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Feb 7, 2018 12:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Longtime East Quogue CAC Chairwoman Joan Hughes Steps Down

Joan Hughes, the longtime chairwoman of the Citizens Advisory Committee, stepped down after 11 years. AMANDA BERNOCCO AMANDA BERNOCCO
Feb 7, 2018 12:00 PM

When Joan Hughes moved into her summer home in East Quogue full time more than 20 years ago, she never imagined that she would play a key role in shaping the future of her beloved hamlet.But that’s exactly what happened over the next 23 years.

Once she settled into what had been her vacation home in 1995, Ms. Hughes, a retired writer of medical journals, began looking for ways to get involved in her new hometown to fill up her free time. She quickly discovered and joined the ranks of the East Quogue Civic Association—a decision that would mark her first immersion into civic work in the hamlet.

After spending several years with the organization, including a few serving on its appointed board, Ms. Hughes stepped down and soon found herself in another leadership position: chairwoman of the East Quogue Citizens Advisory Committee.

Before leaving that post last month, handing the reins over to new co-chairs Geraldine Jack and Elizabeth Jackson, Ms. Hughes helped Southampton Town create its East Quogue Land Use Plan and fought vehemently against various housing developments—including The Hills at Southampton luxury golf resort—that she felt would negatively impact her hometown.

“I was very happy they voted it down,” Ms. Hughes said of the special zoning for The Hills, a proposal by Arizona-based Discovery Land Company to build 118 units and an 18-hole private golf course in East Quogue.

So happy, in fact, that, three days after the Town Board formally rejected the planned development district on nearly 600 acres in her hometown, Ms. Hughes moved into Peconic Landing in Greenport, an assisted living facility, and sold her longtime summer home.

“I was waiting for that to happen,” Ms. Hughes said. “I put so much time in—I wanted to see it through.”

Although seeing The Hills voted down was her career finale, it was only one of many developments she fought against in her tenure on the CAC. Ms. Hughes rattled off several others in a recent interview, as she sipped a coffee inside Goldberg’s Famous Bagels in East Quogue.

She specifically recalled fighting against more than two dozen houses proposed on the Kracke property, and the Parlato family’s proposed Atlanticville subdivision; both ultimately were bought by Discovery Land to be part of The Hills.

During the time the Parlato and Kracke properties were threatened by development, she remembers a small handful of other development proposals dotting her hamlet as well—especially in environmentally sensitive areas north of Old Country Road. In fact, the development proposals during this time is exactly what inspired her to push for the land north of Old Country Road to be upped to 5-acre zoning, the most restrictive in the town.

Ms. Hughes explained in a recent interview that she is not against development; her issue is with the proximity that the proposed developments had to the aquifer. “If we ruin the aquifer we won’t have water,” she said. “Then we can’t live here.”

The Town Board announced at its first work session of the new year that Ms. Hughes would be stepping down from her post. At the same meeting, the politicians debated changing the guidelines for CACs in the town code.

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said that a clear distinction should be made between the difference between CACs and civic groups—especially since a few of the seven hamlets with CACs also have a civic association. The CACs are meant to operate as an advisory group for the Town Board and to help get information from Town Hall out to the community.

Civic associations, which are usually registered as nonprofits, are separate entities from the town, meaning they can accept donations and take stances on town issues.

Councilwoman Julie Lofstad also noted that CACs are run differently in different hamlets and would like to see some uniformity.

“Consistency across the boards would be good,” Councilman John Bouvier added.

Before any changes are made the Town Board will consult with each CAC.

Ms. Hughes said she thinks updating the guidelines are a “good idea,” as long as the CACs are involved in the conversation. She suggested that some updates could be made regarding attendance requirements, participation, or clarifications on the role of the CAC in the town—and how much the opinions of the members should matter when it comes to certain issues.

Still, Ms. Hughes, who said she is going to miss Town Board meetings in her retirement from the CAC, lights up when she speaks about the committee: “The CACs really are a function of the Town Board … That’s why I think CACs are important.”

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Thanks for your service Ms Hughes,sorry you had to move so far away to retire.
By watchdog1 (509), Southampton on Feb 8, 18 12:31 PM
We will all miss a powerful and thoughtful voice for our community. Best wishes Joan for a truly beneficial and rejuvenating retirement.
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Feb 8, 18 3:58 PM