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May 11, 2016 11:23 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Developer Discusses Dune Deck, The Hills Project At Informational Meeting

Chic Vhooris discusses Dune Deck and The Hills at an informational meeting in Westhampton. AMANDA BERNOCCO
May 11, 2016 12:46 PM

The Buoy One seafood restaurant in Westhampton was packed last Thursday night, May 5, and it was not because of that evening’s menu specials.

An estimated 50 people gathered to learn more about a pair of projects—an oceanfront hotel and restaurant now under construction on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach, and a proposed high-end residential golf resort targeting just shy of 600 acres in East Quogue—both proposed by Arizona-based Discovery Land Company.

The informational gathering, which featured complimentary appetizers, allowed community members an opportunity to learn more about the two-story Dune Deck in Westhampton Beach, a high-end hotel that is tentatively slated to be completed in 2017, and The Hills at Southampton, a proposed golf resort that would feature 118 homes and an 18-hole golf course if the Southampton Town Board ultimately signs off on the project’s required special zoning change.

When completed, the 32,141-square-foot hotel, built on oceanfront land acquired by Discovery Land for nearly $19 million in March 2015, will feature 33 two-bedroom units, an outside deck, a main pool, a jacuzzi and kiddie pool, tennis courts, a restaurant, and a bar. It will also boast an updated septic system that conforms to Suffolk County standards, according to the developer.

Some of the biggest concerns raised about Dune Deck during last week’s meeting included the types of memberships that would be offered, if it would be open year-round, and if the restaurant would be open to the public. Questions at the meeting were submitted to Discovery Land Vice President Mark Hissey on index cards.

He explained that the private oceanfront resort hotel, which will be open from mid-April until mid-October once completed, would offer multiple levels of membership, though company officials were not yet ready to share how many levels or their projected costs. Those who purchase memberships to the hotel, he continued, would be able to stay there only a specific number of nights each year, and would have access to a private beach that will not be open to the public.

The restaurant will be open to the public, though those with memberships will be given seating priority, according to Mr. Hissey. “There will be public access to it, but members are going to have priority,” he said when reached on Tuesday. “But we anticipate it being full.”

He also noted that, most likely, there will be memberships offered to locals that would enable them to access both the beach and restaurant without being obligated to reserve a room. Another membership would be available to those who eventually buy homes at The Hills golf resort, Mr. Hissey said.

The prospect of a private restaurant upset a few of those in attendance last week.

“The fact that they want to exclude locals from the restaurant is wrong,” said Jeanne Cosh-Eckles of Westhampton Beach. “Why should the public be shut out?”

“It should be a public restaurant and bar,” added Steve Rosmarin of Quiogue. “There’s enough private clubs in our area.”

Discovery Land’s other venture, The Hills, was also discussed at the meeting. The application, which is still before the Southampton Town Board, requests approval of a planned development district, or PDD, that would allow the developer to build 118 homes—95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and 10 clubhouse condominiums—as well as an 18-hole golf course on 168 acres along Spinney Road in East Quogue.

Discovery Land submitted a second draft environmental impact statement, or DEIS, to the town on April 12. If approved, construction would start next year and the development would open sometime in 2020, according to the 378-page DEIS. The Town Board has 45 days to review the document and decide if it is complete.

Residents are split on the application, with some pleased that the summer homes, which the developer insists will not add any children to the East Quogue School District, should contribute millions of dollars to the tax coffers each year, and others unhappy with how a significant part of the nearly 600 acres owned or in contract by Discovery Land falls within the sensitive Pine Barrens.

“They’re saying it’s just going to be seasonal homes because they want to get this passed,” Ms. Cosh-Eckles said, adding that she believes that some of the luxury homes will house school-age children. “After that they’re going to do whatever they want.”

The updated DEIS filed with the town states that the homeowners will be required to sign “a binding covenant filed with the county” that would forbid them from sending their children to local schools. The covenant would restrict the number of days a family could stay at the resort.

Other concerns regarding The Hills included how long the facility would be open, if local contractors would be used during construction, and if Discovery Land would continue to monitor the site after the work is complete.

Mr. Hissey explained that the facility would close during the winter months, although it would reopen for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and it would be built using local contractors. He added that Discovery Land would continue to monitor the development after it is built, noting that it monitors its 16 other developments around the world.

Another question, posed anonymously, asked if the property’s “as-of-right” development was a better option than a resort golf course. Several local environmentalists have previously stated that they would prefer that the land, most of which is five-acre zoning—the most restrictive kind of zoning in the town—be developed as a normal subdivision if it cannot be preserved. The exact number of homes that could be built has also been up for debate, with the developer saying that the main property could house between 80 and 90 homes, and environmentalists stating it is closer to half that amount due to its proximity to the Pine Barrens.

“I personally can’t see any downside to it whatsoever,” Mr. Hissey said of his company’s proposal.

Others in attendance, including those representing the real estate industry, said they support the project.

“This is a very interesting subject,” said Mr. Rosmarin, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in Westhampton Beach. “This is a good thing. You always have to weigh the developer’s right to build to what the project is … People are questioning the environmental impact of this project, but we sold out on that years ago.”

“I think the project is good for the community,” added Victoria Gorman of Quogue. “I think it’s good for the East Quogue School District, it’s good for the environment, it’s good all around.”

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“This is a very interesting subject,” said Mr. Rosmarin, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in Westhampton Beach. “This is a good thing. You always have to weigh the developer’s right to build to what the project is … People are questioning the environmental impact of this project, but we sold out on that years ago.”

Yikes!

Interesting POV from Mr. Rosmarin... we doomed the environment years ago - so why bother trying to be better now.

Thank ...more
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (401), southampton on May 12, 16 7:33 AM
... the end is near.
By William Rodney (461), southampton on May 12, 16 12:00 PM
I don't understand how the writer talks about the a private restaurant upsetting people... right after the part that says the restaurant will be open to the public. We just won't have priority seating over people staying in the hotel. I've seen that on vacation lots of times.
By Gillnetter (75), Hampton Bays on May 17, 16 1:23 PM
Sparkling Pools, Hot Tubs, repairs, construction, new, used