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Nov 17, 2010 12:45 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Civic Association Wants Town To Buy 'Links' Property

Nov 17, 2010 12:45 PM

After thanking Southampton Town for teaming up with Suffolk County and spending $5 million to preserve 150 acres in their hamlet, some East Quogue Civic Association members are now urging the town to spend another $35 million to protect an adjacent 428 acres.

Jason Corrado, president of the East Quogue Civic Association, made that request during his group’s annual meeting, held this past Saturday at the East Quogue United Methodist Church, after thanking town officials for agreeing last month to partner with Suffolk County and buy the smaller property off Lewis Road, commonly known as “The Links.”

Still, Mr. Corrado told the estimated 20 people attending Saturday’s meeting that such a costly purchase would be unlikely, pointing to the fact that the town just spent a lot of money to preserve the mostly wooded 150 acres.

Joan Hughes, chairwoman of the East Quogue Citizens Advisory Committee, told meeting attendees that Wayne Bruyn, the lawyer representing East Quogue Partners LLC, the owners of the larger property known as “The Hills,” told Town Board members last month that his clients would be willing to sell the 428 acres to the town for $35 million­—if the town is interested. East Quogue Partners LLC had originally planned to build up to 111 single-family homes on the land but, following its rezoning in 2006, only 82 homes can now be built there, according to Mr. Bruyn. The developers have had a pending subdivision application for 82 homes on file with the Town Planning Board since 2006.

Mr. Bruyn said on Tuesday that his clients “don’t necessarily” want to sell the land to the town, but that they want to eliminate any further issues in developing the land.

“[They] don’t want to find out in development that [the town] wants to preserve it, they want to get it up front,” he said.

Al Algieri, a member of the East Quogue Civic Association, on Saturday warned that the Hills property could be the last inroad in the hamlet for developers to seek a planned development district, a planning tool that can be used to bypass current zoning if an applicant provides some sort of “community benefit” as part of a project.

“The last opportunity for a PDD in East Quogue is the Hills,” said Mr. Algieri, noting that East Quogue Partners LLC could file such an application down the road.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bruyn said he was not sure if his clients would ever apply for a PDD, explaining that they have always worked to try to build a subdivision, a use that is permitted under current zoning. He pointed out that, just last week, he discussed his client’s most recent application with the Planning Board. He said the application predates the 2006 moratorium targeting most of East Quogue, adding that his clients are actually following the recommendations of a study that was released following the building ban. The building moratorium was enacted following the filing of a number of applications, most of which proposed building on undeveloped land located north of Montauk Highway.

“The results of the East Quogue hamlet study actually recommends that our site and the Links site be developed jointly as an 18-hole champion golf course and homes,” Mr. Bruyn said. “It recommends that it generates second homes.”

Still, he said his clients would be willing to sell the property to the town if there is enough interest to preserve it. Mr. Algieri said that, ideally, he and other hamlet residents would like to see the town preserve the land.

Some East Quogue residents, meanwhile, said they are worried that the economic downturn and resulting drop in real estate values will prompt some developers to rezone their properties in order to recoup some of their investments. Mr. Algieri pointed out that East Quogue Partners LLC has been paying taxes on the land for years and not made any money on its investment. Mr. Bruyn said the company has owned the property since around 2004.

“Eighty-two homes doesn’t make good for taxes,” Mr. Algieri said. “Beware of the PDD.”

He pointed out that the former owners of the Links property, the Links at East Quogue LLC, applied for a PDD and were looking to build an 18-hole golf course and 49 homes on the 150 acres. That application fell through after the town rezoned the land, paving the way for the joint town and county purchase.

“The guys who own the Hills paid a lot of money and got stuck with 85 or so homes,” Mr. Algieri said. “They have a legitimate case [to apply for a PDD].”

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