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Jan 11, 2019 11:52 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Planning Board Anticipates Hiring Consultant To Review East Quogue Golf Resort By Month's End

Southampton Town Planning Board members Phil Keith, Dennis Finnerty and John Blaney. PRESS FILE
Jan 16, 2019 9:00 AM

The Southampton Town Planning Board is scheduled to hire one of six consulting firms by month’s end to determine whether an additional environmental study is needed as part of the review of an application for a luxury golf resort in East Quogue.

Arizona-based Discovery Land Company—the developers planning to build a 118-unit subdivision and 18-hole golf course on Lewis Road—completed a review in 2017 under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, for a nearly identical proposal, then known as “The Hills at Southampton.”

The Town Board approved that study last year, agreeing that the planned subdivision and public membership golf course would not have any significant adverse effects to the environment. The Town Board was involved because the proposal at that time sought a change of zone.

However, last year, after the board denied the change of zone request, the developer switched gears, changing several aspects of the project to comply with the 591-acre parcel’s existing zoning. That strategy was approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals in a recent decision.

To conform with the requirements of a Planned Residential District, or PRD, the plan was changed slightly to limit play on the 18-hole golf course to the residents of the subdivision and their non-paying guests, rather than allowing a club with paid private membership. Discovery Land has also added 10 on-site affordable housing rentals and two off-site homes along Old Country Road to the proposal.

Taking those additions into consideration, the consultant will determine whether a supplemental environmental impact statement, or EIS, is needed for the project.

Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty could not offer an estimate as to how much the consulting services would cost. However, he did say that the costs will be covered by the $15,000 application fee, which he referred to as a “very large cushion.”

“I’m kind of relieved that we have a large fee that we can tap to undertake this,” he said.

He added that the potential consultants—the town will choose from among Saratoga Associates, The Chazen Companies, B. Laing Associates, Cleary Consulting, KGO Consulting, and Tim Miller Associates—will offer a fresh set of eyes to a “very complex” application.

“We felt it necessary to have a third party,” he said. “Our staff, they have a lot of applications in front of them, and I think something may be missed.”

Additionally, to eliminate any bias, if any of the aforementioned consulting firms have worked with Discovery Land in the past, they are disqualified from offering their services.

To further eliminate any conflicts of interest, the board has also strayed from its typical pool of consultants. However, staying within New York allows for a more seamless understanding of SEQRA requirements and state law, Mr. Finnerty said.

The deadline for firms to respond to the town’s request for proposal was January 11. The Planning Board expects to hire a consultant at its next meeting, on January 24. As of Tuesday, it was unclear how many firms had responded, as Town Planner Anthony Trezza did not return phone calls on Tuesday.

“Our intent is to keep the process moving,” Mr. Finnerty said. “Once the SEQRA review is resolved, the clock starts.”

Once approved, the Planning Board is required to schedule a public hearing within 45 days. From there, a subsequent meeting is held to approve the developer’s application. If an additional review is not needed, Mr. Finnerty said the application could be completed as early as February or March.

However, he added that if an additional environmental review is needed, the clock stops. “I couldn’t tell you how long,” he said. “It depends on what issues surface.”

In the meantime, according to the developer’s attorney, Wayne Bruyn, his client has grown impatient. At last month’s Planning Board meeting, he called the board’s decision to halt the project “unacceptable.”

At the time, he pointed to a SEQRA Compliance Analysis, completed by Melville-based Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, which found the changes to the earlier proposal to be inconsequential.

Charles Voorhis, who was hired by Discovery Land to complete the report, referred to several aspects of the developer’s plan, which he wrote are identical to the previous proposal for “The Hills.”

The configuration of the site still provides 65 percent open space, as required by the town’s open space or cluster law. Additionally, as part of the developer’s Storm Water Prevention Plan and Integrated Turf Health Management Plan, underground polyethylene liners will be installed beneath the golf course greens to capture drainage water to be reused for irrigation.

“By design, the Lewis Road Planned Residential District incorporates all of the on-site aspects and features of the Hills Planned Development District with respect to groundwater and surface water quality and health protection,” the report read. “In this way, the Lewis Road PRD would, like the Hills PDD, not result in any significant adverse impacts on groundwater or surface water resources. As a result, the proposed project is consistent with the findings statement and no significant adverse impact is expected.”

Mr. Trezza, along with the rest of the Planning Department, agrees with Mr. Voorhis’s assessment. According to a Preliminary Subdivision Application Completeness Report, dated December 13, Mr. Trezza wrote: “There does [sic] not appear to be any substantial changes to the project that would warrant the preparation of a supplemental EIS at this time.”

On Thursday, Mr. Finnerty acknowledged his colleagues’ opinion, as well as the applicant’s frustrations.

“The applicant is very upset—not happy at all,” he said.

However, he stressed that the golf course proposal is the largest and most complex application to come before the board during his tenure, and he wants to err on the side of caution. “Once we release SEQRA, we can’t go back,” he said.

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This Planning Board is doing the right thing. Chairman Dennis Finnerty and those Board members who supported this decision deserve our full appreciation.

The unprecedented scale of this project, and the unprecedented threats it poses to our environment, make it absolutely necessary to obtain an outside opinion on the sufficiency and relevance of the recycled Environmental Impact Statement, or the lack thereof.

All Discovery’s grumbling and calling the Board’s decision ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jan 14, 19 8:08 PM
c'mon, be fair Turkey! the East Quogue Village Exploratory Committee is a group of people who care about the full spectrum of issues that will have an impact on EQ...they just haven't errr, ummm had the time to think of any beyond the hills yet - but they assure that they will someday!
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jan 15, 19 11:22 AM
Strange phrasing for a non biased review that hasn't happened yet ..
" If an additional review is not needed, Mr. Finnerty said the application could be approved as early as February or March. "
By dave h (193), calverton on Jan 14, 19 9:34 PM
Special consultant= stalling tactic
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 14, 19 11:12 PM
Jobs created by the golf resort: 1
By Pacman (273), Southampton on Jan 15, 19 9:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
...ability of the surrounding community members to get past the gate house and use facilities: 0
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jan 15, 19 10:35 AM