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Jul 18, 2019 3:53 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Village Incorporation May Have Wide Effect On Golf Course Proposal

Jul 23, 2019 3:17 PM

The East Quogue Village Exploratory Committee’s efforts to incorporate the hamlet into a village have raised a number of questions regarding the effects that forming a village would have on a proposed luxury golf course resort in East Quogue—specifically, whether certain covenants and restrictions that might be put in place by the Southampton Town Planning Board would transfer over to village regulators should the incorporation be approved.

The committee recently filed an Article 78 lawsuit against Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who rejected the group’s original incorporation petition, citing 34 deceased people that appeared on the required list of regular inhabitants.

The committee has also re-filed a revised version of the petition, excluding those names, as well as 33 signatures that the supervisor had invalidated for several reasons, including one instance where East Quogue resident Steven Brash said that his name appeared on the petition but he had not, in fact, signed it.

However, in a recent letter to the editor, William Kearns, an East Quogue resident and a representative of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, argued that the 34 names of the allegedly deceased individuals was “way too big a mistake,” calling the committee’s latest attempts to incorporate the hamlet “nothing more than a half-baked, ego-driven power grab.

“It is a reaction to the golf course development in the Pine Barrens being defeated,” he said.

In previous interviews, committee member Greg Celi has said that one of the main catalysts behind the committee’s formation was the Southampton Town Board’s handling of the proposal to build the golf course development.

The original proposal, known as The Hills at Southampton, called for a 118-unit subdivision and 18-hole private membership golf course, but failed to secure a necessary change of zone from the Town Board in 2017.

Following its rejection, the developers, Arizona-based Discovery Land Company, revised their proposal, limiting the golf course to the subdivision’s residents and their non-paying guests.

That proposal was recently deemed complete by the Southampton Town Planning Board after the board’s consultant, B. Laing Associates, determined that a supplemental environmental impact study was not needed in order to move forward with the project.

Mr. Celi, who has handled the committee’s public relations, and the committee’s attorney, Peter Bee of Mineola-based Bee, Ready, Fishbein, Hatter & Donovan LLP, declined to comment. Additionally, an email sent to co-chairs Karen Kooi and David Celi, as well as committee member Jessica Insalaco, was not returned.

Wayne Bruyn, an attorney with Southampton-Based O’Shea Marcincuk & Bruyn LLP, who is representing Discovery Land, wrote in a letter to the Planning Board last month that the developers would agree to uphold a covenant with the Town of Southampton, proposed under The Hills application, that prohibits full-time occupancy at the subdivision in an effort to minimize the development’s impact on traffic and the neighboring school districts.

According to State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., if those covenants and restrictions are executed before the proposed village has zoning power, they would remain under the town’s jurisdiction even if the village is formed.

Steven Barshov, an attorney with New York City-based Sive, Paget & Riesel—also a representative of Discovery Land—agreed that, if approved prior to the incorporation, the covenants would “bind” the property owner, in this case, Discovery Land.

“It would not matter that the village had been incorporated, because by that point the approval process is over,” he said. “Those things continue to be in full force and effect.”

However, there are controversial theories over when the village would, in fact, have that power.

Anthony Tohill, the attorney for the Village of Sagaponack, which incorporated in 2005, said that for the first two years following the move, the town maintains its control over the village’s zoning and land use regulations.

“Nothing happens—everything continues as if the village were not incorporated at all,” he said. “There’s nothing that the Village of East Quogue could do to expedite its land use powers.”

Mr. Barshov offered a different interpretation of the Village Law, saying, “I don’t read it that way.”

The law reads that, “For a period of two years after the date of incorporation, all local laws, ordinances, rules or regulations … shall remain in effect in such village … and shall be enforced and administered by the appropriate town officials.”

Mr. Barshov, however, referenced a separate section of the law, which states that “any such local law, ordinance, rule or regulation shall cease to be in effect in the village … when so determined by any general, special or local law, or when replaced by any general or special law covering the same subject matter.”

It continues that “from the date of incorporation, the village may prepare and enact local laws, resolutions, rules, and regulations to be effective as provided in such local laws, resolutions, rules and regulations.”

Mr. Barshov explained that the town would only maintain its jurisdiction over zoning and land use should the village not make any changes within two years.

“The way I would interpret this is that it remains in effect up to two years, but that the village board may supersede it earlier,” he said. “It’s within that period of time that most villages will begin to get their feet wet and adopt their own laws,” he said.

Regardless, Mr. Tohill said that the village’s power over land use would be moot should the application’s restrictions be approved in the form of a covenant. “Covenants trump any land use regulations,” he said. “If the approval condition is expressed in a covenant, then that covenant surpasses the title to the land.”

Southampton Town Planning Board Co-Chairman Dennis Finnerty explained that covenants are filed as a part of the application’s final approval process, noting that such a decision is “a ways down the road.”

One way to avoid that “hot potato,” as Mr. Tohill called it, would be for Discovery Land to withdraw its application from the town and resubmit it to the village, if it is created.

In that case, Mr. Barshov said that the village would be able to adopt the Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, that was recently deemed sufficient by the Southampton Town Planning Board, but only if the project had not changed.

“That’s always an option, too,” Mr. Finnerty said.

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Who is funding the exploratory committee's legal costs?Anonymous donors?DUH.
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jul 20, 19 10:24 AM
2 members liked this comment
Ssshhh it’s a secret
By rv (38), watermill on Jul 20, 19 11:48 AM
It wasn't that many years ago that the newspaper serving the area west of Shinnecock Canal was called the Hampton Chronicle; now, with changes in management and apparently, journalistic standards, look for another renaming to the "Speculation Press."

Certainly, at least the headline writer has forgotten that news stories should contain facts, not opinions. Perhaps this was simply placed in the wrong section of the publication.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 20, 19 2:21 PM
The original proposal called for a 118-unit subdivision on a course with 100's of acres. Over at Hampton Bays the SHTB plans to change the zone to allow up to 250 apartments within much smaller acres on Montauk Hwy and call it "overlay plan". Call it discrimination and density.

This is clear signs this SHTB are in the pockets of developers. Follow the money! SH Press needs to do more journalistic reporting with investigations.
By Hamptonsway (107), Southampton on Jul 21, 19 10:31 AM
will all EQ residents be allowed to build golf courses on their property if the incorporation goes through? I have some friends who can definitely fit a couple of par 3's around their homes.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jul 22, 19 4:54 PM