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Apr 20, 2016 12:18 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Town Releases 'The Hills' Environmental Study To Public

Apr 22, 2016 10:50 AM

UPDATE: Thursday, 4 p.m.:

After having a discussion with Mr. Collins, Mr. Burke said the DEIS for The Hills will now be available to the public for review.

“We don’t want to give the perception that we are hiding anything,” Mr. Burke said.

The document can be viewed at the district clerk's office.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The developer looking to build a luxury golf course resort in East Quogue has refiled its draft environmental impact statement, two months after the original was deemed incomplete and rejected by Southampton Town—and this time town officials are refusing to release a copy of the document to the public.

Southampton Town Attorney James Burke said the district clerk’s office was ordered not to release the revised 378-page document, called a DEIS for short, at the request of the Town Planning Department.

“It’s not in final draft form,” said Mr. Burke, noting that a copy would be released once the draft is adopted by the Town Board. “They just want to avoid confusion.”

But Robert Freeman, executive director of the State Committee on Open Government, said that is not a valid reason to deny access. He also pointed to State Environmental Conservation Law, which states that a DEIS should be available to the public as soon as it has been submitted to a municipality.

“It’s public—that’s not a valid reason,” Mr. Freeman said on Wednesday.

Town Planner Kyle Collins could not be reached for comment this week.

Mark Hissey, the vice president of Arizona-based Discovery Land Company, on Tuesday provided The Press with a copy of the revised document, which was submitted to the town clerk’s office a week earlier, on April 12, and is 45 pages longer than the original draft that was submitted in December.

The document was updated based on suggestions offered by AKRF Inc. and A. Martin Petrovic, two private companies retained by the town in March to assist in reviewing the application that seeks a special change of zone called a planned development district, or PDD. Dr. Chris Gobler, an East Quogue resident and professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, also was asked to review the document and did so at no cost before also offering his feedback.

The developer, which owns or is in contract to buy nearly 600 acres in the hamlet, wants to build 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 in East Quogue. The PDD has been dubbed “The Hills at Southampton.”

The changes to the DEIS include modifications in the manner in which the developer intends to filter nitrogen from the groundwater, additional limitations on pesticide use on the golf course, and updated information on tax revenue projections to be provided by the development, if it is allowed to proceed.

The updated document notes that the nearby groundwater will be tested more frequently. It also states that about 29 milligrams of nitrogen can now be found in every liter of groundwater in the area; the Suffolk County Health Department dictates that drinking water must contain less than 10 milligrams of nitrogen per liter.

While updating the DEIS, Mr. Hissey said his team also incorporated suggestions from Cornell University to further shorten the list of pesticides that could be used on the golf course. Additionally, the original document noted that the average homeowner would stay for around three months each year; that amount was upped to six months in the second draft.

Mr. Hissey maintained this week that he expects the development to attract only people who will be staying at the residential units for a maximum of 90 days at a time. He noted that the only reason why he upped the average length of time to six months is because it was requested by the town.

As a result, the estimated output of nitrogen from the homes is also higher in the second draft as those figures are based on the homeowners now staying up to six months, according to Mr. Hissey.

“I’m pretty confident it will be deemed complete,” Mr. Hissey said of the revised DEIS. “We followed every instruction to the best of our ability and ultimately we really want to stand by the science of the project.”

The Town Board has 45 days to review the document and decide if it is going to deem it complete. If it is considered complete, the board would schedule a hearing in which the public will be asked to offer their opinion on the document.

After that step is completed, the developer would have to prepare a final environmental impact statement.

“The bottom line is that the plan was really comprehensive to begin with,” Mr. Hissey said. “But, as I mentioned earlier, there was some fine-tuning. Nothing groundbreaking.”

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Just FYI: We will be filing a FOIL request with the town for the document, even though The Press has been given a copy by the developers. This is a document that we believe--and Mr. Freeman confirms--definitely should be available for public review via Town Hall. The precedent set here by the town refusing to release a document on specious grounds is the concern.
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (200), Hampton Bays on Apr 20, 16 1:30 PM
Good a lot of sketchy things going on over in that big building in Southampton. Between this and than allowing ATH to shoot a congressional ad in the building we need eyes on the higher ups over in that building. And now I heard the town meeting was or is going to be canceled because Schneiderman is away. Is he scared that Julie and John can't make decisions on their own? Is he scared of Glinka and Scalera? What is the point of a deputy superintendent than? Very weird and suspicious things going ...more
By islander6615 (133), hampton bays on Apr 21, 16 6:37 AM
Thank you, Mr. Shaw.
By Craigcat (164), Speonk on Apr 29, 16 8:47 AM
... if the Town Planning Department requested not to release this document, it might be time to release the Town Planning Department instead.
By William Rodney (461), southampton on Apr 20, 16 2:43 PM
4 members liked this comment
William Rodney i agree but don't forget the Planning Dept would not do anything until it was blessed by the supervisor. i'm sure they were told not to release it. I can't wait to see how this project plays out. I heard Jay and Julie say they were against it to group of people during the campaign, and also know they told the developer they were for it. should be interesting!
By farmlocal (83), Southampton on Apr 20, 16 2:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
Mr Collins I suggest you bring your resuma up to date .
By watchdog1 (401), Southampton on Apr 20, 16 3:45 PM
2 members liked this comment
Mr. Bouvier & Ms. Lofstad - Get ready for "pressure from above".
By FiddlerCrab (90), Westhampton Beach on Apr 20, 16 5:39 PM
I agree with the Town. They aren't hiding anything from the public - they're simply not making a potentially incomplete document public. This is a large body of work that needs to be read word for word to ensure accuracy and consistency. They have to make sure that things that were supposed to remain weren't changed. Once they have completed their review, the Board will accept it and it will be released to the public.

For all intents and purposes it's a "working document". Why are ...more
By Nature (2952), Southampton on Apr 20, 16 9:06 PM
The point,the principle of it is that once a document is filed it is a public document It doesn't belong to the Planning Department, the Supervisor, it belongs to the public.

It does not matter if it is accurate or inaccurate officially accepted by the Town Board or sent back for further rewrite. The public is entitled to see it.

Principles, people seem to forget we are a government of laws (principles) not persons.

And the Press as a watchdog for the public is entitled ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Apr 20, 16 9:26 PM
Starting to look like the Cabal from the Blacklist series. Bigger and more powerful than our government. First a threat to stop the Trustees from weighing in, then getting the previous supervisor to try to keep the Pine Barrens Commission out, then threatening one of their own scientists to shut up, now getting the new administration to refuse to release a public document. After they get their foothold in East Quogue I wonder what they have in store for us next?
By CleanWater (116), East Quogue on Apr 20, 16 11:30 PM
3 members liked this comment
“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”
― George Orwell, Animal Farm

By Draggerman (668), Southampton on Apr 21, 16 7:12 AM
2 members liked this comment
This is over the aquifer correct? So more septic and nitrogen going into the drinking water if the plan is approved in any form is unappealing.

Supposedly Schneiderman worked to preserve this tract of land at one time. Why is the community preservation fund not used to aquire it? According to the article the developer has not purchased it yet. That is the best possible use of this land, preservation. The CPF should buy this land and it should remain undeveloped. That is the only reasonable ...more
By AL (59), southampton on Apr 21, 16 9:24 AM
3 members liked this comment
With this maneuver by SHT looks like I may regret those elected officials I helped put it office!

The public has the right to the DEIS per the NYS Committee on Open government. Why is this being withheld Mr Schneiderman? Are you preparing to approve the PDD over the cries of EQ residents?

I see many letters in the SHP from EQ residents who do not favor this project. Most of the letters which are in favor are from those who do not reside in the hamlet of EQ. Although everyone in ...more
By crusader (368), East Quogue on Apr 21, 16 12:04 PM
Somehow, we concerned citizens must find a way that makes it impossible for the Town Board to pass this gift to the developers.

There are about 30,000 residents in Southampton Town (I think). Either we get together and create some real appearance of strength - or we will be run over by some short term stinkers.

I think Jay is playing a dangerous waiting game - and may be trying to cement his influence over John and Julie...?

Time is not on our side.

By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Apr 23, 16 12:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
I think there's some confusion by the above posters on the process - the DEIS which has been submitted is a REVISED version of the one previously submitted by the Town which was deemed incomplete. If the Planning Department believes the document is sufficient, after review, the Town Board will ACCEPT the document as complete.

Once the document has been accepted as complete, it will be sent out to involved / interested agencies, and will be provided to any parties which request a copy, ...more
By Nature (2952), Southampton on Apr 21, 16 12:16 PM
... enough with the condescending Civics lessons, Nature. The people above know exactly what they are talking about, trust me. Nowhere in the above postings can it be inferred that the writers feel that the project will be approved. This is about a department that has no authority to limit release of an important document attempting to do just that.
By William Rodney (461), southampton on Apr 21, 16 1:46 PM
All of you people that voted Jay and his henchmen John and Julie in have been lied to. I'm glad to see the developers are willing to do what town hall won't. Be open and show us the report. Government needs to be open and let people decide for themselves. I would have made a commercial about that message at town hall but Jay had already booked the room....
By Gillnetter (75), Hampton Bays on Apr 21, 16 12:27 PM
2 members liked this comment
Both Mr. Shaw and Mr. Freeman are wrong and the Town Attorney is correct. It is a commonly misunderstood fact that although an applicant prepares the DEIS, it is an agency document. Since the DEIS is a Town document it is the lead agency -in this case the Town Board- that makes the final determination on when it is complete and available for public review.
By Rooney1 (1), Southampton on Apr 21, 16 2:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sapere aude!

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle !!!
By Nero (233), Sag Harbor on Apr 21, 16 3:05 PM
First public disclosure forces Jay to stop CommercialGate
Second Jay's Town Attorney reverses decision and authorizes release of Hills EIS

Oh what an evil web we weave when first we think we can deceive.

Now how about we admit the entire gambit on County Road 39 blinking yellow light is an attempt to make nice nice to the Golf Course and give a public road over to a private club.

Looks like Jay, unlike Anna, doesn't even need big campaign finance contributions to ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Apr 21, 16 5:00 PM
Well put, Neil.

This administration seems to only do the right thing when they get caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

Jay has a majority and his dem cohorts will do whatever he wants.
By Draggerman (668), Southampton on Apr 22, 16 7:42 AM
Southampton Town Attorney Burke's quote in response to the town's delayed release of "The Hills" environmental impact statement was, "We don't want to give the impression that we're hiding anything" is revealing -- and late.
By Dick Amper (1), Riverhead on Apr 22, 16 9:22 AM
In the event the Town Board ultimately determines this project is not environmentally toxic, then the Town should also determine for this and any other PDD projects going forward that the term "pubic benefit" be defined as no less than 15% of the annual gross profit for a minimum of 20 years.

Obviously given the amount of cash expended in support of this particular project the visualized profits must be enormous.

The public benefits received under the above definition could be ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Apr 22, 16 12:04 PM
In the event the Town Board ultimately determines this project is not environmentally toxic, then the Town should also determine for this and any other PDD projects going forward that the term "pubic benefit" be defined as no less than 15% of the annual gross profit for a minimum of 20 years.

Obviously given the amount of cash expended in support of this particular project the visualized profits must be enormous.

The public benefits received under the above definition could be ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Apr 22, 16 12:04 PM
Save the Trees and Wildlife!
By 27East Realty (18), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 22, 16 4:09 PM
So with all the chatter over the town's release of the DEIS, has anyone read it?
By Lion (220), southampton on Apr 22, 16 7:28 PM
Will be picking up a copy Monday. Can't wait to see if they pulled the reference to their two KEY CONTACT scientists who both said their names were used without permission and both (two out of two) said that Discovery's environmental practices were abysmal.
By CleanWater (116), East Quogue on Apr 23, 16 1:03 AM
Dear Mr. Supervisor,

Please tell me you were not part of this witless attempt to run interference for the developer of The Hills in E. Quogue? What a desperate "small ball" attempt to withhold public comment (and criticism).

Please tell me that you will not let KYLE COLLINS and FRANK ZAPPONE push you into approving The Hills - in spite of the project not being able to pass the "scoping outline" created by the previous Town Board. Dated July 15th, 2015.

This project ...more
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Apr 23, 16 12:14 AM
... on another note, what is with this " deputy supervisor" bit. If the supervisor is absent, one of the other four council persons should run the meeting. The still have a quorum and can legally enact laws. The deputy supervisor, since not elected, has no vote, and has no right to sit at the table.
By William Rodney (461), southampton on Apr 23, 16 10:08 AM
The only acceptable solution to PDD's is that after vetting by the town board they must be placed on a ballot during the next general election. Clearly the board has shown they can't be trusted with the authority to approve them on their own.
By bird (627), Sag Harbor on Apr 24, 16 9:10 AM
Our Supervisor should love this idea.

He won't have to rub it in the face of the previous Town Supervisors and their lackeys.

Let the VOTERS & TAX-PAYERS decide. What a radical idea!
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Apr 25, 16 7:58 AM
1 member liked this comment

We elect officials and have the right to expect they will act responsibly for the constituency that elected them.

We have the right to expect them to do the "right thing".

Sometimes that requires bold action.

Asking them to allow the citizens to decide is telling them to abrogate their responsibility.

This Board knows what is required, why they are not acting is troubling.
By CleanWater (116), East Quogue on Apr 25, 16 5:02 PM
Clean, I must say your comment reminded me of the following:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Apr 25, 16 8:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
There's a lot of material in the above posts that's inaccurate, unfair and over-emotional, but there's also a lot that's right on. The point is that the overwhelming weight of the comments is against The Hills. The voice of the people isn't always neat and tidy, but it's supposed to prevail in a democracy unless the people are way off, and that's not the case here.

Mr. Supervisor and Town Board, listen to the people. Sure, the process has to play out, but in the end, listen to the people. ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1742), Quiogue on Apr 26, 16 10:16 AM
2 members liked this comment
Absolutely, TB!!!
By Craigcat (164), Speonk on Apr 29, 16 3:40 PM
"The point is that the overwhelming weight of the comments is against the Hills."

Do not make the mistake of believing that commentary on a limited forum such as this is in any way representative of the views of the general public. Those inclined to take the effort to make critical comments are known to far exceed those in favor, or disinterested.
By VOS (989), WHB on Apr 29, 16 5:06 PM
TB,

Basing what the people want on this group is pointless. Kind of like the County Planning Commission shooting down Tuckahoe Center based on non working do good liberals being able to make an afternoon meeting. I took time off from work to attend that poop show. It was horrific.

Your team is doing an about face from their campaign promises. Admit it. Julie & John are Jay's puppets...
By Draggerman (668), Southampton on May 2, 16 6:42 PM
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