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May 24, 2017 1:02 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Discovery Land Says It Can Use Pine Barrens Credits To Increase Density If PDD Is Rejected

May 24, 2017 1:39 PM

Discovery Land Company officials revealed this week that they intend to buy an estimated three dozen Pine Barrens credits and retire them as another public benefit related to its plans for a luxury golf resort in East Quogue.

But they also say that if their request for a zoning change is rejected by the Southampton Town Board, derailing the golf course proposal, they instead will use those transferred credits to seek additional density for a housing development on the site.

Local environmentalists, led by Long Island Pine Barrens Society Executive Director Richard Amper, counter that such credits—which typically cost around $70,000 each, though that price can vary—cannot be used to add extra density in areas identified as environmentally sensitive. They say that includes large sections of the nearly 600 acres that have been acquired by Discovery Land for its proposed resort, “The Hills at Southampton,” which would include 118 residential units and an 18-hole golf course.

“We want people using development credits, but you can only do it in areas where it’s not going to be harmful …” Mr. Amper said this week. “You can’t just take them away from one part of the Pine Barrens and drop them in another.”

The credits were created as part of the Pine Barrens Protection Act in 1993. Their intent is to discourage construction within the most sensitive parts of the Pine Barrens by allowing developers to buy development rights on properties in the core and “transfer” them to other properties that are less sensitive, typically allowing increased density in those landing areas, according to Mr. Amper.

He noted that there are no residential properties within the boundaries of the East Quogue School District, where The Hills at Southampton would be located, in which Pine Barrens credits could be automatically transferred. He added that the entire Hills property falls within the Central Pine Barrens, according to the Pine Barrens Act and Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Mark Hissey, a vice president with Arizona-based Discovery Land Company, said his company is still moving forward with its original application, which requires Town Board approval of special zoning called a planned development district. But he also acknowledged that the company has begun exploring other possible options, such as building a traditional subdivision, if the golf course plan is rejected.

The difference, however, is that instead of possibly constructing 118 single-family homes on the nearly 600 acres, which now features 5-acre zoning, the most restrictive in the municipality, Discovery Land would look to buy at least 30 Pine Barrens credits and transfer those rights, saying it could then construct up to 165 new homes.

According to Mr. Hissey, the developer intends to add the Pine Barrens credit purchase, which could run in the neighborhood of $2.5 million, to its Final Environmental Impact Statement.

“It just gives me more flexibility, to be honest,” Mr. Hissey said this week. “I could use them to offset the golf course—even though that’s not a technical requirement.”

As part of its application, Discovery Land is looking to build 118 homes——95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and 10 clubhouse condominiums—and an 18-hole golf course on 168 acres along Spinney Road in East Quogue. The remaining land, more than 425 acres, would be preserved as open space under the PDD.

As part of that application, Discovery Land is offering to buy and retire more than 30 Pine Barrens credits, which Mr. Hissey noted could be viewed as another community benefit if The Hills is eventually approved by the town. When proposing a PDD, developers are obligated to offer community benefits that, ideally, help offset the impact of their respective projects. By retiring the credits, no other developers could use them to add density elsewhere in the town.

Mr. Amper offered another opinion of Discovery Land’s insistence that it could build up to 165 single-family homes with the purchase of an estimated three dozen Pine Barrens credits: “This sounds more like a threat than a commitment to the environment …”

Both Mr. Amper and Robert DeLuca, president of Group for the East End, have argued that the developer would be allowed to build only between 50 and 60 single-family homes under current zoning, and possibly less if the town properly vets the PDD application.

The application is likely to be the last PDD ever considered by the town, as Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman announced earlier this month that it intends to repeal the law and not replace it.

Mr. Hissey said his company would be within its rights if it opts to buy Pine Barrens credits in the core preservation area and transfer them to the compatible growth area, where Discovery Land is planning to build. He added that such a transfer would permit Discovery Land to increase density by up to 30 percent.

“It’s specifically intended for that,” Mr. Hissey said. “I would use them in the compatible growth area … The density gets out of the core preservation area and gets transferred to compatible growth area.”

As for Mr. Schneiderman, he said he has not yet made a decision on the PDD application, which would require the support of four of the five Town Board members. He also said this week that developers are encouraged to buy Pine Barrens credits, the latest development regarding a possible bump in density will not influence his review of the project.

“There’s no threats here, to me,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I’m comparing 118 homes with a golf course with 118 housing units.”

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By Taz (725), East Quogue on May 25, 17 10:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
Sounds like a threat to me Mr Schneiderman according to the SHP. Enough of these scare tactics by Mr Hissey & Co!!! There are those of us in EQ that will vote this November based upon what SHT does on "The Hills." Many of the silent majority of EQ do not want the golf course. Intimidation and threats from neighbors and those who do not live in our community have forced many of us to go underground. Nevertheless, we will be voting on election day.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on May 25, 17 11:25 AM
1. Original PDD has NO Public benefit. (application denied)
2.This threat (which cannot be followed through on anyway) is definitely NOT a public benefit. (please leave)
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on May 25, 17 12:35 PM
Is there no end to the cynicism and trickery of these people? Seems they will stop at nothing, but then, why should we be surprised? They've got a boatload of money riding on this, so all's fair for them, I guess.

Everyone who reads this board probably reads the Press editorial page, but for any hermits who might otherwise miss it, check out this week's editorial on The Hills. No prizes for guessing where it comes out.

Can't help it, folks -- just read the editorial for the ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on May 25, 17 2:47 PM
amper and the 'town' better wake up and smell the roses; 'discovery' isnt going away anytime soon; there's too much money at stake, and the least 'impact plan' is better than what they will do if the 'pdd' isnt approved
By splinter (14), southampton on May 25, 17 5:06 PM
You've got that wrong, splinter. Discovery will go away as soon as the PDD application is denied. Why? Because their "as of right" traditional subdivision alternative doesn't work for them economically. No one will pay the price they want for 118 luxury homes on five-acre lots out in the East Quogue woods without a golf course; the market won't support it. No point in talking about what they'll do if the PDD isn't approved, because they won't do anything but walk.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on May 27, 17 4:39 PM
If this PDD fit the original criteria that a PDD was designed for, Discovery wouldn't have to hire "lobbyists" & PR people and offer free dinners and other forms of thinly disguised bribery to anyone. This is the PDD that got all PDDS banned! So, Hissey can say anything he wants about his golf course. Truth is, they are desperate to get this thing built and will go to any length to do so. The community deserves respect from our electeds, and clearly, some of the most respected in our community have ...more
By Earthgirl (52), Southampton on May 25, 17 6:01 PM
2 members liked this comment
27east doesn't post the editorials .. im not a hermit, but im not east. Id love love love to read it.
By dave h (193), calverton on May 25, 17 7:25 PM
Not even sounds like a threat. It is one.

The developers won't be happy until they've exploited every square inch of real estate for profit, regardless of the cost. Think broadly on the last word of that sentence....
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 25, 17 8:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
To Jay and the rest of the board : Vote NO on this disaster in the making and send Mr Hissey packing, thank you. It's an election year and the voters are watching.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on May 26, 17 5:59 AM
The fact that they have to resort to threats should be a clear reason to vote NO for this project. These people are bloodsuckers that should be chased out of town. There is ZERO real public benefit and only benefits the people who are getting paid. VOTE NO and let them spend, spend, spend trying to fight it. Maybe they will eventually get the hint and go ruin someone else's home.
By Corwin1879 (40), Southampton on May 26, 17 9:18 AM
The fact that they have to resort to threats should be a clear reason to vote NO for this project. These people are bloodsuckers that should be chased out of town. There is ZERO real public benefit and only benefits the people who are getting paid. VOTE NO and let them spend, spend, spend trying to fight it. Maybe they will eventually get the hint and go ruin someone else's home.
By Corwin1879 (40), Southampton on May 26, 17 9:18 AM
Yeah, that's a threat. Approve the PDD and we extinguish the credits, deny and we use them for increased density. The only way to read that is as a threat. The use of this threat is actually a new low in the Hills drama. When you strip this application down the core, you are left with no real public benefit, increased risk to the environment, a golf course and homes used by people outside of our community, and another opportunity for smart growth squandered away. In a very real sense, the existing ...more
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on May 26, 17 10:00 AM
It is the height of hypocrisy for those opposed to this project to hang their hats on every word of the Pine Barrens legislation, zoning regulations, PDD laws and the Southampton Town Comprehensive Plan that supports their viewpoint while at the same time denying those sections that do not.

The Comprehensive Plan calls for a golf course in that area; the Pine Barrens laws permit it; zoning regulations allow it and PDD laws provide the framework for it to be accomplished. To call an additional ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 27, 17 11:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
But there aren't any community benefits that come from this PDD.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on May 28, 17 4:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ignoring the Community benefits does not make them disappear.

Your statement is false, made either out of ignorance or a blatant intent to lie to the readers.

Details are in the DEIS, why don't you simply read it?
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 31, 17 3:38 PM
Exactly what are the community benefits other than mitigating the problems the Hills creates?
By Taz (725), East Quogue on May 31, 17 12:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
We could start with mitigating preexisting problems from a hundred years of agricultural activity upstream of the Hills property.

Here are some more from a message on a related topic:

Beneficiaries of the project (incomplete as it is strictly from memory) in no particular order:

Southampton Town taxpayers
East Quogue School District
East Quogue Fire Department
East Quogue Chamber of Commerce
Suffolk County Water Authority
Westhampton Beach High School
Weesuck ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 3, 17 10:40 PM
Mr. Schneiderman said town officials sought ways to make the community benefit component of the law “intrinsic to the zone change itself,” such as providing for an assisted-living facility, medical center, or workforce housing, and not simply “a package of goodies for the community.”
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Jun 6, 17 1:47 PM
The Hills Development must be considered under existing law, not what you or Mr. Schneiderman believes should have been in the law when it was written in 1995 or amended in 2001. Here's what the law says:

“Community benefits or amenities” shall mean open space, housing for persons of low or moderate income, parks, elder care, day care, or other specific physical, social or cultural amenities, or cash in lieu thereof, of benefit to the residents of the affected ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 6, 17 5:29 PM
Jay Schneiderman is right and you're wrong, VOS. This developer has been scattering goodies like someone on a Mardi Gras float throwing beads to the crowd. Are we going to be bought off by shiny objects tossed here and there?

What you're missing is that, even if the alleged community benefit is technically within your interpretation of the PDD law, that doesn't mean the application must be granted. On the contrary, it's fully within the Board's discretion whether or not to grant a PDD ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 11, 17 9:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
Last thing first - I post pro-Hills comments because I am in favor of the project because it will be good for East Quogue and good for the Town of Southampton. Don't tell me that "There's no way to argue" of its benefits. The need is recognized in the master plan for the area.

My children were raised in East Quogue and live out of the area now because there are no opportunities for our young people to stay here after school unless they start businesses; this will create badly needed ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 11, 17 10:29 AM
"A better East Quogue"? Oh, wow! same fake theme throughout. Sorry, suppose "fake" is rather a strong word to use, but when you start with "the need is recognized in the master plan," I get aggressively skeptical.

The need for what? A golf course? Luxury housing? No way, and if you tell me that's in the master plan, then I question the wisdom of the master plan.

Come on, VOS, get real. I said I'd accept your simple denial of any connection to Discovery, and I do, but what ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 13, 17 12:04 PM
So now that I have answered your question (which you're not entitled to ask) you accuse me of drinking the Kool-Aid simply because you cannot accept an opinion different than your own. You also cannot accept the master plan that specifically calls for a golf course in the area but at least admit you don't even know what's in it.

If you wish to be the "expert" here, why not take the time to read the plan and the DEIS while you're at it to alleviate your skepticism. As of now you're only ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 13, 17 2:10 PM
So people dump stuff in the woods. That doesn't mean it's better to bulldoze the whole thing and build houses and a golf course. So the groundwater's been affected by farming. That doesn't mean it's a good idea to make it worse with the runoff from a golf course and 118 houses. Both of those arguments amount to saying that people have abused the land and the water, so that entitles us to go ahead and abuse it some more.

So there are parts of the property where nothing grows. That doesn't ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 14, 17 5:37 PM
So my arguments are baseless? And that is because you don't agree, right?

It's not that I say a golf course is called for in the master plan, it's there in black and white - read it! And the creators of that master plan have failed in identifying those things necessary for the viability of the town, right? Let's deny the PDD laws because you simply don't agree with every provision. Let's throw in the faulty construction of the Pine Barrens legislation while we're at it, after all those ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 15, 17 3:06 PM
That is an incredibly accurate assessment of the situation VOS.

You've pointed out some of the fallacies and lies that have been repeated time and time again and have become fact for opponents of The Hills.

72% of the property is being preserved in its entirety.

Only 15% of the 595 acres can be fertilized.

Of the 28% that is legally allowed to be developed, the currently cleared areas need to be incorporated into the 28%.

The products used to maintain ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), East Quogue on Jun 17, 17 1:03 AM
Adding a layer of bureaucracy is probably just going to create waste.

If you want to go above and beyond what the town does try fundraisers and put in the work.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 15, 17 3:19 PM