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Apr 26, 2016 1:57 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Updated 'The Hills' Environmental Impact Study Describes When Community Benefits Would Arrive

Apr 26, 2016 4:32 PM

East Quogue could begin to see “community benefits” from a new luxury golf course community as early as summer 2017, according to an updated draft environmental impact statement for the proposed development.

The updated document goes into greater detail about when the community can expect to see the promised benefits and how the proposed development will help the hamlet’s tax rolls. The developer looking to build the resort, Discovery Land Company, had submitted the updated DEIS earlier this month, about two months after an earlier draft was deemed incomplete by Southampton Town.

All of the alterations were based on suggestions offered by AKRF Inc. and A. Martin Petrovic, two private companies retained by the town in March to assist in reviewing an application that seeks Town Board approval of a planned development district, or PDD, which allows more intense development than zoning would normally permit, in exchange for community benefits.

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.

Discovery Land Company, 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 on 168 acres along Spinney Road in East Quogue. The proposed project has been dubbed “The Hills at Southampton.”

One of the most significant updates was to the section detailing the community benefits, which the developer is mandated to offer through the PDD process, explained Charles Voorhis, managing partner of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis in Melville and one of the scientists who helped prepare the DEIS for the applicant.

The original document, submitted in December just before the holidays, failed to provide a timeline as to when the benefits would be received. The updated document explains how and when each of the some two dozen community benefits would be delivered if the project is approved.

For example, East Quogue Elementary’s new $200,000 playground would be built in the summer of 2017, which is when the developer expects to receive final approval, according to the document. It also noted that a $700,000 donation to the single-school district’s capital improvement fund would be made immediately after final approval.

The updated DEIS said that other immediate community benefits would include upgraded septic systems for East Quogue residents, adding to the shellfish population of Shinnecock Bay, and dedicating 4 acres of land to the Suffolk County Water Authority.

Other community benefits won’t be received until the development is built. For example, the document explains that taxes for the East Quogue School District would be collected only as soon as the development’s residents—who, according to the document, will not be sending children to the district—move in. The school district is expected to receive nearly $4.4 million annually in taxes from “The Hills,” according to the document.

Also, the first Discovery Foundation fundraiser won’t be held until 2024, and the golf course won’t be able to be used for charities or by the Westhampton Beach High School golf team until it’s built in 2019.

The developer hopes to receive final approval by the summer of 2017, according to the document. Construction is expected to start shortly after final approval. If all goes as planned, the document states, the golf course would open in 2019, and the entire development could be completed by 2022.

The Town Board has 45 days to review the document from the day it was submitted, April 12, and decide if it is going to deem it complete. If the document is considered complete, the board would schedule a hearing where the public could offer comment.

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

In addition to the new community benefits timeline, the updated DEIS includes a new section titled “Mitigation Measures Inherent In Project Design,” which discusses in more detail how the development would affect the East Quogue School District.

Mark Hissey, vice president of Discovery Land, said he sat down with Theresa Kiernan, the Southampton Town tax receiver, as well as officials from the assessor’s office, to discuss how “The Hills” would lower school taxes.

A taxpayer whose property is assessed at $500,000 can expect to pay $5,710 in school property taxes next year, for example. According to the DEIS, if “The Hills” were on the tax rolls, the district’s tax rate would drop from $11.05 to $9.21 per $1,000 of assessed valuation because of the value of the new homes. Therefore, a person who lives in the same $500,000 home would pay $4,605 in school taxes, or $1,105 less.

The document notes, as it has before, that the development will not be adding children to the school district. This time, however, it says that the development will make sure to keep children out of the school district through “a binding covenant filed with the county.” Previously, Discovery Land said it would keep kids out of the district by requiring prospective occupants of the development to sign an agreement that they would not spend more than 60 to 90 days per year there.

Other tweaks were made to the document including lengthening the amount of time a homeowner would live in the development, and updating limits on pesticide use.

“We addressed all the comments from the town,” said Mr. Voorhis, noting that he expects this version of the massive document to be accepted by the town as complete.

The document is available for public review through the district clerk’s office at Southampton Town Hall on Hampton Road in Southampton. When the updated version was first submitted on April 12, Town Planner Kyle Collins ordered the district clerk’s office not to release the 378-page document. Southampton Town Attorney James Burke said Mr. Collins made the request to avoid confusion, because the document is still a draft. However, last Thursday, April 21, Mr. Burke said the town would make the document available for public review.

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

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Could you imagine a benefit to building a resort on the sand above our drinking water?
I guess you would need to believe blinking lights make traffic go away...
Let's fill in the bay with sand from Noyac and then there is nothing to write a report over!!!!
By Rayman (45), southampton on Apr 26, 16 2:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ms. Bernocco quotes the DEIS as saying the project will be complete in 2019. NO IT DOESN"T.
It says "with completion scheduled to occur at
the end of 2022".
Ms. Bernocco should read the document if she is going to quote from it, not just listen to Mr. Hissey.
Perhaps she should look at Discovery's Bakers Bay, also mentioned in the document. It started construction in 2006 and has about 20% of the homes built 10 years later.
By CleanWater (108), East Quogue on Apr 26, 16 2:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ms. Bernocco quotes the DEIS as saying the project will be complete in 2019. NO IT DOESN"T.
It says "with completion scheduled to occur at
the end of 2022".
Ms. Bernocco should read the document if she is going to quote from it, not just listen to Mr. Hissey.
Perhaps she should look at Discovery's Bakers Bay, also mentioned in the document. It started construction in 2006 and has about 20% of the homes built 10 years later.
By CleanWater (108), East Quogue on Apr 26, 16 2:58 PM
Yet another development! It is certain- there are those who can't possibly understand that "love of the land", "stewardship" and simply the remaining rural character of an area that once knew just that, trumps money, money, money. Please, find another area to ruin, Eastern Long Island has had enough!!
By dmm (7), sag harbor on Apr 26, 16 5:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ms. Bernocco,
Thank you for updating your story to reflect the correction I suggested. There are more coming.

This time I will refer to your quote that Discovery will "keep children out of the school district through “a binding covenant filed with the county.”

I suggest you read the "legal letter" accompanying the "covenant" It says "This opinion letter is rendered for the sole benefit of the addressee(s) hereof, and no other person or entity is entitled to ...more
By CleanWater (108), East Quogue on Apr 26, 16 6:36 PM
Is Mr. Hissey hoping that nobody will read their latest DEIS?

Is it his expectation that the Town Board will just approve this mega-development - change of zone based on Discovery's opinions and promises?

That could be the only answer...!
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Apr 26, 16 8:28 PM
To judge the extent of the "public benefit" we, the public, ought to be advised as to the "PROFITS" the developer anticipates receiving from this proposal.

Personally I think that there is no public benefit unless, we the public, receive 15% of the gross profits annually for a minimum of 20 years should this proposal receive the necessary approval by the Town Board.

Any school district taxes paid by potential unit owners should not be seen as a public benefit. And golf courses ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Apr 26, 16 9:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
FYI- Most golf clubs, yacht clubs, tennis clubs, etc. in NYS are organized as not for profit-corporations as membership clubs, with some tax benefits and federal and state limits on generating outside (non-member) income- with member income used for operating and capital expenses.
By Lion (167), southampton on Apr 27, 16 8:32 AM
Face it folks, as long as land on LI has value, development is inevitable. The benefits of PDD's and Community Developments are not necessarily immense, but they are better than having individual lots being bought up by single family home builders who build up the lots without concessions. (think Farrell)
By Mouthampton (331), Southampton on Apr 27, 16 12:58 AM
Sound like extortion by the Town to me.
By Babyboo (204), Hampton Bays on Apr 27, 16 7:06 AM
Is it constitutionally permissible for a municipality to forbid residents within its school district to send their children to its public schools, particularly when those residents pay school taxes?

Are covenants prohibiting a purchaser of residential real estate from dwelling therein (with his children) year-round legally enforceable?

All democracies, including ours, have developed fundamental legal doctrines to insure that real private property is freely transferable. My suspicion ...more
By highhatsize (3288), East Quogue on Apr 27, 16 8:31 AM
It would be a private covenant between the property purchaser and the developer. It would not be enforceable by the Town. Essentially, whoever purchases the property would agree to not send their children to school in that district and if they do, that would be a legal issue between the developer (who would likely maintain control of the HOA) and the property owner.

Furthermore, I think part of their plan is to only have the facility "open" for a certain number of months (I could be wrong). ...more
By Nature (2952), Southampton on Apr 27, 16 10:17 AM
As to the "economic benefit" if there is one, lets start by quantifying it properly. The developer says the taxes they project will be generated based on a project value of $372,400,000. At a tax rate of $14.591 per thousand. If, as Ms. Bernocco says the tax rate goes down to $9.21from $11.05 the value of the project would have to go up to $434,000,000 to generate the taxes they promise. And they assume no increase in the budget for services rendered. For example the roads surrounding the community ...more
By CleanWater (108), East Quogue on Apr 27, 16 9:53 AM
Don't get worked up about their miss-statements, vague generalities, wide open promises and unenforceable covenants - this isn't a serious DEIS - it's a wonderful story. Albeit - not believable...

There's a phrase in it that says: "I can promise you - this development will sell out better than Baker's Bay" (in the Bahamas). That development is about 12 years old and maybe 9% built out.

By their numbers - if the Town Board closed it's eyes to all of the serious inadequacies - ...more
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Apr 30, 16 1:06 AM
School Board election in East Quogue can be viewed as a referendum on the Hills. Skip Heaney, the only candidate who came out in favor of the development was the only candidate not elected to the school board.
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on May 18, 16 4:25 PM
Remnants, rolls, area rugs