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May 2, 2018 11:25 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Residents Push To Incorporate Following Rejection Of The Hills

A group of East QUogue residents are looking to incorporate. AMANDA BERNOCCO
May 2, 2018 12:53 PM

A group of East Quogue residents is renewing efforts to incorporate the hamlet as a village, citing a desire to self-govern and make decisions without going through Southampton Town, after the rejection of a luxury golf course resort community proposed there.

The residents recently formed a 14-member exploratory committee—chaired by David Celi and Karen Kooi, and including former Southampton Town Supervisor Patrick “Skip” Heaney—to research incorporation. The committee formed in the fall, around the same time it was becoming evident that the golf course proposal known as “The Hills at Southampton” wasn’t going to garner enough support from the Town Board. Several members of the committee have connections to the project or have spoken in favor of it publicly.

The developer behind the project, Discovery Land Company, was seeking approval for a special change of zone called a planned development district, or PDD, to build 118 single-family homes and an 18-hole golf course along Spinney Road in East Quogue.

The zone change would have required supermajority support, or approval of at least four of the five Town Board members. In December, Councilman John Bouvier and Councilwoman Julie Lofstad voted against the proposal, pointing to concerns they had about the project’s potential impact on the environment. Discovery has since filed a $100 million lawsuit, against the town and the two council members, challenging that decision.

The proposal stirred up debate throughout Southampton Town. Hundreds of people, both opponents and supporters, showed up to the public hearings held in the past several years. Supporters of the project often pointed to the developer’s promise to bring new jobs to the hamlet, as well as the many community benefits that Discovery Land had promised, such as improvement along the hamlet’s Main Street, upgrading septic systems in the area and donating money to the elementary school.

If East Quogue incorporates, land use decisions would fall solely to the people in the new village, according to Greg Celi, a committee member. He outlined the committee’s plans in a press release issued Tuesday night. The group’s vision is also detailed on its website, eqvillageexploratorycommittee.com.

The website describes the proposed village as a “thin layer of local government”—using Sagaponack, which incorporated in 2007, as an example.

If the village is ultimately formed, it would have a handful of boards to make decisions on behalf of East Quogue—including a village board, planning board, zoning board, and a code enforcement department—but would still tap into the town for other services, such as the police, parks and highway departments.

Other critical East Quogue issues would also be at the forefront of the discussion if the hamlet incorporates, according to the Mr. Celi’s press release. Some of the issues, which he says were agreed upon by the committee members, include the following: local water quality, code enforcement issues that impact the East Quogue Elementary School, the upkeep and maintenance of Main Street, and the maintenance and support of community properties.

When several members of the committee were reached for comment this week, all questions were directed to Mr. Celi, the group’s appointed public relations officer, who later issued the press release.

Mr. Celi, whose family owns Celi Electric in Westhampton, is joined on the committee by Mr. Heaney, Brian Babcock, Richard Blowes, Sharon Celi, Maria Daddino, Kristen Hanyo, Jessica Insalaco, Kate Johnson, Walter Marsicovetere, Cyndi McNamara and Cathy Seeliger.

The proposed village would include the entire East Quogue school and fire districts.

Some preliminary numbers were crunched by the committee to see what it would cost East Quogue taxpayers to incorporate. The website notes that the village would have a $600,000 operating budget, with a $400,000 tax levy. The proposed budget laid out on the website explains that East Quogue Village would have a tax rate of 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Therefore, a homeowner with a $500,000 house would pay $50 per year in village taxes.

Joe Prokop, an attorney who helped with the formation of the villages in Sagaponack and Mastic Beach, said that in order to become a village, the committee would have to file a petition with Southampton Town that includes signatures from at least 20 percent of the homeowners in the proposed village’s taxing district. After that, the town would hold a referendum vote in the proposed taxing district. If that vote passes, the village is formed.

But the process can be daunting.

Al Algeri, president of the East Quogue Civic Association, pointed to the struggles East Quogue faced during a former push to incorporate. The longtime East Quogue resident explained that he was on board during that push approximately 15 years ago, but that the effort was short-lived. The issue: It was expensive and time-consuming.

“They will never get it done,” Mr. Algeri said. “It will cost millions and millions of dollars and will take four to six years.”

Mr. Algeri also nodded to two other nearby areas that had problems with incorporation efforts: Hampton Bays and Mastic Beach.

The incorporation of Hampton Bays has been explored by various groups multiple times over the decades, all of which proved unsuccessful. The Hampton Bays Village Exploration Committee fell flat in the early stages of its latest push when the group was still collecting census information and other data.

Mastic Beach, on the other hand, survived the incorporation process and separated from Brookhaven Town in 2010. But the incorporation dissolved in less than a decade, as the village reportedly had issues with political infighting and overspending.

Mr. Algeri, who is not involved in the latest effort to incorporate, said the push is questionable to him because nearly everyone on the committee was vocally in favor of The Hills project. Mr. Algeri was an outspoken opponent of the project.

“They are upset that the PDD was defeated,” Mr. Algeri said.

Mr. Bouvier, who said he heard “rumors” about the incorporation plans, said he believes every community has the right to incorporate if enough people in the area agree to pay the added taxes that come with the extra layer of government. Pointing to the multiple failed attempts in Hampton Bays, he warned that sometimes the road to incorporation can be a long and difficult process.

“You need to have overwhelming support to do something like that,” he noted.

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What a terrible idea. At a time when we should becoming consolidated regionally, they want to add another layer of government.
By tenn tom (191), remsenburg on May 3, 18 7:36 AM
2 members liked this comment
Name one Village where the taxes on a $500,000 home is $50.00? Good luck with this one.
By The Real World (347), southampton on May 3, 18 7:54 AM
1 member liked this comment
Fact: home values substantially higher in incorporated Villages--from North Haven to Westhampton Beach as compared to un-incorporated areas.
By aging hipster (143), Southampton on May 3, 18 8:26 AM
You forgot there's one problem the xenophobe that are scared of a golf course will never pay an increase in their property taxes. They just wanted to be the way it was when it was just them and nobody else so they can go fishing and drive their old truck. You people are so unrealistic
By widow gavits (174), sag harbor on May 3, 18 8:37 AM
prove your conviction.
By summertimegal (81), southampton on May 7, 18 1:41 PM
... Heaney for mayor!
By William Rodney (485), southampton on May 3, 18 9:25 AM
Great Idea.
By Summer Resident (217), Southampton Town, NY on May 3, 18 11:26 AM
I looked up Incorporated Village Government in the Webster Dictionary. It defines it as a group of old people with nothing better to do than to make non problems into problems. The dictionary has a link to East Hampton Village as an example.
By deelove (119), Bridgehampton on May 3, 18 11:37 AM
1 member liked this comment
If you want to live in an Incorporated Village, buy a house in an Incorporated Village. Some of us choose to live without the overbearing oversight and unnecessary costs of a Village Government. Incorporating just to have a development built is an extreme measure that will not pay off in the long run.
By deelove (119), Bridgehampton on May 3, 18 11:46 AM
4 members liked this comment
Name one person on the committee who is against the golf course.More DLC shenanigans!BULLIES!!!!!
By Taz (414), East Quogue on May 3, 18 11:47 AM
3 members liked this comment
MASTIC
By knitter (1214), Southampton on May 3, 18 12:44 PM
I am a 32 year resident of East Quogue. I support the formation of a Village for East Quogue. The best use of the Hills property was the very good proposal that was rejected by the Town Board. What a shame outsiders ruined this good opportunity for the residents of East Quogue.

By Jim Sutton (5), East Quogue on May 3, 18 1:12 PM
3 members liked this comment
NO GOLF COURSE DEVELOPMENT, PERIOD! Our estuary is dying
By kuali (26), southampton on May 3, 18 1:33 PM
If you would just open your eyes a little bit, you'd find that the PDD development would have significantly less impact on the groundwater as well as the "estuary" than the current proposal. Simply jamming one's fingers in one's ears and chanting "Nah, nah, nah, nah" is not the answer which exists in the findings statement.

If all the naysayers had only actually read the EIS with an open mind rather than cloaking their NIMBYism in unfounded politically inspired environmental scare stories ...more
May 8, 18 3:15 PM appended by VOS
Added 5/8/18 at 7:15 PM - It now appears that "inappropriate content" is defined as that which is in disagreement with the editorial position of the editor. Without open discourse why not simply shut down comments altogether rather than selectively based upon the opinion of the writer?
By VOS (1067), WHB on May 3, 18 3:15 PM
2 members liked this comment
Old cesspools and inadequate sewer systems are the problem for our waterways. Montauk Highway drains into Weesuck Creek. The hills had a sewage treatment plant. It was a good plan that was defeated by misinformation.
By Jim Sutton (5), East Quogue on May 3, 18 2:21 PM
2 members liked this comment
Bad idea by a group of power hungry locals who are upset "The Hills" failed to pass. Higher taxes would be in store for EQ and I suspect The Discovery Land Company has their hand in this proposal. The recent incorporation of Mastic Beach was surely an eye opener for the residents who saw their taxes increase greatly........that's why they dissolved the Village of Mastic Beach. I see that attorney Joe Prokop who assisted with the formation of the Village of Mastic Beach is the attorney. Who wants ...more
By crusader (383), East Quogue on May 3, 18 4:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Bad idea by a group of power hungry locals who are upset "The Hills" failed to pass. Higher taxes would be in store for EQ and I suspect The Discovery Land Company has their hand in this proposal. The recent incorporation of Mastic Beach was surely an eye opener for the residents who saw their taxes increase greatly........that's why they dissolved the Village of Mastic Beach. I see that attorney Joe Prokop who assisted with the formation of the Village of Mastic Beach is the attorney. Who wants ...more
By crusader (383), East Quogue on May 3, 18 4:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wow, there's even a Discovery Land Company employee that is part of the incorporation 'movement'.
and Wow, it seems like the only issue the people in this group care about is the hills...
The 'movement' to incorporate is led by the pro-hills eq residents who live in a Facebook group that's only discussion is about the hills (or occasionally about the BOE)
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (493), southampton on May 3, 18 7:49 PM
2 members liked this comment
I’m not sure exactly how it works but, hypothetically, let’s say the incorporated village board receives a proposal from a large, deep pocketed development company. Let’s also say the village board votes against it and the developer sues the board and individual members for $100 million. Will the EQ taxpayers have to absorb the cost of legal fees and possible judgement/settlement? Is it possible for a large developer to financially cripple a small village with lawsuits?
By reddog14 (1), EQ on May 3, 18 11:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ironic the solution to no golf course is higher taxes for EQ "village" residents when the push was lower property taxes under the PDD. Greedy greedy people who just see the potential for lining their own pockets, never mind their neighbors' wants and needs.
By Taz (414), East Quogue on May 4, 18 9:37 AM
what neighbors do you speak of and exactly what are those wants and needs ? please define them in a sentence or two?
By 27dan (2332), Shinnecock Hills on May 4, 18 10:15 AM
2 members liked this comment
OK, let’s ignore the fact that just about every Discovery Land stooge in East Quogue is on this committee, amusing as that is, especially since The Hills seems to be the only item on their agenda.

Let’s ignore even the great time and expense involved in incorporating, more than enough to kill the project in the early going. And ignore also what seems to be the weight of public opinion against forming a village, as shown in the above comments (admittedly not a 100% reliable ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1815), Quiogue on May 4, 18 10:24 AM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By VOS (1067), WHB on May 4, 18 1:14 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By VOS (1067), WHB on May 7, 18 10:45 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bigfresh (3457), north sea on May 8, 18 5:41 AM
As displayed at numerous Town hearings on the PDD, a large number of the public was opposed to the Hills - as were official organizations; environmental, public and private. The ground water and bays belong to us all, not just a select number of EQ citizens with an agenda. Town voters overwhelmingly chose anti-Hills candidates. Is the "village" of EQ prepared to pay for litigation in the event of problems resulting from zoning decisions made on the village level?
By Taz (414), East Quogue on May 4, 18 10:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
This whole golf trend really needs to end. Next thing you know they'll be trying to have some major tournament out here on the East End. Enough is enough!
By Pacman (115), Southampton on May 4, 18 1:34 PM
Tried in Mastic Beach and it ended in a fiasco. Tried to gain momentum in HB and it never happened. You will find that even though there are those who pound there fists against something, will silently vote against any increase in taxes that are needed to run your own government and support services.
By North Sea Citizen (478), North Sea on May 4, 18 4:22 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By VOS (1067), WHB on May 5, 18 1:34 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By VOS (1067), WHB on May 6, 18 1:32 AM
Sounds like a group from the fire department and local business owners who are disappointed that they did not get their yearly golf fundraiser and other perks (oh, I'm sorry,community benefits) that the Hills were promising them. So now DLC whispers to them that they can incorporate EQ to do an end around of the Town.

Personally, I find it disgusting what DLC is doing to the community. They have one objective, and that is to profit from the development. They have skillfully driven a wedge ...more
By fritzdaddy (17), southampton on May 6, 18 8:43 AM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By VOS (1067), WHB on May 6, 18 9:56 AM
I only have my phone here, and thus can’t post a reply comment directly under VOS’s post of May 7 at 10:45 PM, but that’s what this is — a direct reply.

Note first that VOS uses a lot of ink, doing some name-calling of his own, but never once touches on my principal objection, which is that a village wouldn’t have the authority by itself to permit Discovery’s project, that other levels of government would step in to block it because of its widespread ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1815), Quiogue on May 8, 18 9:29 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (493), southampton on May 8, 18 1:21 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (493), southampton on May 8, 18 3:21 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By VOS (1067), WHB on May 8, 18 6:03 PM
headline should read 'A Few East Quogue Residents Do Cursory Research On Incorporation'
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (493), southampton on May 9, 18 6:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
Hey, VOS! In another publication which I won’t name, your friend Greg Celi pulls the rug out from under your contention that the exploratory committee isn’t about The Hills. A direct quote from him and a quote from a committee press release state just the opposite. So now your deception isn’t just conscious and malicious as I observed above, it’s naked.
By Turkey Bridge (1815), Quiogue on May 10, 18 8:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By VOS (1067), WHB on May 10, 18 3:07 PM
For the curious, talking about your comments getting deleted is why your comments are getting deleted.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (2817), HAMPTON BAYS on May 10, 18 3:18 PM
Naked deception? Conscious, malicious? I think not. I don't know Greg Celi - I don't believe I have ever met Greg Celi or ever had a conversation with Greg Celi. He is not my "friend" but he seems like someone I'd be happy to have as a neighbor and friend - one who looks out for the best interests of his community..

I do have "another publication" in hand and here is the quote from Mr. Celi regarding the Hills project, lest others be further misled by your distortions: "It's not that ...more
By VOS (1067), WHB on May 12, 18 10:40 PM
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