophole locally by eliminating the provision that exempts developers if they lower the overall density. It was not immediately clear if that new town law would have any effect on The Hills application.

“The proposed project is designed and intended for second- or- third-home buyers, for occupancy on a seasonal basis,” the FEIS reads. “It is neither designed for nor appropriate to occupancy by workforce households. Therefore, the requested yield of the proposed project has been reduced by (1) unit, to a total of 117 units.”

Mark Hissey, vice president of Discovery Land, was not able to be reached this week for comment.

Additionally, the FEIS notes that the developer still plans to purchase, and retire, 30 Pine Barrens credits unless the PDD is ultimately rejected by the Town Board. If that occurs, Discovery Land representatives previously stated that they would transfer the credits, which cost roughly $70,000 each and represent an estimated $2.5 million investment, to their main property and increase the number of proposed houses to 165—though, under that scenario, the golf course would not be permitted.

If Discovery Land retires the credits, no other developers would be able to use them to add density elsewhere in the town.

The FEIS also addresses many of the points raised by residents during four lengthy public hearings on the draft version of the document, which was filed at the end of last year. The updated document, however, offers no additional reduced-impact alternatives for the land, in spite of repeated requests from environmentalists who insist that Discovery’s Land’s proposal, which includes 118 residential units but no golf course, is not a true reduced-impact alternative. The developer dismissed that request, stating that the Town Board’s approval of the draft document is proof that the requirement had already been fulfilled.

“The project as proposed represents the optimum balance between the applicant’s goals and capabilities, the roster of proposed community benefits, the applicable zoning-related restrictions, the applicable recommendations of numerous planning documents (particularly of the East Quogue [Generic Environmental Impact Statement]), and the aesthetic conditions of the neighborhood,” the FEIS reads.

Critics of the project—including Robert DeLuca, president of Group for the East End—have repeatedly noted that the alternative is still asking for too much and that Discovery Land is not guaranteed 118 units “as of right.”

Biggest Changes

The most surprising change to the final version of the document is Discovery Land’s added intention of buying and preserving a swath of land owned by the Parlato family of East Quogue, just east of the 600 acres already owned by the developer. The family’s pre-application sought to subdivide the 33 acres at 436 Montauk Highway into 29 lots—though that figure could increase to 44 houses if the Parlatos agree to build some affordable housing. There are several proposals now on file with the town, including one that preserves 9.1 acres while clustering 29 single-family houses.

Mr. Schneiderman, who said he has not yet made a decision on the PDD application, said Monday that he likes the idea of the land being preserved, noting its proximity to the headwaters of Weesuck Creek. “It’s in, I believe, a really environmentally unsound location,” he said. “It would be a good piece to see preserved.”

If the purchase is approved, it would not be the first time Discovery Land and the Parlatos have done business together. Last year, the developer purchased 52 lots—totaling 17.17 acres—from the family. With that purchase, however, Discovery Land wants to transfer the development rights to the larger property so it can increase density.

“If [the PDD is] not approved, we will just subdivide,” Mr. Weichbrodt said, referring to the 33 acres that Discovery Land is interested in acquiring for preservation.

Even though he supports the preservation of the additional property, Mr. Schneiderman this week said Discovery Land representatives must still prove that their proposed development would damage the environment less than if they were required to build as of right. All of the land already owned by the developer is 5-acre residential zoning, the most restrictive in the town.

Specifically, Mr. Schneiderman said it must be clear beyond a doubt that the PDD would generate less nitrogen than a normal subdivision—with nitrogen levels being one of 10 criteria he is using to help guide his decision on the application. The other factors, he added, include potential impact on traffic and the East Quogue School District, property taxes, the use of pesticides on the golf course, community support and so on.

He added that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement came up short.

Though he is still reviewing the FEIS, which is 131 pages not including appendixes, Mr. Schneiderman said this week that he expects to require some conditions, such as mandating the use of only organic fertilizers and placing a hard cap on the amount of nitrogen introduced by the development. The proposed cap, which has never been used before, would require that Discovery Land shut down he golf course if the nitrogen levels exceed acceptable levels.

The project has been closely reviewed by Dr. Chris Gobler, one of the East End’s most well-respected water quality experts and a marine science professor at Stony Brook Southampton. Earlier this year, Dr. Gobler, who lives in East Quogue and had been reviewing the proposal pro bono for the town, questioned some of the calculations included in the draft environmental statement in a 16-page report. Filed in April, his report concludes that the proposed project would further damage already compromised groundwater in the hamlet—pollution that would eventually threaten Weesuck Creek and Shinnecock Bay. Dr. Gobler concluded that a subdivision, permitted under current zoning, would have less of an impact on the environment than the PDD.

In its FEIS, Discovery Land officials point out “critical issues” with Dr. Gobler’s calculations, charging that he grossly overstated the amount of acreage that would be fertilized, which threw off his nitrogen calculations, and also miscalculated that amount of fertilizers to be used on the golf course. The FEIS also notes that Dr. Gobler’s report fails to note proposed mitigation efforts that are “projected to remove 2,500 pounds of nitrogen per year,” making the Hills PDD “nitrogen negative,” thereby improving water quality in the aquifer.

The document also takes several pages to bash the reduced-impact alternative proposed in December by the Group for the East End, and specifically by Mr. DeLuca and Lisa Liquori, an environmental planning consultant and a former East Hampton Town planning director hired by the organization. That plan, which the developer previously dismissed, calls for a mix of 64 cottages and single-family houses, along with a pool, spa and fitness center, as part of an equestrian facility featuring a lodge, paddocks and a riding ring.

The developer rejected that plan in its FEIS, while offering no additional alternatives.

“The ‘lesser-impact’ scenario proposed by the [Group for the East End] is actually a ‘higher-impact’ scenario due to the nitrogen contribution of the horses at the proposed equestrian facility and other nitrogen contributions,” the FEIS reads. “No lesser-impact alternative would produce the same set of community benefits as proposed; in fact, such benefits might not be proposed at all as, in the absence of a PDD, there would be no mechanism for the Town Board to require them.”

Other Issues

Even though they intend to eliminate one of the condominiums, Discovery Land’s proposed clubhouse would still measure 155,760 square feet—making it one of the largest structures on the South Fork. If approved as-is, the three-story clubhouse would be nearly the size of Southampton Town Hall (48,000 square feet), the Stop & Shop in Hampton Bays (50,000 square feet) and the main house on the Ira Rennet estate in Sagaponack (66,000 square feet) combined.

For comparison purposes, The Bridge’s clubhouse in Bridgehampton is roughly 40,000 square feet, while the Sebonack Golf Club clubhouse in Tuckahoe is roughly 34,500 square feet.

As proposed, the nine clubhouse condominiums would take up approximately 39,000 square feet of space. The clubhouse also would feature a private dining room, yoga studio, a spa, golf cart storage, an activity room for children and other amenities.

Beneath the clubhouse would be a 35,000-square-foot parking garage with 94 spaces, according to the application.

Despite its massive size, the proposed clubhouse, if approved, would not be the largest building in the town. The Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverside holds that honor, at 270,734 square feet.

The FEIS also elaborates on a proposed covenant that would restrict occupancy of those who eventually purchase the multimillion-dollar estates, by only allowing them to reside in the community 183 days each year. Additionally, they would not be permitted to reside in their homes for more than 30 consecutive days in the off-season, which runs from October through April.

The restrictions are intended to discourage homeowners from enrolling their children in the fiscally challenged East Quogue School District though, according to the FEIS, those policies could eventually be challenged.

“There is no restriction on school-age students,” the document reads. “There is a covenant restricting the duration on occupancy, which is designed to avoid enrollment pressure for the East Quogue UFSD. Occupancy restrictions are common, legal, valid and enforceable. The restriction could be challenged but not invalidated.”

The Next Steps

Southampton Town officials expect to spend the next several weeks reviewing the document, with Mr. Schneiderman speculating that the Town Board could vote to accept or reject the FEIS by early August. If it is approved at that time, the town would then order a finding statement to ensure that the document is completed.

Once that happens, possibly by late August, the board would schedule one final public hearing on the application. That hearing, according to the supervisor, would most likely be held in East Quogue.

Once that hearing is closed, the Town Board can vote on the application itself. In order to earn approval, four of the five board members—known as a super-majority—must approve the zoning change.

“That’s a lot of votes—especially for something controversial,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

If its project gains approval, Discovery Land would then have to clear several more hurdles, including securing permission from both the Pine Barrens and Suffolk County Planning commissions.

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There's an easy answer , NO. Your political career hangs in the balance Jay.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 5, 17 6:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
Bigfresh and I disagree more often than not, but he's got this one right. Now that the FEIS is in, it seems there will be no more surprises, and I can say I won't support anyone who votes for The Hills, and I don't think the majority of voters will, either.

I don't like making statements like this, and I've never been a one-issue voter before, but this is a make-or-break issue for me. It means I don't care how well a candidate has done on everything else (and Jay has done superbly), the ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 5, 17 10:20 AM
By June Bug (2680), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 5, 17 10:40 AM
You'll still vote for the three J's after they approve the Hills.

After months of bad mouthing ATH during the primary, you backed her in the general.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jul 9, 17 4:27 PM
From NEWS12 - July 1st, 2017:

"Environmentalists: Brown tide in Great South Bay worst in 30 years"

In the 30 second video - Dr. Gobler says

"we haven't seen (pollution) levels that high in 30 years in Suffolk County".

We hear how much money is being dedicated to clean up the bays and modernize the septic systems - when are we going to DO NO MORE HARM?

By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Jul 5, 17 9:12 AM
The Great South Bay is irrelevant to development in East Quogue. While you are attempting to link a situation forty miles away today's 27East is reporting this: "For the first time in many years, the reaches of western Shinnecock Bay and eastern Moriches Bay have not been beset in early summer with “brown tide” algae blooms, scientists from Stony Brook University said."

Your broad brush approach and lack of understanding allows you to make bogus capitalized statements but ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 5, 17 3:17 PM
2 members liked this comment
Majority, really??

From the Long Island Builders Institute Newsletter November 2016:

"The LIBI Community Outreach Committee has been hard at work this month on a mobilization for Discovery Land Group’s project called “The Hills at Southampton”.

"This Outreach mobilization has been a model of how we mobilize our members. We were able to collect over 600 signatures in support of the project on petitions from our members and their employees. We were able ...more
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Jul 5, 17 3:30 PM
Nice work, CleanWater, in taking out Vos's "majority of well informed people" canard. Some might observe that you've quoted this LIBI piece before, but it bears repeating, as it was a naked attempt to skew a local meeting, and it's right on target here. "Majority of well informed people"? What a joke!

Vos, you're on thin ice in calling Fiddler Crab's Great South Bay reference "irrelevant." The July 5th 27east piece does say Western Shinecock, Quantuck and Moriches Bays are not afflicted ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 5, 17 9:44 PM
"Which (I) claim (I'm) not?" Are you calling me a liar? Is that something you political "professionals" believe is appropriate in an open forum? You have previously asked and I have answered even though you are not entitled to question me. Let's make this very clear - answer this question: "Are you calling me a liar?"

Having gotten that on the board have you read the DEIS yet are were you waiting for the FEIS to be released and do you plan to read that or is it not pertinent to your ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 6, 17 2:23 AM
No, VOS (sorry to have missed the caps before), I'm not calling you a liar. Check your basic English -- the mere fact of stating that someone makes a claim does not imply anything about the truth of that claim. If you infer otherwise, that's your mistake and your problem.

Funny, Mark Hissey seems to have the same problem, i.e., he says I don't believe his statements, that I think he's a liar. I don't, and I've said so, but he hasn't let go of it, as far as I know. You and he might both ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 6, 17 10:15 AM
I accept your apology for the Vos vs. VOS, it is not at all important. At the same time I do take issue, as apparently does Mr. Hissey, with your constant implications that I, and he, are not being forthcoming as to matters already laid to bed.

I have gone out of my way to be inclusive of all concerned but certainly recognize that the people of East Quogue and the nearby areas will be most affected by whatever takes place at the site in question.

As you go about your selective ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 6, 17 4:09 PM
By splinter (14), southampton on Jul 14, 17 3:55 PM
They are buying 33 acres to preserve and then build 27 houses on that preserved land? Where is the preservation of this land?
By pcone (28), hampton bays on Jul 5, 17 10:45 AM
You mis-read. The property has an application in for 29 house. That application is on hold as the owners are in contract to sell to Discovery - that sale, however, is contingent upon approval.

I the Town Board denies the approval of Discovery, then it's likely the application for 29 houses will continue to move forward.

It's rather meaningless though as Discovery was happy to throw potential money at this deal knowing their getting off from paying into the affordable housing ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jul 5, 17 2:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thanks for the clarification. Now i get it. Another blackmail tactic by Discovery! Either we get our golf course and 117 homes or we will build 165 homes and the Parlato family will build 29 or up to 44 more homes on their land and send any children in those homes into the school district.
By pcone (28), hampton bays on Jul 6, 17 8:54 AM
Not to worry, pcone. It is a blackmail tactic, but it's really an empty threat. The part that Discovery owns now is five-acre zoned. That means that with no PDD, they'll have to sell 100-plus luxury homes on five-acre lots way back in the woods in East Quogue, without a golf course. There isn't a market for those homes, not at the luxury prices that Discovery would have to charge. It's a big paper tiger, and the sooner everyone realizes that, the sooner we can put this thing to bed and move ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 6, 17 9:30 AM
2 members liked this comment
They're going to make over $100 million in profit on this zoning variance. Let them give 25% of all their pre tax profits, in perpetuity, before their "Management Fee" too of course, as payment to the Town of Southampton as payment for the variance. Let the membership of this exclusive club pay for our taxes, and make all the other private golf courses pay as well why you're at it. Time to end this charade of non profit, non taxed, non public organizations leeching off the common folk in this ...more
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jul 6, 17 8:58 AM
This is all so speculative and risky from a business point of view....can't really see any of this being an actual plan.

threats, threats, threats
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jul 6, 17 9:45 AM
Mr. Schneiderman refers to the DLC submission as a "draft FEIS" in the SH Press Viewpoint. WHAT? Did they submit an FEIS or just a draft of one? Did he mis-speak or is something else going on here????
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jul 6, 17 1:26 PM
Or maybe a Freudian slip?????
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jul 6, 17 1:27 PM
Draft is the appropriate term. The Town, as Lead Agency, is responsible for the issuance and adoption of the "FEIS". In most circumstances, the applicant prepares the FEIS (rather than pay a fee for the lead agency to do it) and the lead agency will accept this "draft" document for review. Provided that the draft FEIS addresses everything that is required by law and everything that was to be addressed as per accepted comments, then the FEIS becomes "final".

It's very likely that the ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jul 6, 17 2:23 PM
This is the first time I've seen it as a draft FEIS. Let's hope that it will be accepted by the board and final really means final. If not, why then the DEIS procedures. Thank you for the clarification.
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jul 6, 17 2:55 PM
An FEIS is a DEIS, PLUS answers to all relevant questions brought up during the DEIS process by the public and officials. When the FEIS is submitted, the lead agency reviews it to ensure it contains adequate responses to the questions / comments posed during the previous phase. If, for instance, 10 comments were grouped into one common category, and the lead agency feels it would be best for there to be two categories, they could reject the FEIS, request the change and then accept a new draft ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jul 7, 17 9:44 AM
Why do multiple DEIS submissions if the procedure is repeated for the FEIS submission? Something is not right here. Smells awfully funny....
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jul 7, 17 10:16 AM
Jay, have you checked out the algal blooms recently? Don't you care? Do not develop this parcel. We know you have it in your power to stop this.
By kuali (32), southampton on Jul 6, 17 2:23 PM
Its about time SHT put a end to this debacle which our elected officials continue to entertain. "The Hills" does not benefit the community of EQ and will do nothing but further stress our environment. A golf course that will only be used by the mega wealthy can no way benefit Weesuck Creek which already suffers greatly from pollution. Just vote "NO"!!! I plan to vote for those who oppose this project, not support it!!!
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Jul 6, 17 8:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Donald Trump would love to own a piece of this golf course development. Maybe Discovery Land could get one of the Trump kids involved -- a consulting fee in the form of equity -- and get some pressure on local government to cave in.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jul 7, 17 5:33 PM
It shud be called WeeSuck Country Club.
By dave h (193), calverton on Jul 7, 17 9:46 PM
Am I missing something? Our new friends from Arizona have stated that if they don't get their golf course, they will develop the heck out of what they are left with.

I don't see how this is going to happen.
If their golf course (etc., etc.) is rejected, does anyone seriously believe the Arizonians will stick around to build houses in the East Quogue woods? They are not the Farrell brothers and East Quogue is not Sagaponack. Without the golf course the houses will go for a mere ...more
By beachplum (6), southampton on Jul 10, 17 11:13 AM
3 members liked this comment
Ah Turkey Bridge now I see that you said all this before me. %)
By beachplum (6), southampton on Jul 10, 17 11:19 AM
By splinter (14), southampton on Jul 14, 17 3:50 PM
An option contract to purchase the Parlatto acreage, a sewage treatment plant for the school, a sewage treatment plant for the homes, the promise to retire pine barrens credits, all sleight of hand, misdirection, intended to distract from the real issue which is that this project doesn't work here. And with the Town about to mandate state of the art water treatment systems the only nitrogen that will remain untreated will be nitrogen required by the golf course.
Jay's must win on all points:
Nitrogen ...more
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Jul 15, 17 9:03 AM
Keep creating your own version of reality. You will be proved factually incorrect on so much of this drivel that you have stated here.

I'd love to know what the term "does't work here" actually means, not to mention your definition of treating nitrogen and how that can possibly make any sense.

Rather than make these nebulous and self-serving statements, take the time to look at the grid laid out in public (this weeks Press, full page ad) and go ahead and refer to what is laid out ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), East Quogue on Jul 15, 17 11:18 PM