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Oct 28, 2015 1:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Developer Holds Final Meeting On Proposed East Quogue Golf Complex; Pine Barrens Commission Reverses Course

Attendees mingle at the last informational meeting about
Oct 28, 2015 1:40 PM

Locals last week continued to question the benefits of a proposed luxury golf course complex at the last of five informational meetings hosted by the developer over the past three months, focusing on a project that targets nearly 600 acres of undeveloped land in East Quogue.

Held at the East Quogue Elementary School—and featuring complimentary pizza and soda for the estimated 50 attendees—the meeting on Thursday, October 22, rehashed the details of the project, dubbed “The Hills at Southampton,” and the community benefits pitched by the Arizona-based Discovery Land Company.

While Discovery Land Vice President Mark Hissey said last Thursday night’s meeting will be the last such session held before his firm submits its draft environmental impact statement, or DEIS, to Southampton Town, he noted that additional informational sessions could be scheduled in the future.

Discovery Land is seeking permission from the Town Board, in the form of special zoning called a planned development district, to construct 118 homes—95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and 10 clubhouse condominiums—as well as an 18-hole golf course centered on 168 acres along Spinney Road. Most of the remaining land, more than 400 acres total, would be set aside as open space, according to the application.

“I’m not against the company, but the damage to the bay is too risky,” said hamlet resident Ron Nappi, who lives on Spinney Road in East Quogue. “That land there is a Pine Barrens area and it needs to be preserved.”

Last week, the Pine Barrens Commission unanimously decided at the last minute to cancel a public hearing originally called by Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, a member of the five-person commission, to decide if the group had the authority to weigh in on the project.

Even though she agreed with the other commission members—the supervisors representing the four other East End towns—to cancel the hearing, Ms. Throne-Holst this week stood by her original decision.

“There is nothing in the statute that speaks to the transfer of development rights,” she said. “I felt that, because there was conflicting opinions and thoughts on this, the best thing to do is to hold a public hearing on this so the public and the applicant could see why the commission made the decision they did.”

Environmentalists who oppose the project, including Dick Amper, president of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, applauded the commission’s decision to reverse course. “The project, as a whole, involves land in the critical resource area,” Mr. Amper said. “The commission was created to review property in the Pine Barrens. It would have been extremely suspicious if they didn’t review it.”

By canceling the hearing, commission members have agreed to review the project, meaning that Discovery Land must seek their opinion prior to presenting a state-mandated environmental impact statement to Southampton Town. That study is expected to be submitted to the town in November.

Less than 24 hours later, “The Hills” was back in the spotlight at East Quogue Elementary School where locals continued to sound off about the project.

Mr. Nappi, who also attended one of the September information sessions, said last week that, in his opinion, Discovery Land has made strides in its plans to keep nitrogen from entering Shinnecock Bay. The developer intends to install enhanced wastewater treatment facilities that will service the golf complex and has even offered to sponsor other initiatives, such as the reseeding of filter shellfish in the bay, to help improve water quality.

“I just came to see how they evolved,” Mr. Nappi said. “They had a much more sophisticated attack on how they will handle nitrogen issues.”

Pointing to his company’s willingness to tackle nitrogen issues, most of which can be traced back to the septic systems servicing preexisting residential properties, Mr. Hissey again stated that their project will help focus efforts to remove the pollutant.

“An awful amount of misinformation goes out about golf courses,” he said. “Some people seem to think golf courses are toxic waste dumps, but it’s just not true. I think we need to clear up that misconception, because it’s just not true … in its entirety, this whole project is better than any other option.”

The main property was rezoned by the town several years ago to five-acre residential—the most restrictive zoning in the town—and can legally accommodate a subdivision, though the exact number of homes is up for debate and has ranged from a few dozen to upwards of 70. Environmentalists who oppose the project, and have called for the a complete repeal of the town’s planned development district legislation, insist that the number of homes is on the low end considering the land’s location in the pine barrens.

“The scientists will prove that this is the best project for this land,” Mr. Hissey said.

He later added: “I think we’re in a really good spot right now. We’re supposed to keep getting input from the community. We’re supposed to keep refining it. So we’re all ears. We want to listen to people and we want your ideas. We want to spend the money in the right places and to make the biggest difference in this community.”

Still, several in the community continued to question the benefits of the project, including the developer’s ability to keep additional children from enrolling in the cash-strapped East Quogue School District. The company plans to keep children out of the district by requiring prospective buyers to sign an agreement stating that they would not spend more than 60 to 90 days in their homes.

“You’re saying that homeowners won’t be there for more than 60 days, and I don’t buy it,” said William Kearns of East Quogue. “That’s my opinion, but I just don’t buy it.”

Another potential benefit is the estimated $4.4 million in annual tax revenue that the development would provide to the school district. Discovery Land has also promised to donate $500,000 to the school for a playground.

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118 homes—95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and 10 clubhouse condominiums—as well as an 18-hole golf course centered on 168 acres

how is this possible?
Shinnecock is 259 acres with no condos.. well sleeping quarters but no condos.
Sebonack is 300 acres with just a few motels.

the issue isn't just what will a golf course do to the surrounding waters .. what will and extra 3000 flushes a weekend do !!!
By dave h (193), calverton on Oct 28, 15 11:00 PM
Once the water table is totally depleted - the place will empty - then the locals will remain and have to truck in their water at outrageous extra expense - and all of the McMansions will be abandoned and fall prey to vandalism and the real estate boom/stagnation/abandonment cycle will be complete - but the builders & realtors will have made their fortunes and come and gone - and the people left with mortgages for useless properties will go bankrupt - and the shores will be over polluted with ...more
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Oct 29, 15 5:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
Never happen Vikki, The land around here is far too valuable and the water will be cleaned up if it starts to go bad.

They are not making anymore shoreline community's like East Quogue , Quogue, Hampton Bays and Flanders anymore !

There values are about to go through the roof so you better get used to it fast
By Undocumented Democrat (2065), southampton on Oct 30, 15 12:21 PM
Put up or shut up. The Town should buy it to preserve or they should allow the developers do do something with it. Basically, if Al Algeri is against it, I'm for it.
By whatapity (106), Tuckahoe on Oct 30, 15 4:20 PM
yeah because if these developers don't get to do their project no one ele will ever want to do anything with this land.
if we let developer take all the available land now, its not fair to the developers of 2025 . save some open land for the next several generations of developers
By dave h (193), calverton on Oct 30, 15 8:38 PM
the pine barren needs a massve shopping mall and mega cineplex
By dave h (193), calverton on Nov 14, 15 9:17 PM
and an office complex with heliport
By dave h (193), calverton on Nov 14, 15 9:17 PM