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Nov 8, 2016 12:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

First Hearing On The Hills In East Quogue Draws Big Crowd, Mixed Reactions

A public hearing on The Hills was held on Monday night in the East Quogue Elementary School auditorium.  DANA SHAW
Nov 8, 2016 3:30 PM

Hundreds of people piled into the East Quogue Elementary School cafeteria Monday night, eager for their first chance to express their support of, or opposition to, a proposed luxury golf course resort community targeting nearly 600 acres in East Quogue to the Southampton Town Board.

The special meeting was the first of four public hearings on the draft environmental impact statement, a study required under the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act, on the development called “The Hills at Southampton.”

Attendees donned stickers showing their stance—reading “Hills Yes!” or “I’m Against It”—as they filed into the packed room. Outside, Southampton Town Police directed parking, and the developer behind the project, the Arizona-based Discovery Land Company, provided free coffee and snacks to attendees who appeared to be nearly evenly split on their views of the proposal.

The developer is asking approval from the Town Board for a change of zone on the property to a planned development district, or PDD. Presently, the land is zoned to require 5-acre residential building lots—the strictest such requirement in the municipality. If the change of zone is approved, 118 homes—95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and 10 clubhouse condominiums—and an 18-hole golf course will be constructed on 168 acres along Spinney Road in the hamlet. The remaining land will be preserved as open space as per the application.

The proposal has become a lightning rod for debate throughout the town, as concerns began growing about its potential impact on the environment, the elementary school and the hamlet of East Quogue in general.

Susan Matuszewski of East Quogue said one of her main concerns is the potential impact of chemical pesticides for the golf course, noting that her hometown’s groundwater and bays are already compromised by pollution, most of which can be traced back to residential septic systems.

“We don’t need any more contamination, that’s for sure,” Ms. Matuszewski said. “Discovery Land will monitor what is being put on the golf course—but who is going to monitor Discovery Land?”

In the 473-page environmental study, the developer notes that it would limit the amount of pesticides used on the golf course that could be harmful to pine trees and the environment. Pesticides still could be used to keep the turf in good condition, but the facility would use only one of seven pesticides marked as “reduced risk” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the study.

When the document was being passed back and forth between the town and developer—Discovery Land Company submitted a total of four drafts before the town accepted it—some of the aspects discussed included clarification on the types of pesticides that would be applied on the golf course. The most recent version notes that the development would use only select pesticides from a list that was approved by the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Some of those include chemicals called propamocarb, fenarimol and prodiamine.

Geraldine Jack of East Quogue echoed Ms. Matuszewski’s concerns about the types of pesticides that would be applied to the golf course. “The Hills is a public threat to our community, and it will change the hamlet forever if it goes through,” Ms. Jack said.

Others questioned the impact the development would have on the school.

“No children in the school is the biggest lie I’ve ever heard,” Al Algieri, president of the East Quogue Civic Association, said as he received loud applause. “[School Superintendent] Rob Long said any child who walks into the school will be educated.”

In a previous interview, Wayne Bruyn, an attorney representing the Discovery Land Company, who was at Monday’s public hearing, explained that those who eventually buy the multimillion-dollar homes must sign a covenant capping the number of days they can occupy their units at 183 per year. Additionally, they would not be allowed to live in their homes for more than 30 consecutive days in the off-season, which runs from October until April. That clause is also intended to prevent the future homeowners from enrolling their children in the fiscally challenged East Quogue School District.

Though covenants are legal, opponents of the project argue that they are hard—if not impossible—to enforce.

Jennifer Hartnagel, senior environmental advocate for the Group for the East End, stepped up to the podium to add that she feels the developer cannot guarantee that the development would not result in additional students being enrolled at the school district. She also described the community benefits—which include improvements to the hamlet’s Main Street, upgrading septic systems for certain East Quogue residents, and adding to the shellfish population of Shinnecock Bay—as “legalized bribery.”

However, those in support of The Hills said they think the development would help the school through the infusion of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue. If its project is approved, the developer also has promised to install a $200,000 playground at the elementary school and donate $700,000 to the district’s capital improvement fund. The developer also plans to allot $200,000 in scholarships to hamlet students.

Kendra Dalian of East Quogue, the president of the district’s Parent Teacher Association, said there were too many benefits to the school to pass up—pointing specifically to the scholarship program and new playground.

Cathy Seeliger, another hamlet resident who owns the flower shop Roses and Rice, said she began supporting the project once she realized that preservation was not an option. Prior attempts to preserve the land have come up short, and the town’s most recent attempt to purchase the property outright for $35 million was rejected by the developer earlier this year.

She said the project was worth supporting because of the developer’s promises to help fix Main Street and improve the school. “I’ve seen firsthand the struggle with the East Quogue school,” Ms. Seeliger said. “They struggle to pass the budget and keep the programs they need.”

She also noted that the improvements to Main Street will help the hamlet’s economy. In the winter, she explained, plows often cover the street parking with snow, making it hard for customers to park and visit the shops. If the developer creates a municipal lot, as it has promised, she feels it would help her and other businesses make it through the slow winter season.

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it seemed to me like that NIMB people were a bit dazed by facts last night.
By jeffscan (15), sh on Nov 8, 16 1:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
...which NIMB people are you talking about , the one's that care about water quality and the future of the town, or the out of towners who showed up at the meeting pushing this thing since it is not in their backyard?
By William Rodney (446), southampton on Nov 11, 16 9:16 AM
Why did the Hills supporters (many who were from out of town) show up hours early and use up all the nearby parking? Many seniors had to walk blocks to get to the school from where they were forced to park their cars. A scheduled 45 minute long winded presentation by the developer went over its allotted time by close to a half hour, after which 3 different out of town representatives of a builders organization spoke for another 10 minutes. Local citizens were waiting until 7:30 to make their ...more
By Taz (228), East Quogue on Nov 8, 16 3:14 PM
If you can't beat 'em, bore them! ...seems to be the strategy by the developer.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (374), southampton on Nov 8, 16 3:22 PM
Typical colonization tactics.....
NOT IN MY BACKYARD
NOT ON TOP OF OUR DELICATE AQUIFER
Susan Bailey,
East Quogue
By sanhunt (4), East Quogue on Nov 11, 16 9:01 AM
So East Quogue gets a playground, improved parking and scholarships to the public school. All items that government should be providing in their normal course of operation. That is a ripoff.

And how to pay for all this? Sell property to out of owners in the HOPE that they will pay local taxes and NOT use the school system. That is also a ripoff.

Pass the pixie dust. This whole PDD is a greater fool operation.
Hope the residents are dazzled by the little trinkets DLC offers. ...more
By kjmraven (16), East Quogue on Nov 8, 16 5:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
Susan Matuszewski of East Quogue said one of her main concerns is the potential impact of chemical pesticides for the golf course, noting that her hometown’s groundwater and bays are already compromised by pollution, most of which can be traced back to residential septic systems.

“We don’t need any more contamination, that’s for sure,” Ms. Matuszewski said. “Discovery Land will monitor what is being put on the golf course—but who is going to monitor ...more
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Nov 8, 16 10:39 PM
Geraldine Jack of East Quogue echoed Ms. Matuszewski’s concerns about the types of pesticides that would be applied to the golf course.

“The Hills is a public threat to our community, and it will change the hamlet forever if it goes through,” Ms. Jack said.

By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Nov 8, 16 10:41 PM
“No children in the school is the biggest lie I’ve ever heard,” Al Algieri, president of the East Quogue Civic Association, said as he received loud applause.

“[School Superintendent] Rob Long said any child who walks into the school will be educated.”
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Nov 8, 16 10:43 PM
Let's take the bag of trinkets offered by
Discovery Land Company of Arizona - and say the hell with the environment and huge problems we might have to deal with tomorrow. Let's live for today!

TRINKETS being offered as if we're idiots.
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Nov 8, 16 11:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
Will we be blinded by bling and spin?
By sanhunt (4), East Quogue on Nov 11, 16 9:08 AM
Maybe Anna can speak at the next Town Board meeting - now that she'll have some free time.

Jay - you have her number, yes? Kyle has it - if not.

I'm sure she and her minions will be happy to help... Lotsa money involved.
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Nov 8, 16 11:09 PM
Jay,

"East End voters voted "yes" in a big way to preserving area waterways and open space, voting by a wide margin in favor of a proposition to extend the Community Preservation Fund until 2050 and also, to give towns the ability to utilize 20 percent of those funds for water quality improvements".

Let's keep it going.
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Nov 8, 16 11:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
From 27east:

Stop Tampering

The largest unprotected tract of privately held Pine Barrens forest property remaining in Southampton Town is subject to the most egregious planned development district, or PDD, proposed yet. A large preponderance of the town’s approved PDDs have not served the interest of the public. We all agree that there are serious issues with this legislation, and I am pleased these are being addressed with a moratorium.

Unfortunately, this PDD ...more
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Nov 9, 16 11:35 PM
We all need to be relieved of taxes, school improvement, town improvements.
This is worse than 18 months of electioneering we all just went thru. Enough is enough so lets get on with this one way or another rather than divide East Quogue
By garjay (7), east quogue on Nov 10, 16 11:41 AM
I'm sure the developer would like to get it over with too. One way or the other is not a solution. What water will you drink? You can't cook, brush your teeth or shower with bottled water. You can't swim in polluted bay waters or harvest clams or fish either. I will fight to the last minute against this disastrous PDD passing, as should anyone who l ives in this area. There are other ways government can relieve us of taxes and improve our school and town.
By Taz (228), East Quogue on Nov 11, 16 10:27 AM
Discovery's offer is a con. There is no way that it can prevent the children of purchasers from being enrolled in the E. Quogue school, particularly since its overt intent in limiting the duration of occupancy is to deprive those children of their right to a public education. The first time that this covenant is challenged in court it will be struck down.

This proposal is a shameful mixture of lies and bribes. One can only hope that the town board, atypically, will deny it.
By highhatsize (3290), East Quogue on Nov 11, 16 10:18 AM
For once we agree! Let the healing begin.
By Taz (228), East Quogue on Nov 11, 16 10:30 AM
Again and again I'm telling you, the developer is bluffing about going ahead as of right if the PDD isn't approved. Look at all the time and money they're spending to push this application, and look at all the "extras" they're offering if the PDD passes.

That tells you how much more the PDD is worth to them than as of right development. Conversely, it tells you how much less as of right is worth to them than the PDD.

Why is that? Because there's no market for so many luxury ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1695), Quiogue on Nov 12, 16 5:47 PM
JAY SCHNEIDERMAN - WARNING - DO NOT READ THIS:

I'm sure the developer would like to get it over with too. One way or the other is not a solution. What water will you drink? You can't cook, brush your teeth or shower with bottled water. You can't swim in polluted bay waters or harvest clams or fish either. I will fight to the last minute against this disastrous PDD passing, as should anyone who l ives in this area. There are other ways government can relieve us of taxes and improve our ...more
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Nov 12, 16 11:25 PM
And another thing (actually two things):

[1] For those who believe The Hills will benefit the local economy by helping Main Street business, remember, this isn't coal country or the Rust Belt. Here, the economy isn't some operation like a mine or a factory that's independent of the environment; here, the economy IS the environment and vice versa.

Any immediate benefit The Hills might confer on Main Street will be massively outweighed by the near-immediate damage the project ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1695), Quiogue on Nov 13, 16 10:53 AM
The investors of Arizona are the NIMBYs .. they want to develop YOUR LAND snd send the profits (if any ) BACK TO ARIZONA.
That alone is unAmerican predatory development
By dave h (173), calverton on Nov 14, 16 6:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
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