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Apr 12, 2017 10:04 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Dr. Chris Gobler Shares Opinion, Concerns Over 'The Hills' Proposal

Dr. Chris Gobler
Apr 27, 2017 10:53 AM

A newly submitted report, researched by one of the East End’s most well-respected water quality experts, challenges the science used and conclusions reached in the draft environmental impact statement filed by the Arizona developer pushing for a zoning change that would permit the construction of a luxury golf resort in East Quogue.

In his highly anticipated report filed last month with Southampton Town, Dr. Chris Gobler, a marine science professor at Stony Brook Southampton, also states that the proposed 118-home, 18-hole private golf course being pursued by Discovery Land Company—dubbed “The Hills at Southampton”—would add more nitrogen to the environment than if the firm was allowed to develop the nearly 600 acres according to its current zoning. The land owned by Discovery Land currently carries 5-acre residential zoning, the most restrictive in the municipality.

His 16-page report makes it clear that he thinks the proposed project would further damage already compromised groundwater in the hamlet—pollution that would, in turn, further undermine the quality of water in Weesuck Creek and nearby Shinnecock Bay.

When reached this week, Dr. Gobler, who lives in East Quogue, and whose wife, Dianna, serves on the hamlet’s Board of Education, declined to state that his report means that he opposes Discovery Land’s request for a change of zone, called a planned development district.

“That’s not my decision to make …” said Dr. Gobler, who was asked by the town to complete the report and did so pro bono. “I gave my best scientific opinion with how [the development] lines up with the different scenarios. Now it’s up to the policy-makers to decide.”

Still, his report makes it clear that the zoning change, if approved by the Town Board, would result in the introduction of an estimated 3,600 pounds of nitrogen a year to the hamlet’s groundwater. In comparison, he wrote that one as-of-right alternative—which calls for 118 residential units but no golf course—would yield between 1,600 and 3,500 pounds of nitrogen annually, depending on the intensity of development, and whether or not the homes would be clustered on the property. A clustered development would most likely produce less nitrogen.

When reached this week, Dr. Gobler said he thinks the total amount of nitrogen generated from the development, if Discovery Land had to build under current zoning restrictions, would be closer to the lower end of his estimates. “I gave a range just to be fair,” he said. “I’m just using their numbers and doing my own assessment.”

In his report, he notes that current conditions—sections of the property are already disturbed, while other portions have preexisting pollution, some of which can be traced back to a working farm—yield, on average, about 1,200 pounds of nitrogen annually. “Calculations demonstrated that the lowest nitrogen loading rates are associated with current conditions, whereas the PDD yielded the highest nitrogen loading rates between these extremes,” Dr. Gobler wrote in his report.

His estimates include nitrogen loading from various sources, including fertilizers that would be used on the proposed golf course and septic systems serving the homes. Discovery Land has proposed installing the most modern sewage treatment facility possible if the town were to approve the zoning change. While the proposed treatment plan would help mitigate the nitrogen, it still wouldn’t completely reverse the problem, according to Dr. Gobler.

Mark Hissey, Discovery Land’s vice president and who has been leading efforts to get the PDD approved, said this week that he has reviewed Dr. Gobler’s report and that his team will review the document and rely on it to improve the draft environmental impact statement, or DEIS, once they receive approval from the town to prepare the final environmental impact statement, or FEIS.

“We have to—there is no question about it,” Mr. Hissey said when reached on Tuesday. “All of the agronomic, the hydrologic, and the marine biology issues must be addressed in the FEIS. I’m compelled to update it, actually.”

Dr. Gobler, who met twice with Discovery Land’s scientists before filing his study with the town, points out in his report that they used different models when calculating their estimations in terms of current conditions and the project’s potential impact on the environment. In other places, he said the developer relied on older and, in his opinion, outdated or inaccurate figures.

For example, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan—designed to reduce the amount of nitrogen in surface waters and groundwater across Long Island—is still being developed and, therefore, was not finished when the town deemed Discovery Land’s DEIS complete six months ago. Though the state plan is still preliminary, some of its recommendations are now available on the DEC website, dec.ny.gov, though that information and recommendations were not included in the current version of the DEIS.

Additionally, Dr. Gobler’s report notes that Discovery Land’s estimates related to the fertigation process—the injection of fertilizers and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system—are unreliable, because the process itself is still experimental, meaning there is no concrete data that attests to the effectiveness of such a practice. As part of its proposal, the developer is offering to capture nitrogen-rich groundwater and using it to irrigate the golf course—and then capturing some of that water through the installation of liners.

Though he describes the suggestion as a “novel” idea and an “innovative approach for mitigation nitrogen on the property,” Dr. Gobler warns that Discovery Land’s estimation that such a practice would remove some 2,500 pounds of nitrogen from the ground annually represents “a significant overestimate.” Additionally, he wrote that there “are questions with regard to how the turf will respond to the constant dosing of high nitrogen groundwater.”

While he likes the concept of recycling already contaminated water, Dr. Gobler said that, as a scientist, he needs to know more about the success of the fertigation process before supporting such an experimental measure. “I love the idea, frankly,” Dr. Gobler said. “I just don’t see how you can begin to count that. You can’t rely on that if it’s totally unknown and an experiment. It’s theoretical.”

Dr. Gobler said he has been studying the massive DEIS, which totals 473 pages, ever since the first version was submitted to the town in December 2015; the Town Board did not approve the draft report until September, after it underwent multiple revisions. Dr. Gobler did not publicly share his concerns about the document until a January public hearing hosted by the town.

In his report filed late last month, Dr. Gobler also warns of future threats through the introduction of additional nitrogen to the groundwater in East Quogue, pointing to western Shinnecock Bay which, in 2010, was deemed an impaired body of water by the DEC. He also wrote that any increase in nitrogen loading could potentially increase the intensity and toxicity of future algal blooms and further undermine the quality of both the bay and already compromised Weesuck Creek, resulting in more frequent shellfish bed closures.

He also warns of the potential threat to drinking water supplies: “Enhanced nitrogen loading will push already high nitrate levels in public and water supply wells for East Quogue closer to [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] federal limit for drinking water.”

The public comment period on the DEIS was closed on April 1, after the town requested an extension due to the sheer volume of written opinions filed regarding the project. Now that the comment period is closed, Discovery Land has 45 days to file its FEIS with the town. It is unclear when the Town Board could vote on the PDD itself, though a super-majority—or four of five board members—must sign off for it to be approved.

For now, Dr. Gobler said the ball is in Discovery Land’s court to update the DEIS with more reliable information.

“They were receptive, which I think was positive …” he said, referring to the developer’s representatives. “I don’t think we have full agreement on everything, but we’re putting some numbers on the table.”

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Has the Dr. from Stony Brook Southampton researched the environmental impact of the proposed development of the hospital at.......Stony Brook Southampton?
By Mouthampton (271), Southampton on Apr 14, 17 8:21 AM
2 members liked this comment
Why would he? Have you read the environmental study for that project?
By But I'm a blank! (1271), Hampton Bays on Apr 14, 17 10:56 AM
To those of you as puzzled as I am as to why the reporter added the last few paragraphs here on 27E that were not in the printed story and what they mean I suggest you will get all the information you need regarding this issue by reading Dr. Gobler's report.

Please read the report. It is clear.
By CleanWater (82), East Quogue on Apr 14, 17 11:07 AM
Its more puzzling that this man can insinuate that houses developed on 600 acres, with no regulation of fertilizer being put down would create less nitrogen than an County and DEC regulated golf course and 118 housing units occupied on a part time basis would?
By 11953guest (25), southampton on Apr 14, 17 11:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
It doesnt sound like Dr. G 'insinuated' anything. He created an evidence based report from research and presented a his conclusion.

It's ok that you're puzzled but if you would like to become un-puzzled there are plenty of options for you to get some information and context.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (295), southampton on Apr 14, 17 12:09 PM
Forget about nitrogen loading and take a look at what Discovery has completed at other locations they are beautiful. This would create open space for free, no kids in the school system and probably 100 jobs, I bet the Town gives full approval and they would be doing the right thing for everyone overall.
By 11953guest (25), southampton on Apr 14, 17 12:22 PM
haha. To DLC, you need to pay more to get higher quality internet commenters.

Anyway, thank you for sharing your opinion of beauty for us @11953guest
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (295), southampton on Apr 14, 17 12:33 PM
And you got your PhD Where???????
By Taz (121), East Quogue on Apr 16, 17 11:39 AM
One more nail in the coffin of The Hills. This project must have one of the tightest coffins ever, with all the nails that have been pounded in there.

Dr. Gobler has here identified one of the strongest points against granting this application. That is the fact that the developer's science and technology claimed to reduce nitrogen in the mix is unproven. It hasn't been done before, at least not to the extent that would support scientific conclusions.

Translation: It's an experiment, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1613), Quiogue on Apr 14, 17 12:26 PM
3 members liked this comment
Actually the fertigation/nitrogen mitigation isn't a deal killer. It is something that has has a big upside and no downside. There is plenty of empirical evidence that this is a sound method for removing nitrogen from the environment.

Fertigation has actually been going on for a very long time in the East End alone and nitrogen and other toxin mitigation through running through vegetation is a very tried and trusted process that isn't even remotely experimental.

Nails? No I don't ...more
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 18, 17 12:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
Dr. Gobler is a wonderful scientist, a man dedicated to his students and his field. He also doesn't look like he has aged a day since I had him as a professor many years ago.
By nsea93 (39), Southampton on Apr 15, 17 1:39 AM
Was he teaching Hydrogeology at the time? That's the field he has put himself into here.
By VOS (873), WHB on Apr 15, 17 2:15 PM
2 members liked this comment
are you only able to understand something based on the courses that you teach? what are you saying @VOS?

Where did you study internet commenting?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (295), southampton on Apr 17, 17 9:20 PM
I'll jump in for VOS.

What it does mean is that someone with a lifetime of work in a specific field is to be deferred to when you have a rudimentary knowledge of that same subject. It is professional courtesy and accuracy.

Dr Martin Petrovic is possibly the world's expert in turf science and leaching. He is THE expert in this field just as Dr Gobler is in marine science. Dr Petrovic disagrees completely with Dr Gobler's assumptions.
it isn't a matter of who paid for what; it ...more
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 18, 17 12:17 AM
2 members liked this comment
Got it. So you write Dr. Gobler's findings off as assumptions in your comment yet in the article state that :
'Mark Hissey, Discovery Land’s vice president and who has been leading efforts to get the PDD approved, said this week that he has reviewed Dr. Gobler’s report and that his team will review the document and rely on it to improve the draft environmental impact statement, or DEIS, once they receive approval from the town to prepare the final environmental impact statement, ...more
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (295), southampton on Apr 18, 17 12:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
Those statements aren't contradictory. I am compelled to answer submissions in in this process. That includes Dr Gobler's comments in his submission. Ultimately, the TOS experts will decide on who has gotten the science correct.

Dr Gobler has made some excellent comments and suggestions in this process and we've accommodated some. He's also made some errors and all will be addressed and corrected on both sides at the end of the process.

By the way, Dr Petrovic works for you, not ...more
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 19, 17 1:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Two words:

Tetraethyl lead

They found a guy to say that was "safe"...
By Mr. Z (8790), North Sea on Apr 19, 17 5:42 AM
Excellent Sean Spicer impression, Mark.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (295), southampton on Apr 19, 17 2:37 PM
I doubt your "paid for " experts would produce any document that showed this disaster of a project in an unfavorable light.
By bigfresh (2618), north sea on Apr 18, 17 5:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
... move this thing over to the Grumman site in Calverton. Plenty of open space there. It is not gonna work in the Pine Barrens. Too much risk assumed by the people of the town. Call today, if you haven't done so.
By William Rodney (405), southampton on Apr 18, 17 10:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
No. I won't be doing that. I'll be developing this land as I have told you on many occasions. There's a reason why the Pine Barrens Law determined the area to be designated and a Compatible Growth Area. It's because it is compatible for growth as opposed to the Core Preservation Area which isn't.
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 19, 17 1:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
...and as I have told you on may occasions you have no right to do what you are attempting to do on this property. You and your cabal of consultants were Gobler's staunchest supporters at the town hearings. Now with the presentation of a damning document - written in consultation with one of your guys - you attempt to question his work. His work is reality.

You can't keep plugging different numbers into the same equation and expect different results. Some people define that as insanity.The ...more
By William Rodney (405), southampton on Apr 19, 17 9:37 AM
1 member liked this comment
Build as of right or not at all.
By bigfresh (2618), north sea on Apr 19, 17 5:46 AM
I could be wrong, but I think the Town's offer is off the table. If it isn't, it should be off, and it should stay off, because this developer's PDD application is going to be denied, and as I've said many times, his as of right alternative isn't the least bit economical for him. 118 high-end houses on five-acre lots back in the woods in East Quogue with astronomical price tags and no golf course? Give me a break!

Discovery has nowhere to go. No point in buying even an acre from them, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1613), Quiogue on Apr 19, 17 8:33 PM
The as-of-right will be much less than 118 homes currently zoned for after SEQRA and other environmental rules are applied. New septic rules by both Suffolk County and Southampton Town will increase the costs while reducing environmental impact on the likely 85 homes they will get approved if DLC is lucky. The competition next door from Southampton Pines are selling for around $1 million. DLC is between a rock and a hard place. They are big boys and went into this poker game with open eyes, upping ...more
By Taz (121), East Quogue on Apr 20, 17 11:10 AM
1 member liked this comment
SAY NO TO THE HILLS NOW! Don't waste any more time with this PDD, it will be something history will not smile upon if built.
By Taz (121), East Quogue on Apr 20, 17 11:12 AM
Please note my last comment three posts above this one, saying that the numbers just don't work for the developer with the so-called as of right alternative. Please note also that Mark Hissey has troubled to answer every opposing post in this thread, except my last one. Why is that, do you think?
By Turkey Bridge (1613), Quiogue on Apr 21, 17 1:17 PM
A few more words from the A. Martin Petrovic report:

"bifenthrin, tridiamefon, prodiamine, bensulide, chloropyrifos. flutolanil, propaconazole, myclobutanil, flutolanil, paclobutrazol and imidacloprid"

"Issue: High risk pesticides described above should not be use at the proposed Hills project site unless there is a very strict set of conditions defined for their emergency use plan."

So Mr. Petrovic says its OK to use carcinogenic toxic pesticides/chemicals over the aquifer ...more
By CleanWater (82), East Quogue on Apr 22, 17 9:15 PM
Scary names in your opinion? Ever taken the time to actually find out the toxicity or velocity of any of these compounds?

What is your science background exactly? Is it in the same ballpark as Dr Petrovic? He is an eminent and world renowned turf science expert who has devoted his life to studying these compounds and their effects.

I will hazard a guess that you have an extremely limited knowledge of science given your comment about proximity to the school. Still peddling that ...more
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 27, 17 10:59 PM
STILL WAITING, MR. HISSEY. You really haven't got an answer for that one, have you? You know as well as I do that the as of right alternative is a loser for your company because no one's going to pay top dollar for a high end house on a five-acre lot out in the East Quogue woods without a golf course.

I'll even grant that you might sell 20 or 30 such houses out of a planned 118, but that's it. The bottom line is that the Town has all the cards here -- all the Town Board has to do is ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1613), Quiogue on Apr 24, 17 11:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
I've answered it numerous times and you know it. Both on this forum and at public hearings that I know you have attended.

There is something very strange about you trying to make this point time and time again when you know my position precisely.

By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 27, 17 10:47 PM
When? Where? I've never seen or heard the answer you claim you've given.

Please be specific, Mr. Hissey. It's probably more useful for you to cite to this forum than to public hearings, because you can just state the title of the relevant 27east article and the date and time of your post.

Of course, since you've given this answer "numerous times" as you claim, it will likely be easier for you just to state it once more here instead of playing so coy. Throughout this thread, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1613), Quiogue on Apr 28, 17 10:35 AM
My God, You really know it all don't you?

This is no bluff. I've said it on numerous occasions too. And you will keep bleating on about it and you will be proved wrong. And you'll shrug your shoulders and move on to your next piece of titillation and the people who actually believe you will wonder what the hell happened.

You have absolutely no clue about DLC's client base, demand or history. None whatsoever. I just hope that people refuse to believe your uninformed, arrogant statements. ...more
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 28, 17 7:00 PM
That previous post is in reply to a post of yours in which you claim, as you repeatedly have in public, in letters and on this website, that I will not just build 118 homes without a golf course and that I'll just walk away.

You can search for the rest. It's easy. Search for the stories abut the project and you will see you peddling your incorrect theory and me correcting you.

There is no coyness about it. I've answered this ad nauseum and you have either deliberately ignored ...more
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 28, 17 7:11 PM
Clear indeed, and I say you're bluffing. Oh, and I'll keep on saying it, because it's vital that your bluff be exposed for the falsehood that it is. You seem to think that when you've given out your version of things, that should be the end of it, and no one should question you.

Think again. I'll question you as long as I have to, as long as this misguided application is on the table. The Hills is the biggest and most threatening project in the history of Southampton Town. It has the ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1613), Quiogue on Apr 28, 17 9:43 PM
Well I hope you have the decency to apologize to the people you have fooled when you are proved wrong in one way or another. Don't say you weren't clearly told.

And I take exception to being categorized as a liar. But given your profound arrogance, it's hardly surprising that you are indecent enough to say something like that.
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 28, 17 10:12 PM
It won't work to attempt a distraction by personal insults. This is far beyond personal because it's about the survival of our town as we know it. All I'm doing is calling your bluff and I'll do it as long as I have to.
By Turkey Bridge (1613), Quiogue on Apr 29, 17 7:39 AM
Come to think of it, your reaction is kind of interesting. I don't really equate bluffing in a card game, or even in a business situation like this, to lying, but you apparently do. I say you're bluffing and bing, bing, off go the alarms, "he's calling me a liar!"

Where is that coming from? A very guilty conscience, is my guess, based on a bluff that the bluffer knows to be so devoid of truth as to amount to a lie, in his mind. If the shoe fits, wear it.
By Turkey Bridge (1613), Quiogue on Apr 29, 17 11:41 AM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you for the clarification that you think I am a liar. Good to know.
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 29, 17 1:58 PM
"It's about the survival of our town as we know it."

Seriously? The whole town" Better check, I think that entire herd left the barn decades ago. Time to stop living in the past; stop with the hysterical rhetoric and the talk of "potential" cataclysmic events. Try to deal with reality and leave your scare tactics for your cheap political campaigns.

You have the potential to cause more damage just by riding your bicycle up Lewis Road when the wrong combination of loaded trucks, ...more
By VOS (873), WHB on Apr 29, 17 11:51 PM
Why has this article disappeared from 27east Search engine?
By Taz (121), East Quogue on Apr 24, 17 11:42 AM
There seems to be a technical issue with how 27east indexes articles for the search results. We will try to resolve it soon.
By BOReilly (130), Eastport on Apr 24, 17 11:45 AM
Thank you. This is a hot topic and needs attention.
By Taz (121), East Quogue on Apr 24, 17 11:48 AM
Mr. Hissey, we are anxiously awaiting your response to Turkey Bridge? Cat got your tongue?
By Taz (121), East Quogue on Apr 24, 17 11:50 AM
You've gotten the answer for the delay from Mr O'Reilly.

Now I have a "cat-got-your-tongue" question for you. What's your name?
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 27, 17 10:44 PM
The 500 pound gorilla in the room remains the question of how DLC will fare without the golf course?
By Taz (121), East Quogue on Apr 28, 17 11:01 AM
... someone seems to be unraveling. Glad I got this thing re-posted. 118 as of right, Thing #2 - impossible.
By William Rodney (405), southampton on Apr 29, 17 2:25 PM
Wishful thinking Bill. Wishful thinking.
By Mark Hissey (81), East Quogue on Apr 29, 17 3:46 PM