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Jul 11, 2017 5:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Discovery Land Says Additional Preservation Would Tip Nitrogen Scale In Its Favor; Gobler Still Reviewing Report

Dr. Chris Gobler speaks about
Jul 11, 2017 5:43 PM

Discovery Land Company’s announcement that it intends to buy and preserve an additional 33 acres of woodlands in East Quogue, land that otherwise could potentially be subdivided into 44 housing lots, could tip the nitrogen-loading scale in the Arizona developer’s favor.

Though he said he is still reviewing Discovery Land’s 113-page final environmental impact statement for its proposed luxury golf course development, “The Hills at Southampton,” Dr. Chris Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook Southampton and one of the East End’s most respected marine scientists, said on Tuesday that the preservation of the 33 acres would significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the hamlet’s groundwater.

“There’s no doubt there will be a significant difference in the amount of nitrogen, whether it’s developed or preserved,” Dr. Gobler said, referring to the 33 acres that sit between Montauk Highway and Old Country Road, and are currently owned by the Parlato family.

At the same time, Dr. Gobler said it is still too early for him to say if the preservation of additional land, as part of the larger project, makes The Hills the best option, as far as environmental impact, for the site.

The project requires the Town Board to approve special zoning, a planned development district. Dr. Gobler, who lives in East Quogue and previously agreed to review the massive luxury resort proposal pro bono for Southampton Town, has said that the construction of 118 single-family homes—arguably, what is permitted as of right under current 5-acre zoning—would generate less nitrogen than The Hills, a resort that would now include 117 residential units, including 108 single-family homes, and an 18-hole golf course on nearly 600 acres.

In a 16-page report released in April, Dr. Gobler said the proposed golf resort would introduce an estimated 3,600 pounds of nitrogen a year into the groundwater, while his calculations show that the underlying zoning, depending on the intensity of development, would generate between 1,600 and 3,500 pounds annually.

Mark Hissey, a vice president of Discovery Land and who has challenged Dr. Gobler’s nitrogen calculations, said this week that the preservation of an additional 33 acres—and the simultaneous removal of up to 44 new houses—makes the PDD the better option for the environment.

“We wanted to do that because we wanted to … make the biggest difference possible,” said Mr. Hissey, noting that Discovery Land is now in contract to buy the 33 acres, so long as the PDD is approved by the town. If it is rejected, the developer will cancel the deal, he added.

The Parlatos have also filed an application in which they are looking to subdivide the land into 44 buildable lots, according to town records. The Town Planning Board is expected to review the subdivision application at its meeting this Thursday, July 13, starting at 6 p.m., at Town Hall.

Dr. Gobler’s assessment has the potential to make or break the project, as The Hills’ potential impact on the environment—and, specifically, already threatened Weesuck Creek and Shinnecock Bay—has been the topic of heated debate over the past few years. In fact, the project’s potential nitrogen impact is being closely monitored by Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who has stressed that he would not vote in favor of the PDD unless it meets 10 specific criteria.

“I think what Dr. Gobler says matters to everybody,” Mr. Schneiderman said this week. “I’m asking him to advise me in a very particular capacity with the nitrogen unloading.”

Dr. Gobler stopped short of offering his opinion of the PDD now that it includes the proposed preservation of an additional 33 acres, only saying that the elimination of another potential subdivision would “certainly” be better for the environment. He also noted that the 33 acres sit near the headwaters of Weesuck Creek, meaning that the nitrogen introduced by new residential septic systems won’t have to travel too far before hitting the water.

Though Discovery Land intends to build 117 residential units, a 155,760-square-foot clubhouse and an 18-hole golf course, most of the development would be focused on 168 acres near Spinney Road in East Quogue; the remaining acreage would be preserved as open space. The developer shared its intention of acquiring the additional 33 acres earlier this month, when it filed its final environmental impact statement, or FEIS, with the town.

Not everyone at Town Hall, however, is awaiting on Dr. Gobler’s analysis of the latest change.

Town Councilman John Bouvier said this week that he intends to review the FEIS line by line, while comparing the hard copy with the digital version of the document. He added that it is also being reviewed by AKRF Environmental and Planning Consultants of Bohemia, a town-hired consulting firm.

While he will take Dr. Gobler’s assessment into consideration, Mr. Bouvier also said he is listening to the opinions of other experts as well. “I have a lot of respect for Chris, but he is one source among many,” Mr. Bouvier added.

Fellow Town Councilman Stan Glinka said he is still digesting the FEIS, while Town Councilwoman Julie Lofstad said she is about halfway through the document.

“It’s a difficult decision, so I want to make sure I read every last letter and every last postcard,” Ms. Lofstad said, noting that she is paying close attention to the project’s potential tax and environmental impacts.

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Another attempt by the big pocket Discovery Land Company to buy off SHT elected officials approval on this project. When is enough enough?

I live in East Quogue and the traffic is horrendous already. I live within a stone's throw of the proposed golf course. I have written SHT to perhaps get a traffic light or additional stop signs so I can maybe get out of my driveway. The traffic starts at 6 am as many use this area as a cut through to avoid the severely congested Sunrise Highway. All ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Jul 12, 17 9:37 AM
1 member liked this comment
Discovery Land has been claiming for months that their project is already going to be nitrogen negative, now all of the sudden it will take preserving this land to to reach their goal?

Maybe the town should purchase this additional 33 acres of land and reject the PDD for a win win win
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jul 12, 17 10:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
What a great idea!!!! It is perfectly clear that DLC is a bully and will threaten us with anything their money can buy to get their way. They take half a Billion dollars back to Arizona and leave us with polluted ground water and toxic bays. Somebody HELP Jay see through them!!!!!!
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jul 12, 17 12:31 PM
2 members liked this comment
John Bouvier has it right here, noting that while he has great respect for Dr. Gobler, he is but "one source among many." I doubt very much that Chris Gobler will conclude that the preservation of this additional land tips the nitrogen balance for The Hills significantly, but even if he does, he's not the only authority here.

More importantly, nitrogen is not the only factor involved in this very important decision. In a Viewpoint piece in the 7/6 SH Press, Jay Schneiderman listed 10 criteria ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 12, 17 12:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
You are gambling that Schneiderman will do the right thing and reject the Hills. Big rush to judgement on your part.
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jul 12, 17 1:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
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 9:00 AM
1 member liked this comment