Last week, Southampton Town Planning Board members Robin Long, Dennis Finnerty, Phil Keith and John Blaney voted against the environment. They voted to not support scientific data and clarification of groundwater flow in the area of Little Fresh Pond and the Southampton Tennis Club and Camp. This is important, because this scientific data showed that groundwater from the camp flowed into Little Fresh Pond.
These board members disregarded the data and studies by Stony Brook University’s Dr. Christopher Gobler, scientific maps from the U.S. Geological Survey, findings from the Peconic Estuary Watershed project, and even a more detailed analysis and visual mapping of the camp’s own data. It is unsure if all of the Planning Board members have even read the submissions.
Instead, these Planning Board members chose to favor information submitted by a for-profit consultant hired by the camp (who changed his summary report, depending on who was paying him) and another for-profit consulting firm hired by the camp who has done repeated work for the applicant’s attorney. These consultants stated that groundwater from the camp flowed away from Little Fresh Pond, even when the pond is at a lower elevation than the camp.
This is a sad day for science and data-driven studies. Stakeholders and community members were stunned that there was not a vote to address a supplemental groundwater study. The system failed the community when only the camp’s attorney, the camp’s consultants, and the Town Planner, advocating for the applicant, were permitted to speak at this critical Planning Board meeting.
The camp’s consultants refuted and denied the scientific data in a written report submitted after the comment period expired. This was a convenient tactic that prevented the stakeholders’ response to be heard. This is an unfair and biased process.
Stakeholders requested: a water quality monitoring plan; water quality testing for home wells adjacent to the camp; no use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides at the camp; a commercial-grade septic system for the camp’s dining hall (preparing over 400 meals each weekday, along with related sanitizing activities); a list of all chemicals used and flushed through the septic system; remediation for degraded and unhealthy water quality as a result of camp commercial activities; and more. None of these critical public health and water quality related items was included in the draft report.
The camp’s attorney announced that the owner needed to have a decision quickly so he can begin further building and expansion on the site. The camp has been in operations for eight years already. Additional time to clarify the critical groundwater flow would not have hampered the camp’s ability to make money.
The Planning Board needs to advocate for the community and environment, not developers.
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