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Mar 17, 2015 2:33 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Board Says New Designs, Objections By Environmentalists Should Not Derail Review Of Hills Proposal

Mar 17, 2015 2:33 PM

As an East Quogue golf course and housing development nears the start of its official public pitch, members of the Southampton Town Board said they will look at the application with open but guarded eyes, pointing to the red flags already being waved by environmentalists.

The majority of board members said this week that even though the project, dubbed The Hills at Southampton, has grown in both scope and density from the version that they had originally permitted to move forward—in addition to an 18-hole golf course, the first plan called for the construction of 82 homes, not the 118 as now being pitched—they said they would likely have allowed the current version to move forward as well, at least from the pre-application phase to point where the idea is formally reviewed by the board.

Still, all were quick to point out that a green light for a formal application does not mean they necessarily support the current application as is—just that it is complete and ready to be reviewed.

Ultimately, four of five Town Board members would have to sign off on the special zoning required for the project. It would be a planned development district, a special overlay designation that allows certain uses that are otherwise excluded by existing zoning; The Hills actually would require a special mixed-use PDD, sometimes referred to as an MPDD.

All five board members said focusing on the environmental impacts of the project, regardless of its scope, will be their top priority, and that the bar will be set high for the developers, Discovery Land Company of Arizona, to satisfy the town’s demands for protecting water quality in the area.

“Unless everything on that property is hooked up to wastewater treatment, I don’t think I can vote for it,” Councilman Brad Bender said. “I might have to say the as-of-right use would be preferable if we don’t get all the things we want. This is a highly sensitive piece of land.”

The as-of-right use for the nearly 500 acres being targeted, much of which was upzoned to require 5-acre residential building lots, would permit the construction of up to 82 single-family homes—though even that figure is being challenged by local environmentalists who insist that, due to the sensitive location of a portion of the land, only 50 or so houses could be built under current zoning. If the bid for special zoning is rejected, the developers are proposing to cluster their as-of-right development on a portion of the estimated 435 acres in East Quogue that they already own.

Mr. Bender, meanwhile, acknowledged that the golf course itself cannot be hooked up to any kind of water treatment system, adding that the developers will have to prove to the board that the course’s impact on groundwater quality will be minute, at worst.

When the Town Board initially approved the pre-application in January 2014, allowing the developers to move forward with a formal application for a PDD, the project called for 82 homes sprinkled along the fairways of the 18-hole golf course, rambling across about 100 acres of the 168-acre main parcel. Just a month later, the developers revealed to area residents that their plans had expanded to include a total of 108 homes and 10 condominium units as part of the course’s proposed clubhouse, which mirrors the application filed in October. The amended plans also propose removing the development rights from an additional 101 acres of nearby land that is to eventually be purchased by Discovery Land.

The broader scope of the project, Councilwoman Christine Scalera said, should not change the board’s willingness to look at the developer’s ideas in detail.

“Whether it was smart to present it that way, I don’t know—I don’t think it necessarily presents an atmosphere of trust when you switch a plan up like that,” Ms. Scalera said. “But the bottom line is that we want whatever goes into that property to put us in a substantially better position environmentally than any as-of-right scenario would.

“I don’t know if they can reach that threshold,” she continued. “We’re not going to know that until the end of the process.”

Councilman Stan Glinka acknowledged this week that he isn’t certain he would have signed off on the pre-application if he had known at that time that the plan was to alter the document and add additional housing. But with the application now deemed complete, he said he is eager to get the official review under way.

“I’ve been meeting with constituents throughout the town who have a lot of grave concerns about it, but also people who are for it,” Mr. Glinka said. “I have to see how [the developers] will answer these concerns from the community.

“The public hearings are important to me,” he added. “I love the constituents coming to us and telling us how they feel about these things.”

Several environmental groups, including the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and the Group for the East End, have already planted a flag of strident opposition to the proposal, and threatened lawsuits if the town approves it. The as-of-right development of the property, they have said, would arguably be preferable to the golf course and condos in terms of its impact on area groundwater and tidal estuaries.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the retooled plan, by capturing the additional 101 acres, might expand the intensity of the proposal, but also expands the reach of the influence on development by Town Board members, noting that they retain more control with such applications.

“It’s part and parcel with the whole picture, and it broadens the scope of looking at the development,” she said. “That 100 acres would still be out there with the potential for development, and may not come up in a form that would let us take some control over it.”

The supervisor echoed the sentiments of other board members who said the environmental concerns would be the top priority, though she also harked back to claims made by the developers that the luxury homes would not be built with year-round residents as potential buyers, so no children would be added to the local school district—meaning the taxes paid by the property would effectively be tax abatement for district residents. The as-of-right development would, presumably, result in the addition of at least a handful of new students in both the East Quogue Elementary School and, later, the Westhampton Beach middle and high schools.

But if the as-of-right proposal is viewed by environmental and scientific interests to be preferable from an environmental standpoint, the Town Board, Ms. Throne-Holst said, would be interested to hear that perspective.

“If there’s a project that marries those two concerns—in other words, mitigates the tax impacts of development and negates the environmental impact—then that’s something we would consider,” she said.

When the board approved the project to move to a formal application, Councilwoman Bridget Fleming was the lone voice of dissent, saying she felt the proposal could not meet the demands of a project seeking PDD relief from zoning. Last week, Ms. Fleming declined to offer her assessments of the application now that it is official and nearing the start of its formal review.

“We don’t know what the final plans will be, much less have we begun to look at it in depth or hear the applicant, so there’s no way to comment on it at this point,” she said. “Obviously, I thought the pre-application fell far short of the requirements of the law. So I will be looking carefully at the application when it comes before us.”

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Nice to see they are at least showing some concern (or pretending - but it can and will be used against them in the future). Best idea is to call the bluff (as I've said repeatedly) and deny the request, let them build their as-of-right because in my opinion the market will not support it.

Barring that, if the developer wants to get this approved it's simple to me. Propose the latest STP that the County will sign off on, but build it 3-4 times bigger than needed and pay for the hookup ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 17, 15 4:27 PM
BAIT AND SWITCH - the oldest rogue developer trick in the book that this Board is (wittingly) agreeing to fall for.

If this latest humongous and outrageous PDD, uh worse, MPDD is approved, you will likely have the 4 usual suspects sign off, you know who of course, with Bridget Fleming scratching and clawing to the end to preserve zoning law that was put in place to protect the overwhelming majority of citizens' interests.

If so, look for "contributions shortly before or after" ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Mar 18, 15 4:08 AM
How is this bait and switch? They bought MORE land and changed their proposal due to the addition of more acreage.

By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 18, 15 9:18 AM
One of the major problems of this project was the scale and density the project brought to bear irrespective of marginal new land being purchased, which is still part of the same sensitive environmental area.

The environmental groups were already concerned with the original 82 homes slated for this sensitive area that among other things could seriously affect water quality relied on by so many. Now it is 118 homes to bring in even more profits, also in the same general area which could ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Mar 18, 15 11:28 AM
"36 additional illegal homes"

"Witness Robert Morrow of the other illegal Tuckahoe project"

I can see you are trying your best to be objective here.... (sarcasm). There is nothing "illegal" about the proposal for 36 more homes, nor is there anything "illegal" about Morrow's proposed project. They are going through the proper process in order to be given their legal right to construct what they desire.

Furthermore, the classic Bait and Switch that you refer to actually ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 18, 15 2:37 PM
Nature, call it anything you want, but call a spade a spade. The proposed project of 118 houses and the golf course is by definition illegal according to current law; which is why they're spending a fortune on Southampton's politically connected lawyers to sway the Town Board to use a legal loophole to make it legal, and it looks like they're doing a good job of it.

"They took ownership of an additional 100 acres, which resulted in them asking for more homes and some condos. The as-of-right ...more
By Obbservant (449), southampton on Mar 19, 15 5:18 AM
Your definition of "illegal" is very skewed. Town code (AKA "law") allows for PDDs and MPDD's based on specific criteria and a process. If the developer meets the criteria, and makes it through the process, their zoning will be changed in accordance with the "law". I don't understand why you are so hungup on the term "illegal" or why you think they are going through a "loophole". The PDD legislation was specifically adopted by Southampton (and most towns) specifically to allow developer's to ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 19, 15 9:15 AM
Contributions, just as Obbservant indicates. Follow the money and you will find the answer. As has been indicated with the Tuckahoe Center, the developer (Robert Morrow) made large contributions to the '09 race. When the Press revealed such, the contributions in his name and in the name of his company, Kenilworth Equities stopped. But, those in the name of his family members continued as late as 2013.
Unfortunately, the public is led to believe that their input on development has some effect ...more
By Earthgirl (52), Southampton on Mar 18, 15 5:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
Big bucks available to the board for passing this
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Mar 18, 15 1:39 PM
Oh it's a huge conspiracy.......Anna Throne os making a fortune on this with her real estate license..... The money under the table.....Where is the FBI? You people sound ridiculous this is called progress, and peoples property rights... wake up
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 18, 15 7:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
I always feel a little dirty agreeing with Chief (no offense!) but it's true.

It's OK for me to have MY house, but no one else can have one!
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 19, 15 9:16 AM
Nature (2682) and Obbservant (349), may I suggest you go out to the parking lot and duke it out, ergo leaving me out of this on-going two sided diatribe. My passion is golf, though like Grouch Marx I wouldn't want to be a member of a country club that would have me, but I'm even more passionate about a sustainable environment and this projects looks pretty ominous our environmental future. Then again, if there are points or money to be made by the politicians involved, I am not so naive to think ...more
By George Lynes (3), East Quogue on Mar 19, 15 2:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
I remember the last election Anna and Brad had a huge billboard with their smiling faces on Joe Farrell's office front lawn in Bridgehampton. Farrell who continues to rape this town with his spec houses. What kind of deals have the three of them cooked up?
By Justsay'n (42), Southampton on Mar 21, 15 5:42 PM
Is Mr. Farrell doing something illegal?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 21, 15 8:52 PM
Yeah Mr Farrell is doing something wrong. He is making money in a socialist state. The millions of low life's robbing social services for free everything is not a concern, but anyone pressing forward is a threat. When you read the comments against projects almost everytime they bring up profits. Making a profit is not illegal!!!!!!!!!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 21, 15 11:03 PM
Every April 15th comes around I thank god for my tax deduction when it comes to my mortgage interest. Great to live in a socialist society. Can't wait until until I can collect my social security checks.
By Justsay'n (42), Southampton on Mar 22, 15 12:07 AM
So what is your beef with Mr. Farrell? Can you produce any evidence that any building he has done is illegal? Just cause you don't like it, don't make it illegal.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 22, 15 3:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
Farrell is the most arrogant builder on the east end and builds what he wants when he wants and deals with the paperwork later. His "violations" are usually minor but they are regular.

He once built a 12' high retaining wall (without permits) that encroached on the neighbors property by about 15'. The wall caused a lot of erosion and damage to the neighbors property and eventually had to be removed and replaced with smaller walls.

For a long time Ferrell would live in new houses ...more
Mar 23, 15 9:16 AM appended by Nature
And believe it or not, there are plenty of clients that are very unhappy with him as a builder. He keeps getting business because he builds a lot of spec houses and has the capital to do it - he also is the fastest builder in the Hamptons. But the faster he builds, the more mistakes he makes.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 23, 15 9:16 AM
All that is fine, nature, but I was really asking justsayn what he believes Mr Farrell is doing illegally. "raping" the town is kind of strong.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 23, 15 1:57 PM
Maybe he will use his capital, and start a lawsuit against you. There is a big difference between libel, and opinion. I hate when people write bs on the internet that is based on envy. Why don't you leave your little office, and stop blogging all day, and you can make money yourself.
I don't know this builder, but I don't think it's right to ruin someone's reputation on the internet. What makes you such an expert on building, and developing? You sound like the rest of the knuckleheads against ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 23, 15 9:48 AM
You have plenty of hot air chief.

Everything I said is backed up and I did note that his transgressions are mostly minor.

Any builder that does things quickly (and he prides himself on that and has been successful due to that) has to cut corners and cut through red-tape. In the end everything is made legal, but there is a big difference between how he builds things and how others build things.

I'm not envious of him or the way he has made his $$ - this is America and ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 23, 15 12:41 PM
Like I said people like you that are tree huggers ultimately end up talking economics. What good does it do to talk about a builder, and say he cuts corners? Did this guy ever build a house for you? You just take chatter from town busy bodies, and take it as true. I don't know what Mr Farrell does as a builder, but it's not fair to beat up someone's reputation. Why don't you pick on people that contribute zero to society? Another liberal talking out their rear orafice.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 23, 15 8:20 PM
I find it interesting that you assume I know this all from "hear-say". It doesn't matter how I know it, it's all factual.

Look no further than this article by the Southampton Press itself about how Farrell demolished a historic property on Main Street in Bridgehampton and was subsequently given a SWO. It's typical Farrell. Do what he wants first, then ask for forgiveness later:

Again, ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 24, 15 9:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
Yet again you're talking through your butt. You are quoting Harrison Lefrak who has a family fortune made from real estate, and he has a problem with people profiteering? The Benson Gallery was never on any historic list or registry so obviously you don't understand what you are talking about. Does Paul Goldberg realize the Dutch Gambrel has been around for hundreds of years, and not an invention of Farrell Building? Not that it matters, but why do you think you know better on design than a homeowner, ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 24, 15 2:27 PM
Chiefy boy jumping to conclusions again.

Never said I sided with the people I quoted - was just pointing out that two of the biggest publications in the WORLD have posted articles about Farrell which included those who had negative opinions of him and his construction company. Thus pointing out that my comments in this thread are not only shared with others, but have no effect on Mr. Farrell's company as he has been quite successful despite the running of those articles and the coining ...more
Mar 26, 15 8:16 PM appended by Nature
Again - I am in no way destroying his reputation, as evidenced by the fact that national publications have reported both sides of his development. I also don't understand why you find it difficult to believe that I don't have "exact knowledge" of the allegations I made. Go FOIL the files for many of his properties and you will see what I am talking about. With respect to the retaining wall he built on a neighbors parcel, one of his employees came to a public (and televised) hearing and told the Board that his firm did, in fact, make the mistake and that they would be responsible for rectifying it.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Mar 24, 15 8:16 PM
The point is why do you think it's okay to destroy someone's reputation? Do you feel better? Do you even know this builder or his side to your stories? He must be building something right he sells a lot of homes. You are another internet troll who feels better by putting down success stories. If I was Joe Farrell I would sue you for libel, because saying someone cuts corners without exact knowledge is not free speech it's libel.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 26, 15 11:20 AM