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Jun 28, 2016 12:56 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Discovery Land Insists That 'The Hills' Won't Add Any Children To Local Schools

Part of the property in East Quogue owned by Discovery Land Company. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Jun 28, 2016 3:10 PM

The developer behind a proposed luxury golf resort in East Quogue is confident that the development, which would be marketed as vacation homes to the über-wealthy, would not add any children to the East Quogue School District—even though it appears that school officials could not legally prevent that from happening.

Wayne Bruyn, an attorney representing the Arizona-based Discovery Land Company, explained recently that those who eventually buy the multimillion-dollar homes—assuming that the Southampton Town Board ultimately signs off on the planned development district that would clear the way for 118 residences, along with an 18-hole golf course, on nearly 600 acres—must sign a covenant capping the number of days they can occupy their units at 183 per year. Additionally, they would not be allowed to live in their homes for more than 30 consecutive days in the off-season, which runs from October until April.

That clause is also intended to prevent the future homeowners from enrolling their children in the fiscally challenged East Quogue School District.

The covenant, Mr. Bruyn explained, should prevent the future homeowners from establishing their East Quogue addresses as their primary residences, making it difficult for them to enroll their children in local schools. The district’s middle and high school students attend Westhampton Beach schools on a tuition basis.

“If you look carefully at what we always said, this is a seasonal resort, and the demographics of all of Discovery’s projects are that they are second, third and fourth homes for the owners of the properties,” said Mr. Bruyn, an attorney with the firm of O’Shea, Marcincuk and Bruyn in Southampton. “Therefore, we don’t expect anyone to reside on the premises and send their kids full-time to the district.”

He noted that the covenant, which would be enforced by a future homeowners association or possibly by Southampton Town, would be the first of its kind for Discovery Land. He added that the measure was introduced to quell the fears of those East Quogue residents who are worried that their elementary school would be overrun by new students.

None of the developer’s other 18 luxury communities has such a covenant in place because such concerns were never raised by neighbors of those developments, according to Mr. Bruyn. He said that is because most of the people who buy vacation homes built by Discovery Land live in large cities, like New York and Chicago, and that is where most of their school-age children receive their education.

Extra Protection
Or Empty Promises?

Yet in spite of the proposed covenant and repeated promises that their project, dubbed “The Hills at Southampton,” will not add any students to local schools, Discovery Land officials cannot legally forbid the future homeowners from registering their children—regardless of how unlikely a scenario that may be.

School districts require only that a parent provide two proofs of residency, such as a property tax statement, or a utility bill, or a valid driver’s license with their local address, to enroll a child for school.

For newly constructed and newly purchased homes, permanent residency must be proven by supplying a district with three forms: a mortgage statement or deed, a contract of sale, and a mortgage commitment. There is no minimum required number of days a person must be living at an address before enrolling his or her children.

“If a student resides in the district, we are going to educate them—it could be one day,” East Quogue School Superintendent Robert Long said during a recent interview. “It just has to be their primary residence … Say they move to us from California—they would be able to attend school in East Quogue.”

Additionally, Discovery Land’s cap of 183 days has no bearing on whether or not a school district would be able to accept a child because, as noted by Mr. Long, there is no set number of days a child must live in a school district before being allowed to enroll in it. The 183-day figure was chosen, Mr. Bruyn said, because the Internal Revenue Service uses that number to determine primary residences for tax purposes.

Mr. Long was quick to note that, however, he has no reason to suspect that the future homeowners, if The Hills is approved, would be interested in enrolling their children in his district, explaining that it is his understanding that the units are being marketed purely as seasonal vacation homes.

No Legal Avenues

Still, state education law appears to make it impossible for Southampton Town, or the community’s future homeowners association, to enforce such a covenant, as districts are legally obligated to provide a public education to all school-age children as long as they reside within the district.

The problem, as noted by Charles McNally, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is that a developer can adopt covenants that make a community a seasonal one—though there does not appear to be any legal avenues for a developer to pursue that absolutely prohibits homeowners from enrolling their kids, if they ever decide to do so.

Project opponents—such as local environmental attorney Carolyn Zenk of Hampton Bays and Robert DeLuca, president of Group for the East End—have maintained that the proposed covenant, included as part of the development’s updated draft environmental impact statement, or DEIS, will keep new students out. In addition to not being legally binding, Ms. Zenk pointed out that the covenant would be enforced by the community’s homeowners association, as Southampton Town, which must only review and approve the wording of the document, currently lacks any authority to enforce its restrictions if they are ever violated.

“Mr. Bruyn makes it clear that the homeowners association will be the first line of defense to enforce these covenants,” Ms. Zenk said. “Since the residential units at The Hills at Southampton will be much more valuable if there is no residency restriction, the HOA has a direct vested [interest] in violating the covenant, not enforcing it.”

But the main problem, as noted by Ms. Zenk, is that the East Quogue School District—whose Board of Education was forced to pierce the state cap on the tax levy this year due to severe restrictions on spending—cannot legally turn away school-age children who live in the district if they seek an education, even if such action violates the covenant.

Both also suggested that the actual enforcement of the covenant, if it is ever tested, would likely result in a lawsuit that the homeowners association or town would lose, adding that the town could also potentially be on the hook for damages.

“Since children who reside in a school district have the right to attend local schools, should this covenant be violated, and should Southampton Town try to enforce it to keep children out of the school district, I believe they would face causes of action related to the violation of the civil rights of the families of these children,” Ms. Zenk said. “Ironically, such civil rights violations could cost the town millions of dollars.”

She added that the targeted school district—East Quogue in this instance—would be unable to turn away students if the covenant was ever violated.

Mr. DeLuca said he agrees with Ms. Zenk’s interpretation of the proposal, noting that those who attempt to enforce the covenant would be breaking the law.

“The challenge they have to overcome is that people always sign covenants and enforcement is an issue,” Mr. DeLuca said, explaining that a homeowners association would likely be more focused on making sure the day-to-day operations of the community go smoothly than focusing on keeping track of how many days their neighbors are actually staying in their homes.

It now appears that Southampton Town could be up to that challenge, with Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman saying this week that if his board eventually approves the application, the town could be called upon to help enforce the covenant. “Thats one of many potential conditions,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

If such a condition is added to the application, Mr. Schneiderman said the town could potentially take offending homeowners to court if they violate the covenant by enrolling their children—even though he also thinks that such a scenario is unlikely.

“There is no indication at all that they are planning to [enroll their] kids,” the supervisor said, referring to the future homeowners, noting that they would still have to sign the document.

Much Ado About Nothing?

In its most recent DEIS, which was deemed incomplete a second time by the Town Board earlier this month, Discovery Land acknowledges that it cannot forbid children from living in the proposed community. “That perception is what drives people crazy,” Mr. Bruyn said. “People know that you can’t keep [children] out.”

The difference, he stressed, is that the families who traditionally purchase the high-end homes built by Discovery Land use them only as vacation destinations, staying only a few days or weeks at a time. Mr. Bruyn also made a point that those who own properties in one of Discovery Land’s 18 other luxury communities typically have primary residences in major cities and therefore have no reason to enroll their kids in East Quogue.

“That’s their demographics in their projects,” Mr. Bruyn said, referring to Discovery Land’s clientele.

He explained that none of the other luxury resorts built by Discovery Land, located across the continental United States as well as Hawaii and the Bahamas, relies on covenants to limit the amount of time homeowners can stay in their homes. In those communities, he said, residents make only short visits and are not permanent residents.

The developer’s most recent DEIS, submitted to Southampton Town in April, explains how the covenant is expected to work. It states: “For the East Quogue UFSD, no increase in enrollment is expected, as the nature of the project does not generate potential for such an impact. That is, any school-age children that may reside in the seasonal homes on the site will do so on a temporary basis, and so will not attend the local public school system. This will be enforced by a binding covenant filed with the county.”

Mr. Bruyn added that Discovery Land added the covenant to the East Quogue application only in response to concerns from certain community members who are worried about the 118 residential units, which would include 95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and 10 clubhouse condominiums, just off Spinney Road in the hamlet. Discovery Land either owns or is in contract to buy nearly 600 acres, though most of the development, including the 18-hole golf course, would be centered on 168 acres.

In response to fears raised by Ms. Zenk and Mr. DeLuca, Mr. Bruyn said the covenant would “absolutely” be enforced by the future homeowners association. He added that residents would have to sign in every time they visit their homes, and that members of the board would handle situations if a resident ever decides to make their East Quogue address their permanent one. He also stressed that all future homeowners would be informed that they are buying into a seasonal community.

“It would be a seasonal property … it’s being sold to us as a resort property, not a year-round property,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Sort of like a resort with a golf course. And I think if it’s approached like that, I don’t see why you would have a lengthy stay.”

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As a visitor to Discovery properties I can assure you there will be no one attending school except for a huge check every year for school taxes that the district will be getting every year!
By jeffscan (19), sh on Jun 28, 16 2:04 PM
Like the one Tuckahoe School gets from from all the golf courses in their hamlet?
By foodwhiner (148), Southampton on Jun 28, 16 3:20 PM
Quite a long article just to let us know that:

Yes, children of homeowners in this (potentially existing development) would definitely be able to attend East Quogue Elementary School.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 28, 16 2:43 PM
3 members liked this comment
... there can exist no covenant between any municipality and the school district and/or the homeowners association. The NYS Department of Education set residency requirements that discovery can not control. Keep one kid out and you break the law. For Schneiderman to say that he can get involved in this shows he has no clue. Robert Long knows that.

The principals of discovery, long before hissey was involved, pitched this project to the town saying that THEY will prevent any children from ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jun 28, 16 3:05 PM
This is in no way meant to defend Discovery - but how does it work with Round Dune? I don't believe anyone can occupy their condo year round - is that a private covenant? Was the Town or the school district involved in that?
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jun 28, 16 6:37 PM
Our schools are over run with illegals , if they ca get their kids into school, so can residents of this debacle
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 28, 16 8:14 PM

“It would be a seasonal property … it’s being sold to us as a resort property, not a year-round property,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Sort of like a resort with a golf course. And I think if it’s approached like that, I don’t see why you would have a lengthy stay.”

Who cares? Poison the drinking water and bays because you might have a few less kids in the schools ??
80% of nitrogen from turf, 5,000,000 sq ft of turf.
Why is the supervisor ...more
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Jun 28, 16 10:00 PM
I'd be really interested in your theory of how the drinking water gets poisoned. Do you have a scientist who has formulted something on it? Have you checked with Suffolk County Water Authority as to their opinion on the project? You may want to do that.

You might also want to foil the water quality results of The Bridge and Sebonack. That will give you a clear indication of what to expect from any golf course built in Southampton from 2002 and beyond. This canard that golf courses devastate ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jun 30, 16 4:28 PM
It's probably a bit more complicated, not just golf courses are good or bad for the environment.

How the course is designed, managed, and maintained will determine any effects on the environment.

Future management and maintenance are the mystery, yes it's possible to run a great operation but it's easier to not, and sure you may say you'll run a clean operation but you're sounding less and less credible the more you tout other aspects of this project as truth (like the no new ...more
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 30, 16 6:55 PM
The most stewardly thing to do is not build golf courses. Why build anything that squanders billions of gallons of fresh water annually? It's not like it's a valuable resource, or anything...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 30, 16 10:31 PM
Right, because there's no potential for fudging the numbers on those reports when the people tasked with reviewing and approving those reports are given free rounds of golf at these exclusive clubs, right?
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Jul 1, 16 10:45 AM
What an absolutely slanderous and completely unfounded comment. Is this how you create your points? No facts whatsoever to back your assertions? It Dr Martin Petrovuc of Cornell University corrupt? Tom Cabareri of the Cape Cod Commission also? Is AKRF IN Westchester County a part of this conspiracy? The lab in Indiana where the samples are sent get flown out to play golf and the payoff is complete?

Your comments are absolutely shameful. It's easy to spread these lies when you are hiding ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jul 1, 16 8:11 PM
The average sprawling Hamptons Estate goes through 10 million gallons of fresh water. The 4 acre Koch estate on Meadow Lane burned through over 20 million gallons on it's own in 2014.

How many golf course are out there? Yeah...

Jul 1, 16 8:17 PM appended by Mr. Z
BTW, do you have any idea how much of a pain in the a$$ it is to take a shower at around 4:30 a.m.? The water pressure is absolute crap. Any inkling as to why?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 1, 16 8:17 PM
I really hope you were being facetious...
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jul 1, 16 9:58 PM
There are approximately 16,000 golf courses in this country. Courses in Palm springs can suck up over half a million gallons PER DIEM.

How much water do the courses on Long Island squander?
Jul 2, 16 4:48 AM appended by Mr. Z
BTW Mark, do you still want to try and turn Cow Neck into a golf course too?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 2, 16 4:48 AM
Cow Neck? What on earth are you talking about?
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jul 5, 16 7:54 PM
Did Jay accept a position at Discovery? Public relations or information management?
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Jun 28, 16 10:03 PM
2 members liked this comment
Again, it;s all about the MONEY! Some locals I speak with want the Hills since they think their EQ modest home's value will skyrocket as a result of EQ becoming the place to be. Have you seen the brown water in the bay lately? Jay needs to focus on helping homeowners upgrade their septic systems to reduce pollution, not help a developer create more pollution, which is a given according to all those in the know (who are not compendsated by the Hills developer.)
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jun 29, 16 12:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Getting school money while not adding kids is a great benefit. That is a fact.
It's a selling point.
It does not outweigh the fact that this resort is being considered being built on the sand barrens stop the aquifer.
The single most sensitive piece of land on Long Island.
If this is allowed as proposed, the quality of the ground water as well as the tributaries will never be the same.
No selling point can fool anyone with any sense.
Let them build the as of right and ...more
By Rayman (64), southampton on Jun 29, 16 4:28 PM
2 members liked this comment
Build permanent structures that can only be used partially. .. sounds sofa king stupid.
Please sign in to your home..
Big brother is monitoring you...
Heres the maintenance bill for the months you arent allowed to go ..
Oh wait they can be rented out when non-occupied?
So it is 100% occupied or not ...
Since no offseason theres little need for heat & insulation... oh but its code of course
By dave h (193), calverton on Jul 1, 16 2:15 PM
Mark Hissey, currently Exec Vice President of Discovery Land, keeps saying, "read the DEIS", "read the constants reports" because he knows you won't and it makes a great sound byte. Please read the latest version of it, and the Town consultants reports. Read about the fact that one town consultant wants them to be more specific about how bad the grass on the golf course has to be before they are allowed to use particularly poisonous carcinogens. Read how rain gardens, the main ingredient of ...more
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Jul 2, 16 10:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
And for whatever reason, Mark keeps coming back here to respond to the comments closer to the lunatic end of the spectrum rather than attempting to address any of the legitimate question and discrepancies pointed out.

Par for the course with this proposed project...I hope it's clear to the people making decisions that 'the hills' is a smoke & mirrors show, total dud.

and, 'high end', hahahahahahahahahaha.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jul 2, 16 10:44 AM
2 members liked this comment
Thank you for pointing out some specifics. Mr. Hissey just said at a semi-public meeting last week that the covenants would be "perpetual" and could not be overturned by a homeowners association. Truthinness????
Thank you to those who comment here....you keep the issue alive, and should not be referred to as lunatics. Those who support the Hills are closer to that category than those who oppose it.
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Jul 2, 16 11:19 AM
Correct. Please read it and if you disagree with any of it, then present your argument based on science and the law, and not on emotion.

By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jul 3, 16 1:27 AM
... Mark, your employers submitted a pre-application to the town board asking for 86 houses and a golf course almost three years ago A few weeks later they upped the number of homes to 118, without even discussing it with the town board, they knew nothing about it.

Was that the right thing to do?

By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jul 2, 16 6:14 PM
The increase of the units was as the result of confidential negotiations with landowners who were selling their land. They had their demands also. That's the nature of development.

The acreage as part of the process increased to close to 600 acres and that's why the yield increased to 118 units.

It makes the project better because there is an additional 90 acres preserved forever and contiguous to other preserved areas. The Kracke property acquisition was a response to the requirement ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jul 3, 16 1:15 AM
... your lawyer/ consultants cobbled together this response quickly. But you did not answer the question. I propose that you weren't forthcoming with the scope of the project and if there was a need to keep negotiations confidential - you should have waited until you had a complete project before you approached the town board.I submit that the town board would not have voted for 118 homes from the outset and, I believe your group felt the same way that's why they backdoored this project.

Your ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jul 3, 16 9:42 AM
If our own political prostitute somehow makes it onto the ballot in November, that would be a great question to ask Her! Backdoor indeed.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 3, 16 10:06 AM
It's hard to give any credence whatever to an applicant who makes assurances that are completely contrary to law and logic, such as prohibiting property owners from putting their children in the local school, keeping people from occupying their homes for much of the year, and trusting to some hypothetical homeowners' association far in the future to enforce these unenforceable provisions.

No matter what other arguments Discovery Land advances, its credibility is utterly destroyed by these ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 3, 16 10:40 PM
I'm fully aware of who you are sir. I'd be delighted to meet with you in person and to be accompanied or not by one of our mutual friends and acquaintances.

I've come on here to refute the scurrilous and bizarre accusations and rumors that seem to miraculously become a fact in the public arena. If there is a substantial point to be debated, you can certainly make your case in the public arena as the process allows.

You've previously declined invitations to attend presentations ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jul 5, 16 7:51 PM
I'm just trying to learn:

In simple language, please, what is the "unprecedented commitment to cleaning up the nitrogen problem in Shinnecock Bay" you often refer to? Is it in your recentl (rejected for the second time) DEIS? Page please. I'd like to read it.

And who in your organization is responsible for directing a Discovery Executive Vice President to call and "threaten" or "warn", or "discuss" withdrawing statements she made in an email to your current consultants Nelson ...more
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Jul 5, 16 9:33 PM
Sorry, call was made to Discovery environmental scientist Kathleen Sealey
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Jul 5, 16 9:36 PM
... was the town board made aware that discovery was going to up the homes from 86 to 118 before they voted on the pre-application?
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jul 6, 16 12:50 PM
Let me be 100% clear on things. Kathleen Sullivan-Sealey was required to issue a full apology for her behavior and a full retraction was issued from the University of Miami. That is a fact. Both were issued publicly. You can plumb the depths of your speculations, but ask yourself why this was the case. It's not because she was in the right is it?

In answer to your first question, let me help you. $1million in septic system upgrades to the areas that need it the most which contribute to ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jul 6, 16 9:03 PM
Mr. Hissey, that's no response to my post. You don't address a single one of the points I've raised. All you've done is whine about perceived prejudice, unappreciated presentations, and the conditions at various venues.

Contrary to what you say, I've never received or declined an invitation of yours. But why get into that? Why don't we just discuss this right here on 27east, no food or drink, no overbearing moderators, no paid attendees, just a frank conversation on this comment board.

Just ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 7, 16 1:49 PM
I could have sworn that you had been invited. So I took a look at your old posts and lo and behold there was one on October 11th, 2015 which read "Thanks, but I can't make it to one of your informational sessions. I'm on a diet." In looking up your posts I saw one from three months before commenting "if it is conducted properly, the PDD will be declined" and that if it wasn't "those responsible will pay at the polls". At that point the PDD had not even been filed, so you were already against something ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jul 8, 16 1:15 PM
I could have sworn that you had been invited. So I took a look at your old posts and lo and behold there was one on October 11th, 2015 which read "Thanks, but I can't make it to one of your informational sessions. I'm on a diet." In looking up your posts I saw one from three months before commenting "if it is conducted properly, the PDD will be declined" and that if it wasn't "those responsible will pay at the polls". At that point the PDD had not even been filed, so you were already against something ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jul 8, 16 1:15 PM
155,000 square foot club house - that's what you have included in your application for a change of zone - in addition to 118 homes.

That's the equivalent of 55 homes. Your proposed club house is equal to about 55 homes???

Mr. Hissey - why do you need to build the largest club house in America?
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Jul 5, 16 11:09 PM
It's not even remotely the biggest in America. Look at the breakdown and compare it to any similar clubhouse in America or the Hamptons.

Compare the parking. Compare the residences. Don't double count.
By Mark Hissey (171), Melville on Jul 6, 16 9:06 PM
From your master plan:
Clubhouse floor space 155,760 Sq Ft
65,000 Sq Ft below ground parking
Does any clubhouse on Long Island have below ground parking? An acre and a half of below ground parking. Over the aquifer.
May I suggest that you have below ground parking because you are trying to jam 10 pounds of "something" into a 5 pound bag?
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Jul 7, 16 8:46 AM
From your master plan:
Clubhouse floor space 155,760 Sq Ft
65,000 Sq Ft below ground parking
Does any clubhouse on Long Island have below ground parking? An acre and a half of below ground parking. Over the aquifer.
May I suggest that you have below ground parking because you are trying to jam 10 pounds of "something" into a 5 pound bag?
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Jul 7, 16 8:48 AM
I tend to favor the plan as proposed but until the developers drop the incredible stance that they can somehow effect an exclusion of any children attending the East Quogue school the veracity of every statement made regarding the entire proposal is laughable.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 5, 16 11:56 PM
2 members liked this comment
I would note that while Mr. Hissey responded to the post above some 21 hours after my original post here, he did not see fit to address my concern. Now is the time for his employers to be gaining traction rather than losing it if they desire to prevail.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 8, 16 3:36 AM
In a court of law and almost everywhere else - if you are found to make one false comment it brings into question everything you say...

By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Jul 7, 16 5:26 PM
2 members liked this comment
It appears that Mr. Hissey is much better at spreading his "marketing story" than dealing with the fact that he has no control over kids going to the East Quogue school - from future homes.

By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Jul 8, 16 2:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
Boy, have you got that right, sag2harbor! Seems Mr. Hissey would rather talk about anything -- anything -- but those school kids. He's also allergic to any conversation about seasonal occupancy restrictions or the powers and inclinations of notional future homeowners' associations.

Those are the issues I raised in my above post, and what do I get in reply? A potpourri of allegations about functions I haven't attended, the usual nitrogen story, a refusal to engage here on 27east -- even ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 9, 16 6:04 PM
... on the treadmill at the gym this morning I was next to someone I have known for thirty years. He spends the winter with his wife in the Bahamas aboard his huge boat. Out of the clear blue he starts talking about Bakers Bay - discovery's golf course development there. He relayed that pre-discovery they used to tie up and snorkel and bbq on the beach. The coral and wildlife were magnificent. Post- discovery development, the reefs were dead and the fish were gone. He thought the golf course was ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jul 9, 16 6:37 PM