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Feb 15, 2017 10:30 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

McAllister Offers Opinion On Hills Proposal, Says PDD Plan Would Have Less Impact On Environment

Kevin McAllister stands at the marina in East Quogue, where Weesuck Creek meets Shinnecock Bay. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Feb 15, 2017 10:57 AM

At least one local water quality expert thinks the construction of a proposed luxury golf resort in East Quogue, as opposed to the creation of a residential subdivision at the site, would have less of an impact on already polluted groundwater in the hamlet.

Kevin McAllister, founder of Defend H2O and a former Peconic Baykeeper, said this week that the science included in the draft environmental impact statement, or DEIS, filed with Southampton Town by the Discovery Land Company of Arizona—the developer behind the proposed golf resort known as “The Hills at Southampton”—adds up, particularly the section about the project’s impact on nitrogen levels in the groundwater.

He was quick to note, however, that his assessment of the 473-page document should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the application itself, which seeks Town Board approval of a planned development district, or PDD, to permit construction of 118 residential units and an 18-hole golf course centered on 168 acres along Spinney Road. The remaining acreage, nearly 430 acres, would be preserved as open space as part of the proposal.

“I believe their analysis is accurate—that they will have no increase in nitrogen,” Mr. McAllister said on Friday, referring to the developer. “They went through an analysis. It has been used before. It’s not new science.”

Specifically, Mr. McAllister pointed to how Discovery Land intends to recycle the groundwater sitting below its property—groundwater that already contains elevated levels of nitrogen, mainly due to fertilizers and antiquated septic systems in the area—to irrigate the golf course, which would also featured lined greens and tee boxes. He said that such measures, already instituted at Sebonack Golf Club in Tuckahoe and Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, make sense and should help limit the amount of new nitrogen introduced to the groundwater. Critics of the project have stated that pesticides and fertilizers used on the golf course would contribute additional pollution to the region.

In addition to the course, Discovery Land is seeking permission from the town to build 118 residential units—95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and 10 clubhouse condominiums. If approved, the town would be allowing the developer to move forward with a PDD, special zoning that requires Discovery Land to also offer a number of community benefits, such as the installation of advanced septic systems that would be servicing the 118 homes.

To that end, Mr. McAllister also said such a measure should have less of an impact on the environment than traditional cesspools, units that would most likely be installed if Discovery Land opts to develop the land under its current 5-acre zoning.

Mr. McAllister’s analysis of the project rivals the findings of Dr. Christopher Gobler, a marine science professor at Stony Brook Southampton and an East Quogue resident. While he has previously stated that he has no official position on the application, Dr. Gobler did note that any development—whether it is a new subdivision or golf course community—would inevitably add more nitrogen to the groundwater. Dr. Gobler explained his stance to the Town Board during the third public hearing on the project on January 10, following his review of the document.

Though he did not attend that hearing, Mr. McAllister said he is pleased that Dr. Gobler is also reviewing it with a close eye. In fact, Dr. Gobler—who did not immediately return a call or email—sat down with the Town Board and Discovery Land representatives prior to the final hearing on the DEIS earlier this month, according to Mark Hissey, a vice president of Discovery Land.

Mr. Hissey said that meeting, the first of most likely many with the East Quogue marine scientist, went well. “I’m very confident we are going to come to agreement,” he said.

“I’m glad Chris is scrutinizing [the DEIS] and paying attention to the details,” Mr. McAllister added.

Mr. McAllister also said that while he agrees with other environmentalists that the best-case scenario would have been to preserve the land, he has come to realize that it is most likely no longer an option, meaning that the best option is to ensure that whatever is eventually built would have the least amount of impact on the environment. Mr. Hissey has made it clear in prior interviews that his company is not willing to sell the land, which is actually made up of at least 175 of smaller properties.

“In some form, development is inevitable,” Mr. McAllister said.

Last summer, the Town Board made its fourth offer to purchase the land, this time offering $35 million—but it was rejected by Discovery Land. According to town records, the developer spent $17.4 million on 49 lots totaling 290.9 acres in 2013—but does not list any other transactions for land that is now owned by the company. That offer was the first one made with Jay Schneiderman serving as town supervisor; the three prior offers came when Anna Throne-Holst was in that position.

Pointing to the improbability of the land being preserved, Mr. McAllister said it is important to ensure that whatever development is approved has the least impact on the environment. To that end, he said he thinks the PDD, as proposed, would have less of an impact than the as-of-right alternative—making it the better of the two options.

But the “as-of-right” option remains open to vigorous debate, with Discovery Land officials insisting that they can build up to 118 residential units under current five-acre zoning, the most restrictive in the town, while project opponents charge that the figure is actually much lower due to the location of the land and its proximity to the Pine Barrens. The 118 figure, environmentalists have pointed out, fails to factor in the topography of the land, as well as the need to set aside space for the installation of roads and drainage, and other elements of the planning process. Those factors, opponents argue, should significantly reduce the number of units that the developer is allowed to construct if the Town Board rejects the application for the PDD.

Regardless, Mr. McAllister thinks the PDD remains the better option as it comes with specific community benefits, such as the installation of an advanced septic system servicing the 118 homes and promises to restore wetlands in the hamlet.

Mr. McAllister said he has a solid understanding of the environmental review process, pointing to his own experience reviewing similar documents. Prior to becoming the Peconic Baykeeper, Mr. McAllister spent about 15 years in south Florida working as a consultant reviewing similar studies. He was employed with the Palm Beach County government, where his main role was reviewing environmental impact statements.

“I have experience in all the review work that goes into approving and considering these projects,” he said. “There might be slight differences, but they are basically the same.”

Mr. McAllister stressed that he isn’t just mindlessly supporting the project, explaining that he reviewed it with a critical eye. “I’m not afraid to call people out if science doesn’t add up,” he added.

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It's called Science not alternative facts!
By dexter831 (6), dexter831 on Feb 15, 17 11:38 AM
This is not a binary decision as put forth by Hills people. Does the science work pro-Hills with only 85 homes as alternative, or with other alternatives? McAllister may have experience, but there are legal interpretations of the PDD law that need to be addressed.
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Feb 15, 17 12:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well said. There are certainly far more than two possible outcomes for this property and anyone experienced with town planning and zoning knows it.

The entire point of the environmental review process under State law is to identify alternatives that minimize environmental impacts, and the Town has broad latitude in what it can require. This remains true whether the application is a PDD or a standard subdivision, so lets get past the constant comparison between The Hills PDD and some phantom ...more
By Group for the East End (13), Bridgehampton on Feb 15, 17 6:45 PM
Who asked KM to show up? Was he hired by someone? Or is he just butting in to try and stay relevant?
By The Real World (368), southampton on Feb 15, 17 1:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
Mr. McAllister's opinion is a minority view among scientists who have examined this matter. Actually, it's a bit of a stretch to include Kevin McAllister in the category of "scientists," but even giving him the benefit of that doubt, he doesnt have much scientific company in claiming that the PDD proposal is the better one for the environment.

Indeed, there are important legal dimensions to this question, as Taz points above. Moreover, we must also remember that it's not an either-or, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 16, 17 11:22 AM
3 members liked this comment
It's all on 27east. Check it out. You could start with Amanda Bernocco's 1/12/17 piece.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 17, 17 9:31 AM
Lion, I suggested you start with Amanda Bernocco's 1/12/17 piece on 27east. Apparently, you didn't read it with much care. Part of her report is as follows:

"He (Dr. Gobler) said the information (in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the developer) suggests that the nitrogen leach rates of golf courses is around 10 percent, when he (Dr. Gobler) said he believes the rate is actually closer to 30 percent -- a consensus he reached based on discussions he has had with other ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 18, 17 9:34 AM
... slow news week, Mr. Editor?
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Feb 17, 17 3:15 PM

The former bay keeper is not a scientist. He says "It has been used before.It's not new science". It (using contaminated groundwater to irrigate a golf course to reduce nitrogen) has NOT been used before. What is proposed IS NOT SCIENCE. It is an experiment. An interesting experiment, but an experiment none the less. In the Pine Barrens over the aquifer is not a place to try an experiment.
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Feb 18, 17 11:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
Lion, as it appears you understand the issue I can only conclude you are trying to mislead your readers. The process proposed here does not use effluent (wastewater) it proposes using groundwater. And phytoremediation is used to clean toxic waste sites, not the toxins added to the turf of a golf course.
And if you don't plant the turf in the first place you don't have to worry about cleaning it up.
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Feb 18, 17 4:24 PM
Dr. Gobler's and his many associates' position on 30% nitrogen, not 10% nitrogen is based on RECENT data. That is why your scientists' opinions are out of date. Maybe they should ask Dr. Gobler for his data and rethink their positions? What's to fear?
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Feb 18, 17 12:48 PM
...alternatively, put kmac and his science on the payroll, see how far that gets you.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Feb 18, 17 2:31 PM
Who's this 'Lion' anyway? He's posting with all the diligence and passion of a Mark Hissey, i.e., someone with a financial interest in this proposal -- 10 of the 22 posts in this thread are his. Lion started posting in 2014, when The Hills application was in play, and well over half of his 80 posts concern The Hills, water quality or PDDs.

I note also that Mr. Hissey, normally very much on top of these matters and very active with his comments on any story about The Hills, has not a ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 19, 17 11:03 AM
Bingo! That's not an answer, Lion, it's an evasion. And a most transparent evasion at that.

If you aren't Mark Hissey, you could say that much and still preserve your precious anonymity. But noooo, you don't say nothin, except to prate about begging my pardon, and Press policy, and gentlemen respecting it.

There's nothing ungentlemanly about wanting to know the truth, and there's nothing gentlemanly about hiding behind a screen name, that's just being a coward.

Sure, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 19, 17 1:14 PM
If you were at the third Town comment meeting at EQ school you would have heard Dr. Gobler describe his conclusions and the group of scientists he was working with. He actually specified that this was not just his opinion, but that of a group of scientists. Maybe you can go to the Town website and play the video of the meeting. He was the first speaker, if I remember correctly.
By Taz (725), East Quogue on Feb 19, 17 12:38 PM
2 members liked this comment
Southampton Press 27East January9, 2017 Headline

Dr. Gobler Says Luxury Golf Course Resort Would Leave Larger Nitrogen Footprint Than Subdivision

“So you may hear that this project will remove more nitrogen—but data show that is not the case,”

Dr. Gobler also said at Town Board Special Meeting:
If I use the best available science, and I go through all the numbers, and they use egregious amounts of lawns to be fertilized. The numbers that I got shown, ...more
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Feb 19, 17 3:25 PM
Dr. Gobler also said at a Special Town Board Meeting Jnuary 10, 2017

That process has brought together, I would say, some of the top minds or the top minds on the east coast of the US, individuals from the US EPA, the US Geological Survey, New York State DEC, Suffolk County, Cornell University, and I am grateful to be a part of that group as well.
We've come to what I call a scientific consensus. This isn't just a general opinion, but all these people have gotten together, two dozen ...more
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Feb 19, 17 3:29 PM
You refer to the Riverhead waste treatment plant and use it to justify fertigation. Wastewater from a sewage plant is a known quantity. And it is consistent. You declare that groundwater is "likely generated by fertilizer and wastewater". So you want the community to risk its drinking water and the health of the bays on your suppositions. And you challenge those who quote respected scientists to post the data while you rely on a computer model dreamed up by the applicant.
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Feb 19, 17 5:00 PM
But its never been done taking it out of groundwater. As Dr. Gobler said interesting experiment, but only as an experiment.

Are we going to be the guinea pigs?
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Feb 19, 17 5:24 PM
I just went to StopTheHills.com and watched the video of Gobler, Fred Theile,
Bridget Fleming and others - speaking about the re-zoning.


They all make clear and informative statements about "The Hills".
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Feb 19, 17 5:01 PM
And, boy, am I glad Bridget Fleming is on the side of our Environment.
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Feb 19, 17 5:03 PM
A. Martin Petrovic, one of the scientists Lion suggests we pay attention to said in his review of the DEIS
Issue: As a guiding principal, The Hills should consider not using pesticides that have been classified now or in the future as possible, probable or likely carcinogenic to humans to protect works, golfers, residents, visitors to The Hills and the general public. The list of current pesticides includes: bifenthrin, carbaryl, tridiamefon, propaconazole, iprodione, prodiamine, chlorothalonil ...more
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Feb 19, 17 5:39 PM
That is why we shouldn't be adding to the carcinogens being tossed into the air, into our drinking water, and to our bays. I just quoted the scientist you listed as respected. Because its being done you are suggesting its OK to do more? So that a handful of wealthy clients of the developer will have a second, third, or fourth golf club to play at.
By CleanWater (122), East Quogue on Feb 20, 17 11:57 AM
I'm not one to hide behind a name. I never have and I never will. So, apology accepted even though I'm a little puzzled by your use of the word "accuse". Not a very elegant or accurate term in my opinion.

I have absolutely no idea who Lion is, but this person clearly knows what he or she is talking about. The questions being asked are relevant, to the point, and unanswered by you or anyone else.

But that is fairly typical of the interactions here. You have deftly avoided listing ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), East Quogue on Feb 19, 17 9:19 PM
One other thing Mr Lynch. Is everyone else on this thread or on 27East cowards? Or do they get a pass for some reason with the exception of Lion?

Let's all reveal our identities eh? I'll go first.

Done. Next?
By Mark Hissey (171), East Quogue on Feb 19, 17 9:22 PM
Thanks for your answer, Mr. Hissey. Would that Lion might answer as forthrightly as you have, instead of wrongly claiming that his identity is "unimportant," and only "facts" are important.

It's a seductive argument, but identities are indeed important here, as you and I know. Your credibility is diminished, in the view of many, by your financial/employment connection to The Hills. Much of what you argue may be fact-based, but there's an inevitable offsetting factor in people's minds, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 20, 17 11:58 AM
Lion, your argument is like saying an old trapper knows more about the beaver's anatomy than a young research biologist. I don't buy it.

Everyone knows what my hook is, Lion, who I am and what I do. It's all out there. Not so for you.

Come on, Lion, tell us who you are and what your hook is.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 21, 17 9:16 AM
... Gobler's not giving you what you need - so you jump on the McAllister band wagon. I guess it's better than nothing.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Feb 21, 17 12:23 PM
I'll respond.

On that topic of bias and credibility, what would you think if an opponent of the project was found to have been receiving compensation either directly or as a pass through from someone with a financial interest in stopping The Hills? Another golf club for example.

Another question. What if Dr Gobler had made a simple and totally unintended error that reversed his opinion? Does his credibility diminish or is he still the same brilliant marine biologist that we know ...more
By Mark Hissey (171), East Quogue on Feb 21, 17 10:06 PM
Mr. Hissey:

Question 1 - If an opponent were receiving some benefit for opposing the project, that person would suffer the same credibility gap as you do on the pro side, and for the same reason.

Question 2 - Same as my post above; if Dr, Gobler turned around, I'd want to know why, in detail.

Question 3 - Basically the McAllister situation. Same as my post above; he's not a credentialed scientist, and even if he were, he'd be in the minority among scientists.


Come ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 22, 17 12:36 PM
Why bother with the nuances of the environmental review...seems like the arguments are too far down the road.

There is no public benefit to a change in zoning so we should be discussing what the developer will do 'as of right'
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Feb 20, 17 11:01 AM
Group for the East End / Robert DeLuca *** said at the top of these comments:

Well said. There are certainly far more than two possible outcomes for this property and anyone experienced with town planning and zoning knows it.

The entire point of the environmental review process under State law is to identify alternatives that minimize environmental impacts, and the Town has broad latitude in what it can require. This remains true whether the application is a PDD or a standard ...more
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Feb 20, 17 11:36 AM
I made an educated, informed, thoughtful decision at the onset of the Project not to formulate an educated, informed, thoughtful opinion for or against this Project. It seemed to that it is the responsibility of our Town Board to make an educated, informed and thoughtful decision based on the merits of this multi-faceted project. It seemed to me that the environmental issues are the most critical and I have no expertise in that area. I have heard the opponents of this project state that this ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Feb 20, 17 11:52 AM
GROUP FOR THE EAST END - said, back on June 22nd, 2016 that it :

"has sought full protection of this property for the better part of the last decade and worked with a coalition of civic and environmental groups to press for that outcome.

Full protection of the site was nearly achieved but last minute wrangling prevented that sale from happening. The money was there, but the developer decided not to sell.

We have, and will continue to oppose The Hills PDD for three simple ...more
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Feb 20, 17 4:18 PM
I assume that the Town Board will take the necessary steps to complete an adequate and detailed due diligence of this project using all the data they have available to them and employing any experts they believe are necessary. Then, and only then, will they make an educated, informed, and thoughtful decision. If the Town Board does not conduct an adequate and detailed due diligence dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's, then the taxpayers and residents have a big problem for this project ...more
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Feb 20, 17 6:00 PM
If you want to create a non profit, get paid and tool around on boats all day on donations, MCCallister is your guy. THAT is where his expertise lies. He hasn't accomplished a tangible result in any area in 30 years of being in the public eye. But don't tell the upper east side of NYC that. They'll stop sending him money to "save the water"..."our most important resource".
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Feb 22, 17 7:24 AM
It seems to me that the Town Board should have policies and procedures to identify independent subject matter experts. The rest should be background noise in their decision. I am not sure where the money is coming from or is used for, but if it a legitimate not-for-profit, their tax form 990 is pubic information.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Feb 23, 17 7:37 AM