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Jul 18, 2019 4:33 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Boards Continue To Review Proposed Golf Course Resort In East Quogue

Jul 23, 2019 1:48 PM

The Southampton Town Planning Board last week held its first public hearing on the latest proposal to build a luxury golf course resort in East Quogue, which ultimately resounded with overwhelming support for the project.

The State Central Pine Barrens Commission also met on the same day, Wednesday, July 17, at Riverhead Town Hall to discuss the status of the application and approve sending a notice to the developer, Arizona-based Discovery Land Company, which has yet to provide the commission with the necessary materials to review the project.

The commission reaffirmed its jurisdiction over the project in May, citing the similarities between the developer’s current proposal and a nearly identical project, known as The Hills at Southampton, which was denied by the Southampton Town Board in 2017.

Originally, the plan called for a 118-unit subdivision with an 18-hole private membership golf course. However, after failing to secure a necessary change of zone, the developers changed several aspects of the project—including limiting golf course access to only the residents of the subdivision and their non-paying guests—to comply with the town’s existing zoning for the property.

As a result of the Pine Barrens Commission’s action, Discovery Land is required to submit a complete copy of the application, as well as any additional documents pertaining to it.

“I anticipate needing a forklift to bring in all the information for the commission to review it,” said John Milazzo, who serves as special counsel to the Pine Barrens Commission.

However, as a condition of the reaffirmation, the commissioners did agree to withhold their review of the project until the Southampton Town Planning Board completed its own review, so that the application would be in its final form upon the commission’s evaluation.

Under normal circumstances, the commission is required to review a project and render a decision no later than 120 days following its assertion of jurisdiction, which would be September 11 in this case.

However, those guidelines are less restrictive, as the commission has not yet received the application. In such a situation, the applicant is required to submit a request for an extension, granting the Pine Barrens Commission more time to review the project.

At Wednesday’s meeting, upon being asked to verbally submit a request for an extension by the board, Discovery Land Vice President Mark Hissey said that he would need to “confer with counsel” prior to doing so. But the commission unanimously approved a resolution at Wednesday’s meeting authorizing Executive Director John Pavacic to accept an extension on behalf of the Pine Barrens Commission in the absence of an August general meeting.

If an extension request is not issued by September 11, the commission is obligated to deny the application without prejudice, meaning it could be resubmitted.

“At this point, even if they provided an application tomorrow, the commission staff would need more time to provide a thorough review and analysis,” Chairwoman Carrie Meek Gallagher said.

In the meantime, the commission has received information from the Southampton Town Planning Department, including a copy of the initial environmental impact statement, or EIS, completed under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

Additionally, the commission received copies of a third-party analysis, completed last month by the Planning Board’s consultant, B. Laing Associates, as well as the board’s resolution, dated June 27, deeming the pre-application complete and scheduling the public hearing.

Dozens of East End residents filed into the Southampton Town Board room on Wednesday during the Planning Board meeting, eager to express their support, or, in a few cases, their opposition, to the project.

Also in attendance were several Discovery Land representatives, including Wayne Bruyn of Southampton-based O’Shea Marcincuk & Bruyn LLP; Charles “Chick” Voorhis of Melville-based Nelson, Pope & Voorhis; Paul Grosser of Bohemia-based P.W. Grosser Consulting; and Ed Divita, a partner with Discovery Land Company.

Mr. Grosser, who was hired by Discovery Land to complete a groundwater analysis of the proposed development site as part of the original environmental review, noted that the southern edge of the property is presently tainted by high concentrations of nitrogen—roughly 29 mg/L, with the national drinking water standard being 10 mg/L.

He explained that, as part of the proposal, Discovery Land has created an integrated turf health management plan, which includes installing polyethylene liners beneath the golf course greens to capture drainage water to be reused for irrigation.

He pointed to the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton and The Bridge Golf Club in Noyac, noting that both use similar irrigation systems and have been successful in removing approximately 90 percent of the nitrogen applied to the golf course as fertilizer.

“This project combined responsible development along with the ability to improve pre-existing nitrogen pollution on Lewis Road,” Quogue resident Andrew Lynch said. “This project has languished for far too long.”

Even Mr. Bruyn expressed his clients’ frustration with the town, pointing to the Planning Board’s assessment of whether a supplemental environmental review was needed to address the changes to the proposal. “The Planning Department said the application was complete—upon their review, they believed that nothing arose to the level of needing a supplemental review.”

Regardless, he said the board hired B. Laing Associates to weigh in, “which came to the same conclusions as your staff did six months earlier.”

Other proponents of the project pointed to the financial stability that the development would bring to the hamlet. Mr. Voorhis estimated the tax revenue to increase by roughly $7.5 million annually—$5.5 million of which would be allocated to the East Quogue School District.

Additionally, several Westhampton Beach residents spoke in regard to Discovery Land’s Dune Deck property, calling the developers “good neighbors” and an “asset to the community.”

“It’s a tremendous concern to maintain the health of the community,” Jeffrey Greenblatt of East Quogue said, calling Discovery Land’s proposal a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Anne Anthony of Westhampton Beach agreed, pointing to the Dune Deck property on Dune Road. “Ever since Discovery came to my neighborhood, I have been impressed with how they preserve our community,” she said. “They will build a community that everyone in East Quogue will be proud of.”

Most agreed that the benefits proposed under the golf course application far outweigh the negative impacts.

However, a select few—including Bob DeLuca, Dick Amper and Andrea Spilka—remain unconvinced.

Mr. DeLuca, president of The Group for the East End, argued that there were too many unanswered questions regarding the environmental impact on groundwater.

He urged the Planning Board to require the applicant to complete a dispersion analysis—as recommended by Michael Bontje of B. Laing Associates—which studies the amount of nitrogen entering the groundwater, rather than just what is being removed. “Not just so that things don’t get worse but so that things can actually begin to improve,” he said.

Mr. Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, agreed, adding that the project’s environmental impact has yet to be determined, referring back to the Pine Barrens Commission’s review.

“The applicant continues to argue that the plan is consistent with the Pine Barrens Protection Act but has not cooperated with the commission,” he said.

His colleague, William Kearns, added, “I do not believe a health hazard should be left in the hands of a private company.”

Other local residents spoke to the proponents’ arguments that Discovery Land would enhance the community, claiming the opposite.

East Quogue resident P.J. Mitchell explained that she moved to East Quogue from California several years ago. “I desperately wanted a community like East Quogue,” she said. “I don’t want East Quogue to become Westhampton Beach.”

Additionally, she argued that limiting access to the proposed golf course is contrary to Discovery Land’s business model, and was skeptical that residents of Dune Deck would not have access to the development’s amenities: “Bottom line is, when you develop something, you do it for money.”

Mr. Kearns scoffed at the notion that Discovery Land would be good neighbors, pointing to the $100 million lawsuit that the developer filed against Southampton Town following the Town Board’s denial of The Hills, which is pending. Addressing Mr. Divita, he said, “Drop the $100 million lawsuit against the town.”

At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Planning Board approved extending the public hearing process until August 8, when residents will have another opportunity to address the board at 6 p.m. at Southampton Town Hall. The board is required to take action on the application within 62 days of closing the public hearing.

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Discovery needs to learn from SHTB just how to get things done by studying the overlay plan in Hampton Bays which could have an additional 250 apartments and 100 bed facility within the Hamlet ! Add density, crime, traffic and pollution with a single change in zoning.
By Hamptonsway (107), Southampton on Jul 22, 19 10:26 PM