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Apr 20, 2018 10:35 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Discovery Land Points To Other Residential Golf Courses Built In Southampton In Pitch For Luxury Golf Resort

The golf course behind 939 Scuttlehole Road in Bridgehampton. COURTESY SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALTY
Apr 21, 2018 12:05 PM

As the Southampton Town Planning Board continues its review of the hefty application for a proposed luxury golf course resort community in East Quogue, arguments about how the town code should be interpreted when it comes to golf facilities continue to take center stage.

At the crux of the deliberation is a little-used section of the town code that permits the addition of certain recreational amenities, such as tennis courts, in the development of residential neighborhoods.

The developer, Arizona-based Discovery Land Company, is arguing that a golf course could be built on the nearly 600-acre property that sits on Spinney Road if it is to be used only by the development’s residents as an amenity, saying it is allowed by zoning—just like a community swimming pool or a tennis court.

The proposal, known as the Lewis Road Planned Residential Development, calls for an 18-hole golf course and 118 homes along nearly 600 acres in East Quogue. The project in review is similar to The Hills at Southampton, a planned development district, or PDD, proposed by the same developer and voted down by the Town Board in December.

The key difference between the two projects lies in the review process. The former PDD proposal gave the Town Board wiggle room to vote against the project for subjective reasons; the Planning Board, on the other hand, must make its decision solely based on whether it meets the requirements of the town code.

As part of the pre-application process for the subdivision, the developer submitted three examples of golf courses built in residential zones on the eastern end of Southampton Town to demonstrate that similar recreational amenities have been built under the same portion of the code.

The largest of the trio of golf courses is nestled behind a 20,000-square-foot house at 939 Scuttlehole Road in Bridgehampton. The estate, known as Three Ponds Farm, is currently listed for sale with Dana Trotter, an associate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty in Bridgehampton.

“It’s a top-notch course,” Ms. Trotter said.

She explained that the golf course is certified by the U.S. Golf Association. Designed by Rees Jones, a golf course architect in New Jersey, the course has 18 holes on nine fairways; it’s set up to play nine holes in one direction, before turning around to play another nine holes in the other direction.

The course also has a two-story clubhouse, which is connected to the main house, and a pro shop about halfway through the course so players can stop and get a drink in the kitchenette or use the bathroom.

Discovery Land also points to a smaller course in its application on the Cow Neck peninsula in North Sea. While that course has only nine holes, its story rings similar to the East Quogue proposal: both target a large and environmentally sensitive swath of land in a residential zone

Discovery Land’s property is centered in the Pine Barrens. Similarly, Cow Neck is made up of tidal and freshwater wetlands, woodlands, agricultural and equestrian lands, uplands and meadows.

Nearly two decades ago, Louis Bacon—a Wall Street billionaire, the owner of Robins Island and a noted conservationist—donated a conservation easement for the 540-acre Cow Neck peninsula to the Peconic Land Trust. In the trade-off, he gave up most of the development rights on the North Sea property—but retained the right to build golf holes on it, a project he began in 2015.

John v.H Halsey, founder of Southampton-based Peconic Land Trust, explained in an email this week that the property allows for up to nine holes of golf under the terms of the easement—although he stressed that the vast majority of the property is protected from residential development. The easement also allows recreational and agricultural uses on a portion of the property.

“We monitor the property annually, and the current uses are in compliance with the terms of the easement,” Mr. Halsey said.

The third and final golf course featured in the pre-application in front of the Planning Board is behind a home at 1080 Meadow Lane in Southampton Village. The 4.6-acre property includes a three-hole golf course in a residential zone.

There are other golf facilities on private properties in the town, including golf holes created on estates in Sagaponack Village at a time when it was an unincorporated part of Southampton Town. Other houses have putting greens or similar smaller golf-related features.

While the examples of other golf courses are in residential zones—like Discovery Land’s proposal—some environmentalists are still arguing that the proposed Lewis Road PRD does not conform to code.

Robert DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End and a longtime opponent of Discovery Land’s project, pointed to some differences between the golf course examples provided and the applicant’s proposal.

“In each case, I think what’s important here is that none have a subdivision attached,” he said, but rather is part of a single estate.

Mr. DeLuca said that the subdivision and the golf course are two intensive uses of the property—and the developer should only be able to pick one, according to town code.

“The golf club that they’re building can very nicely stand on its own as a primary use,” he said. “And they can’t have another primary use.”

The application has a second alternative to the golf course resort: a 137-unit subdivision with various amenities—but no golf course. The developer has stressed that the golf course option is its preference.

And Mark Hissey, a vice president of Discovery Land Company, has repeatedly stated that his company wants the golf course as a feature, much like its other resort communities scattered across the world. He declined to comment this week.

He stood strong with that statement during the long years when he was pitching The Hills in front of the Town Board. That proposal requested a change of zone to build 118 single-family homes and an 18-hole golf course on the same property, though that proposal was ultimately shot down by the Town Board.

The special change of zone required supermajority support of the Town Board, or votes from at least four of the five Town Board members. The developer failed to get the necessary votes; Councilman John Bouvier and Councilwoman Julie Lofstad voted against it, citing environmental concerns.

Now, with the project in front of the Planning Board, Mr. Hissey and his colleagues at Discovery Land Company are continuing to spread the same message: a golf resort will be built. Last week, the company filed a $100 million lawsuit targeting the town, and Mr. Bouvier and Ms. Lofstad in particular.

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Thers a dude building 4 holes at his house! !
By dave h (190), calverton on Apr 20, 18 1:46 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bigfresh (3755), north sea on Apr 20, 18 6:42 PM
My, my, what an enlightened comment.

It is the political actors that share your sentiments that have cost the Town and community of East Quogue millions of dollars in benefits and now look to cost them even more in a protracted legal battle.

There is also a very good chance that they're also setting East Quogue up to bear the cost of educating a hundred new students and a very real environmental cost by not having the sewage systems available that the PDD would have supported ...more
By VOS (1117), WHB on Apr 20, 18 6:56 PM
There’s a private golf course just west of 101 First neck in SH Village...
By Draggerman (822), Southampton on Apr 20, 18 6:43 PM
Cool, just looked it up on maps. I think I could break 100 for 18 holes .
By Fred s (1209), Southampton on Apr 21, 18 10:05 AM
Start the countdown until this suit is thrown out...
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (572), southampton on Apr 21, 18 10:56 AM
None of these other claimed golf courses on residential properties is in the highly sensitive Pine Barrens. Furthermore, as Bob Deluca notes, they’re all the primary use on single-use estates. The Discovery course would be a primary use in addition to the primary use of a residential development. No good — only one primary use to a customer.
By Turkey Bridge (1868), Quiogue on Apr 23, 18 6:00 AM
So we could have a PDD with community benefits but that got shot down so now they can build a golf course without any of that. And it's been done already in 4 other places in the town. I think our Town Board might have screwed up big time.
By Gillnetter (102), Hampton Bays on Apr 26, 18 1:00 PM
sorry Turkey the Bridgehampton course is accessory to the house. Jay Schneiderman is doing a hell of a job. lol
By chief1 (2534), southampton on Apr 27, 18 7:28 AM
NO more golf courses! How many should one Town have? Not to mention there are vast amount of choices on the island. What's happening to quality of life which includes the basic right of clean water? Golf courses are high on the list of contaminators of the land, and sub-surface water!
By Ebellitas (4), East Hampton on May 8, 18 6:02 PM