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Jan 5, 2016 4:51 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Officials, Environmentalists Still Reviewing Draft Study For 'The Hills'

Jan 6, 2016 1:31 PM

The Southampton Town Board and local environmentalists are continuing to review the massive draft environmental impact statement submitted in late December by the developer seeking to build a luxury golf resort on nearly 600 acres in East Quogue.

Arizona-based Discovery Land Company is asking the town for special zoning, called a planned development district, or PDD, to allow the construction of 118 homes—95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and 10 clubhouse condominiums—along with an 18-hole golf course just off Spinney Road in the hamlet. The project has been dubbed “The Hills at Southampton.”

The 333-page document submitted on December 21 details how the project is expected to impact the environment. The Town Board now has 45 days to review the draft. Officials have hired AKRF Environmental and Planning Consultants of Bohemia to review the document for them. It will also be reviewed by Dr. Chris Gobler, an East Quogue resident and a professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

“The one thing I would really want to stress about this is that, from a nitrogen standpoint, this is an absolutely game-changing project,” Mark Hissey, the senior vice president of Discovery Land, said after submitting the document to Town Hall late last month. “People are going to say this is a really good way to look at it. It’s actually turned into a nitrogen-negative project, as opposed to a nitrogen-neutral project.”

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the draft environmental impact statement, commonly referred to as a DEIS, is the impact that Discovery Land says its development will have on the levels of nitrogen found in the groundwater. Mr. Hissey has stated that an advanced wastewater treatment system—an exact one has not yet been selected, according to the study—would be built in the area to service the proposed residential units. The company also intends to take additional measures, such as recycling nitrogen-laden groundwater that already exists in the area and using it to water the greens and tee boxes on the golf course, to reduce the amount of nitrogen in groundwater.

According to the DEIS, about 29 milligrams of nitrogen can now be found in every liter of groundwater in the area; the Suffolk County Health Department dictates that drinking water must contain less than 10 milligrams of nitrogen per liter. The presence of nitrogen in local groundwater has already forced the Suffolk County Water Authority to mix the output from two different wells—a process known as “blending”—before pumping the water to nearby homes and businesses. As part of its proposal, Discovery Land would dedicate 4 acres of land to the SCWA, allowing it to install a new well field.

The applicant also insists that specific measures, including the installation of a modern wastewater treatment facility and the proposed recycling of already nitrogen-laden water to maintain the golf course, will result in nitrogen levels in recharge from the proposed project that are closer to 0.19 milligrams.

"We've really come full circle where we were hoping to be nitrogen neutral and we are actually nitrogen negative," Mr. Hissey said. "It’s so damn simple that it’s really unbelievable."

That part of the study is something that former Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, the founder of Defend H20, a nonprofit focused on water quality issues across Long Island, is looking forward to reading.

“It’s premature to offer comments,” Mr. McAllister said this week, noting that he hasn’t had time to read the document closely due to the holidays. “I will definitely be commenting on it when the board convenes to discuss it.”

Mr. McAllister said it will be interesting to see what the Town Board has to say about the draft study, noting that the two newest members, Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Town Councilman John Bouvier, were just sworn in on Tuesday. They replaced former Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who wants to make a run for Congress in the fall, and Bridget Fleming, who was sworn in this week as the area’s new legislator for Suffolk County.

The fifth seat on the five-member board will remain vacant until a special election is held on Tuesday, January 26, to fill the seat formerly held by Brad Bender, who stepped down in November after pleading guilty to illegally distributing oxycodone.

Bob DeLuca, president of Group for the East End, also said this week that he recently secured a copy of the massive document and is looking forward to closely reviewing it. He and other environmentalists have demanded that the Town Board not only reject Discovery Land’s application, but also pushed for the revoking of the town’s PDD legislation last year.

“I’m hoping to look at it in the next week or so,” Mr. DeLuca said, referring to the DEIS.

In addition to explaining how the developer would address the amount of nitrogen in the groundwater, the draft study also examines other possible environmental issues, including how such a large project could affect the Pine Barrens. The entire lot targeted by The Hills, which is actually four different properties, falls within the Pine Barrens; approximately 97 acres fall within the core area, where no building is permitted.

According to the document, the developer intends to work closely with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to frequently check for southern pine beetle infestations in the area. The southern pine beetle—a bark beetle native to the southern United States that made its way north due to climate change, according to some experts—has been targeting and killing pine trees on Long Island, most notably in Hampton Bays.

The developer also said it would limit the amount of pesticides used on the golf course that could be harmful to pine trees and the environment. Pesticides still could be used on the golf course to keep the turf in good condition, but the facility would use only one of seven pesticides marked as “reduced risk” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the study.

Additionally, the study examined how The Hills would benefit the East Quogue School District, noting that the development would generate about $4.5 million in annual tax revenue.

The development would likely house up to 130 school-aged children, However, the report states that these students are not expected to attend the school district because the residences will be marketed as seasonal homes and residents will likely stay on the property for only about 60 days per year, during the summer months.

The private golf course and clubhouse will both be open for only about six months each year—from mid-April through mid-October. The only exception will be for the winter holidays, according to the document. It also states that the homes in the development would be marketed as “seasonal rentals.”

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333 Pages is not a massive document and I hope that the board members are reading it themselves and not just paying 40k to consultants to do that for them and then make recommendations. Unfortunately the 40k has already been spent, but why do we as a town allow those kind of expenditures rather than demanding that the board member s read the equivalent of a short novel? Having Gobler on board to review it is a good idea, but since this is a public document when will the actual details of it be ...more
By AL (83), southampton on Jan 7, 16 8:52 AM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Jan 10, 16 9:37 PM
I find it interesting that the developers have been saying from the beginning that "No"children will be attending the East Quogue Elemtary School because the residence "Will Not" be full time. Why now are they stating children " Are Not Expected " to attend the school since they " Will Likely stay only 60 days a year" ?? So they are admitting it's possible children could be attending the school. Developers don't play on words to persuade the public. Be honest up front.
By Spinney (2), East Quogue on Jan 7, 16 12:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Developers - that are asking for a zoning change that would increase the value of their purchase dramatically - depend on all of us being too busy making a living and looking after our families to "read the fine print".

Congrats on asking a great question.
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Jan 10, 16 9:41 PM
... Mark Hissey and his cabal of consultants promised to produce a document in the EIS that would be between Discovery and any potential buyer stating that no children would be allowed to attend East Quogue/Westhampton schools.

It would be stipulated as part of the purchase agreement, no children can attend the schools.

I sincerely hopes this document exists as promised. This PDD would have been shot down two years ago if Discovery couldn't deliver on this.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jan 8, 16 1:22 PM
There are laws prohibiting discriminating against FAMILIES. It would be the same as if they were trying to discriminate against someone because of their SEXUAL orientation or their RACE - which is something that one of these guys have been accused of in the past.
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Jan 10, 16 9:45 PM
Mr. Rodney,there's a serious question in my mind whether a stipulation such as you describe would be enforceable. It seems to me that the payment of school taxes -- which the purchaser would surely pay -- would give the purchaser an absolute right to send children to the local school, notwithstanding any agreement of any kind to the contrary. The claimed "stipulation" therefore strikes me as baloney.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jan 9, 16 9:43 PM
... bingo !!!
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jan 11, 16 7:37 AM
Capitalism is wonderful, yes!
The capitalistic system only discriminates against the person that makes poor economic decisions. No discrimination because we're white, black, Protestant, Hindu or Jewish. Heterosexual, homosexual or transexual...
Discrimination is prohibited in the USA. Either a development is designed for "55 and older" or everyone. Kids & all. I believe this developer has no intention of discriminating against anyone. I think they may say confusing or vague things ...more
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Jan 10, 16 10:00 PM
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Jan 12, 16 8:54 AM