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Jan 20, 2015 1:12 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Discovery Land Company Tests The Water In The Hamptons

Jan 20, 2015 1:12 PM

With two projects now in the works in Southampton Town, one of the West Coast’s premier resort developers and operators is looking to make a footprint in the Hamptons in the near future.

Discovery Land Company took over The Hills at Southampton, a project that would require a planned development district, in 2011, though its involvement was not made public until 2013. Late last year, the company purchased the Dune Deck Beach Resort on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach, with the hopes of tearing it down and constructing a new oceanfront hotel in its place.

Though it is new to Long Island, Discovery is no rookie when it comes to the resort game, having built 15 golf-centric communities that are scattered throughout North America over the past two decades. Officials also have another project in the works, in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Discovery partner Steve Adelson said the Hamptons has long been on his company’s radar, but it was the recommendations from members of other Discovery resort communities that really sold them on the idea.

“New York is the dominant market in the U.S., from a financial and population perspective, and we’ve been lucky in our Baker’s Bay project in the Bahamas and our Yellowstone project to get a lot of members from New York,” Mr. Adelson said. “Many of them spend a lot of time in the Hamptons and speak highly of it.”

Mr. Adelson and his partners had the opportunity to enter the Hamptons market nearly three years ago, when they were invited aboard the struggling The Hills at Southampton effort. Originally proposed in 2009 by a company known as the East Quogue Group LLC, the original PDD proposal called for 111 luxury homes and a 18-hole golf course on 436 acres of vacant land that sits north of Spinney Road and adjacent to Lewis Road. It is currently zoned for residential development; the PDD would be a special zoning overlay granted by the Town Board to allow development otherwise not permitted on the property.

Together, Discovery and the East Quogue Group have formed DLV Quogue LLC and are now looking to build 118 homes and an 18-hole golf course on 168 acres, while preserving 426 acres as open space. The application for a mixed-use planned development district on the property was deemed incomplete last year by Southampton Town Planning Department, and it is unclear when a new application will be filed.

Since 2013, Discovery has taken the lead on the project, with partners holding public meetings to get community input, and hiring Mark Hissey, former president of Sebonack Golf Club in Tuckahoe, to be their man on the ground in East Quogue.

Founded in 1994 by Michael Meldman, a former northern Californian real estate broker, Discovery is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, and boasts offices in Beverly Hills, California.

Joining Mr. Meldman at the helm of the business are Senior Operating Executive Schuymer Joyner, Senior Development and Construction Manager Edward Divita, as well as partners Joseph Arenson and Mr. Adelson.

The company boasts two resorts in Mr. Meldman’s home state of Arizona, four in California, two in Montana, two in Hawaii, and one each in Texas, Idaho, North Carolina, the Bahamas and Los Cabos on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. All of the communities also feature a golf course.

“We felt it was really the right time to make a move to the East Coast, and we felt, what better place than the Hamptons?” Mr. Hissey said. “We felt this particular piece of property was a little bit closer to the city, and it’s a little bit more low key than the dense spots in Bridgehampton and East Hampton.”

Mr. Hissey, who has been a vice president with Discovery since August, said his goal has been to work with the East Quogue community to address concerns—namely, those dealing with density and groundwater quality—while identifying public benefits that his new company could provide in exchange for a change of zone. New proposed benefits include a municipal parking lot in East Quogue’s business district, new sidewalks and the installation of a permeable reactive barrier to filter nitrates from groundwater.

A Northport resident, Mr. Hissey said he’s in Southampton Town daily and intends on moving to the East End within the next year. He helped establish the Sebonack Golf Club, which opened in 2006, and ran his own business, Hissey Golf Consulting, prior to joining Discovery.

“I managed that [Sebonack] project from start to finish, and I was the championship director of the U.S. Open there [in 2013],” he said. “I think I carry a fair amount of credibility, and I’m going to do everything I can to help address the community’s needs.”

Mr. Hissey said Discovery got the tip that Dune Deck in Westhampton Beach would be available and decided to jump on it as a sister project for their golf community in East Quogue. Mr. Adelson said the Dune Deck building has suffered in recent years, with its “tired” infrastructure taking repeated beatings from hurricanes and tropical storms.

The new beachfront resort would feature a restaurant open to the public, but Mr. Adelson said residents should expect a more subdued oceanside venue compared to other ventures, such as the former Neptune Beach Club—which was closed down in 2013 when the town purchased the property—or other rowdy beach bars. “It’ll be controlled,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s a high-end element for Westhampton. It’s part of an overall lodging facility.”

Many have questioned how a golf course would impact the East Quogue ecosystem in light of the already high amounts of nitrates in Weesuck Creek. Mr. Adelson said that protecting the environment is not only a personal interest but also a business one, because people seek out Discovery resorts to enjoy nature.

He pointed to projects that Discovery has taken on in Hawaii and the Bahamas, as well as those along the Pacific Coast in California, as examples of the company’s track record of working in delicate environments.

“We are just as concerned about the bay and the beauty of the area and preserving it,” Mr. Adelson said. “In some ways, the reclamation and getting back to that natural state—our communities want that, they want that pristine beauty.”

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Bye, Bye environment.........Hissey has zero credibility!
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Jan 24, 15 2:55 PM