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Sep 23, 2015 10:36 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue School Superintendent Acknowledges Benefits From Hills Development

Sep 23, 2015 1:25 PM

East Quogue Superintendent Robert Long last week put his signature on a letter from the developers of The Hills at Southampton, a proposed residential housing project, acknowledging potential benefits of the development to the school district, including a $500,000 cash donation.

At the same time, Mr. Long emphasized that the signed statement was not meant to be an indication of the district’s support for the project.

The letter was penned by Mark Hissey, vice president of Discovery Land Company, the Arizona-based developer of the project. He said they wanted proof, for an environmental study being conducted under the terms of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, that the company has been talking to the district about the project.

“We want it on the record for the environmental impact statement to show that we have been talking to the school,” Mr. Hissey said. “It shows that we are in agreement, and that we are interested in helping the school.”

Mr. Long, who signed the letter following a September 16 Board of Education meeting, at which the board authorized him to do so, noted that his signing of the letter was not an indication that the district endorsed the project.

“As we stated at the meeting, it is not indicating our support or our opposition to the project,” he said Tuesday. “It’s just us saying we understand the benefits for the school.”

Discovery Land is seeking permission to construct 108 single-family homes, 10 condominiums attached to a clubhouse and an 18-hole golf course centered on 168 acres along Spinney Road. The remaining land owned by the developer, more than 400 acres total, would be set aside as open space, according to the application now on file with Southampton Town.

In the letter sent by Mr. Hissey on August 20, the developer maintains that no children from the development would enroll in the school district. He said the company would keep kids out of the district by requiring prospective occupants of the development to sign an agreement that they would not spend more than 60 to 90 days per year there.

“They are agreeing not to stay at the property full time or establishing it as a primary residence,” Mr. Hissey said. “As a result, they will not be able to send the kids to the school.”

Additionally, the letter states that the school would be able to use the development for environmental educational programs, be the beneficiary of an annual golf outing charity, and receive two college scholarships for students who attended the school. It also notes that the golf course would be accessible for the Westhampton Beach High School golf team to practice on.

The scholarships, according to the letter, would award $10,000 to two district graduates each year for a period of 10 years. Recipients of the scholarship would be required to have attended East Quogue Elementary School for at least three years and have graduated from the school.

The developer also offered a host of benefits and improvements to the district—tablet computers, an electronic sign and other features, including a half-acre parcel of land donated to the district—which the School Board ultimately declined in favor of a cash payment, instead asking for a $500,000 donation to the district’s capital improvement fund. “We felt that the district will have more control over what our needs are at the time,” Mr. Long said of the decision. “We just felt the gift of the money would help the district make better decisions to help the children.”

The request was approved by Discovery Land, according to the letter. The district has agreed, if the project is approved, to allow the developer to fund the installation of a playground at the school, at a cost of $190,000.

Discovery Land is currently holding a series of informational meetings to address concerns about the project in the community. The last meeting is on October 6 at Cucina Family Style Ristorante on Montauk Highway in East Quogue from 6 to 9 p.m. The meeting is being held by the company and is not part of the official review process.

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... those who are vocal in their opposition to this project will be doing Discovery a favor by seeing that this project is voted down. Hissey is delusional in thinking that prospective buyers will sign an agreement limiting their stay to sixty days. I also do not believe they will do it - way too far-fetched. The result will be a bunch of unsold condos situated over our drinking water with a golf course that will be open to the people of Southampton one day each year.

As this thing comes ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Sep 23, 15 1:58 PM
Just a few clarifications.

1. You may think our deed restrictions are delusional but I can assure you they aren't. Our corporation has successfully executed them on numerous occasions.
2. The project has ten condominiums. The remaining 108 are individual homes.
3. The plan addresses impacts on drinking water and on the Bay. In great detail and reviewed by scientists who are experts in their fields. These will be peer reviewed by scientists hired by the Town.
4. The as-of-right ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Sep 24, 15 10:13 AM
... the first option, preservation, is the best option. How far apart are the developers and the town, financially, in the purchase of the property?

You will never sell any homes out here with deed restrictions, so don't waste your time trying while at the same time ruining the environment
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Sep 24, 15 10:42 AM
It isn't unfortunately. The best option for removing nitrogen from the bay and for protecting drinking water will be the PDD. The purpose of the DEIS will be to prove these facts among many others. You may not want to believe that, but it is the truth. The purchase of the property with the CPF just is not going to happen. That option was exhausted long ago.

As for your opinion on the sales of houses, thank you. But we respectfully disagree.
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Sep 24, 15 8:17 PM
What is the value of a home that can only be used 90 days a year? Where is your profit? Where will you find buyers willing to sacrifice 75% of their property rights when there are several thousand other homes available within a short drive?
By 1eastquogueinusa (34), East Quogue on Oct 6, 15 8:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
what r the odds this gets voted down?
By CorVaa (5), on Sep 23, 15 4:34 PM
and does anyone have news on the dune deck? have they started building or will they not develop it outside of this getting approved
By CorVaa (5), on Sep 23, 15 4:35 PM
Demolition is being completed and pile testing is well underway.
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Sep 24, 15 10:15 AM
can anyone tell me how many homes Discovery already can legally build if they want to and be conforming with "as is" zoning?
By GALAXIE (43), SAG HARBOR on Sep 23, 15 6:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
At the 2nd scoping session "The Discovery Company" was supposed to provide data to the SHTB & the public on how many "as is" homes were allowed. To the best of my knowledge that has not been done.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Sep 23, 15 7:16 PM
118.

The project also preserves 400+ acres of land.
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Sep 24, 15 10:17 AM
As required by the process determined by the TOS, this will all be in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The scoping sessions happen to help determine what the public as well as the Town would like to see analyzed in the DEIS.
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Sep 24, 15 10:19 AM
"preserves" 400 acres of land.

And how many of those acres are in the Core and are already preserved?

How much of that acreage would be required to be preserved with an as-of-right development due to the location in the CGA? Hmm.. let me guess, right around 400?

Good luck with that as-of-right, there's no market for homes north of the highway next to a sand mine.
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Sep 24, 15 11:52 AM
$200 million in profits to the developer, $500k to the school. Shrewd deal.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Sep 23, 15 7:20 PM
2 members liked this comment
I'm not clear why the EQ Elementary School needed to sign anything proposed by the developer? Why wasn't the residents of EQ made aware of the proposal before its signing? It would have been nice if the EQ BOE vetted this proposed signing to EQ residents before they authorized its signing given the controversy surrounding "The Hills."
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Sep 23, 15 7:27 PM
2 members liked this comment
There were discussions at the BOE meeting before the letter was signed.
By Fishmonger (7), east quogue on Sep 23, 15 9:39 PM
I understand that this was discussed before hand at the BOE meeting. My point is that given the controversy surrounding this development the prudent thing for the BOE to do was send a notice to EQ residents outlining that this proposal was on the table. Like every other resident in EQ I receive notices on budget hearings,etc.

Perhaps I would not have had any objection to the signing of the letter, what I have now is questions about the lack of transparency to the community.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Sep 24, 15 7:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
That is what the meetings are for. To create transparency. In addition, Discovery Land Company has disclosed on numerous occasions, in public forums, that there were ongoing negotiations with the school on what we could do to help the school. These forums have been advertised extensively including the series of voluntary public information sessions held over the past few weeks. There will be more to come and I would actively encourage you to attend one or more to get the true facts of the project.
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Sep 24, 15 10:26 AM
I have been to the SHTB meetings, the scoping sessions, EQ Civic Meetings. Since "The Hills" was first proposed, many things have changed by the developer. Many in EQ have spoken out against this project, specifically the golf course.

The Discovery Land Company is holding these meetings for their benefit to try and ram this golf course down our throats. The facts presented are given by those employed by the Discovery Land Company. The only facts I'm interested in is how bad a golf course ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Sep 24, 15 2:15 PM
2 members liked this comment
A few more clarifications.

1. The meetings are to clarify the facts of the project. Facts that have been ignored and distorted by many.
2. You seem to have made up your mind about golf courses and the environment. I'm afraid that you have that wrong too. Scientific opinion is the complete opposite of what you are stating. You may not want to believe that but I would encourage you to pay close attention to the facts that are proposed by the project and which will be peer reviewed by ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Sep 24, 15 8:24 PM
1. That doesn't mean anything, your "facts" are not based on anything close to reality.
2. Tell me again that chemical fertilizer doesn't run off into the aquifer. Cite the specific names of the scientists you mention.
3. The golf club will not have a club house? The club house will not have weddings and other events? This is what's known by most Americans who don't belong to $1 million entrance fee golf clubs as a "catering hall".
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Sep 25, 15 9:06 AM
This letter, as well as other issues are openly discussed at meetings each month - that is transparency.
By Fishmonger (7), east quogue on Sep 24, 15 9:48 AM
Fine, then I guess that means the district can save money on postage and not send us information on EQ Budget Votes. Information on budgets is also discussed at BOE meetings.

This is cherry picking and why not advise EQ residents that this will be discussed and voted upon at a specific BOE Meeting?

The EQ community is deeply divided on "The Hills" project and there would have been no harm in publishing notice of said BOE meeting and/or a copy of the letter that was signed by the ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Sep 24, 15 2:31 PM
Beware of a paper bag delivered to EQ school board members and staff with cash money inside of it. This whole "letter confirming the benefits for the EQ schools" smells like the dead fish that will wash up on our beaches when the tons of chemical fertilizers from the golf course wash into the bay.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Sep 24, 15 2:48 PM
2 members liked this comment
Look, I can't speak for everyone, but I personally don't want the development here, plain and simple. I moved my family out here because of the open space and to get away from all of the development and congestion. I don't want concrete mixers, dump trucks, 18 wheelers and heavy construction equipment rolling up and down the streets my kids play on and travel for the next few years. I don't want so much earth being moved near my house and disturbing the creatures and water supply. And after it is ...more
By RSEQNY (6), East Quogue on Sep 24, 15 5:48 PM

“They are agreeing not to stay at the property full time or establishing it as a primary residence,” Mr. Hissey said. “As a result, they will not be able to send the kids to the school.”" - Mark Hissey

This agreement sounds nice in theory but how can it be realistic? Demand for these homes would have to be so high that buyers are willing to go above and beyond in order to purchase a home. What happens if sales are sluggish? Discovery land company is not going ...more
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Sep 25, 15 7:36 AM
also:

'they are agreeing' - are you saying that some people are already agreeing to this clause?

and

what if someone agrees to the 'no full time residence' stipulation when buying a property and then ignores it after the purchase has been made?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Sep 25, 15 7:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
Preservation is in the public interest not a "donation" to the East Quogue School district that will not have any lasting effect. Preservation of the land over the drinking water supply is the only responsible thing to do. There is no pre-destiny in this development. But I can assure you that any one who signs an agreement to only live in their house for 90 is probably smart enough to rent their house for the remaining 10 months which wait let see IS the school year. Or rent it for a year and not ...more
By AL (83), southampton on Sep 25, 15 8:13 PM
2 members liked this comment