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Aug 22, 2017 11:41 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Supervisor Candidate Ray Overton Supports 'The Hills At Southampton' Application

Republican Southampton Town Supervisor candidate Ray Overton. JEN NEWMAN
Aug 22, 2017 2:21 PM

Ray Overton, a lifelong Republican who is a candidate for Southampton Town supervisor, has come out in support of a proposed luxury golf course resort targeting nearly 600 acres in East Quogue.

Mr. Overton, 57, who will challenge incumbent Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, an Independence Party member with the Democratic Party endorsement as well, this November, this week shared his position on the controversial development, called “The Hills at Southampton,” pitched by Arizona-based Discovery Land Company.

“It’s not like [they’re] trying to build a nuclear plant,” said Mr. Overton, who lives in Westhampton and is a former Southampton Town Trustee. “We’re a second-home market. Hampton Bays, Flanders and East Quogue are significantly primary-home communities. This is a development for East Quogue that would be primarily second-home owners, with minimal impact on the school district—if not a positive impact, because of additional [tax revenue].”

He also pointed out that the town’s current restrictions on development are so severe that the municipality’s downtown areas, including Main Street in East Quogue, would never be permitted today.

Discovery Land officials have estimated that their development, if approved, would generate nearly $5.7 million in annual tax revenue for the East Quogue School District without adding any children to the single-school district, since residency would be seasonal.

The latter claim has been a lightning rod for criticism, as project opponents insist that the developer cannot legally forbid the future homeowners from sending their children to local schools, even if the high-end housing is being marketed as second homes.

In contrast, Mr. Schneiderman, who is seeking reelection to a second term in office, has stated that he is reserving his opinion of the application until Dr. Chris Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook Southampton and one of the East End’s most respected marine scientists, offers his analysis of the developer’s final environmental impact statement, or FEIS. The document was submitted earlier this summer, and Dr. Gobler, who lives in East Quogue, is expected to offer his opinion of the updated document soon.

Mr. Schneiderman has been reluctant to offer his opinion on the application, which requires Town Board approval of special and now-banned zoning called a planned development district. Four of the five Town Board members must vote in favor of the PDD to approve it.

The supervisor’s hesitancy prompted former Town Trustee Fred Havemeyer, a fierce opponent of the project, to challenge the sitting supervisor for the Democratic Party line this September. However, Mr. Havemeyer was booted from the ballot earlier this month when the Suffolk County Board of Elections rejected his petition, ruling that more than half of the 699 signatures collected were invalid.

Discovery Land’s application, which was recently modified again, now seeks permission to build 117 residential units and an 18-hole private golf course centered on roughly 168 acres in East Quogue. The remaining acreage would be preserved as open space. The developer needs Town Board approval because current zoning—most of the land owned by Discovery Land is zoned 5-acre residential, the most restrictive in the municipality—does not permit such a development.

Mr. Overton, who previously worked as a water systems operator at a wastewater treatment plant in Vermont, said he is impressed with Discovery Land’s planned water recycling system for The Hills. The proposed system, as explained by Discovery Land documents, would capture polluted—and nitrogen-rich—groundwater and use it to irrigate the golf course. The developer also plans to capture some of the irrigation water through the installation of liners on parts of the course.

Noting that he previously submitted a letter to the town announcing his support of the application, Mr. Overton said he thinks that The Hills will be a nitrogen-neutral development, as has been pitched by Discovery Land officials.

Those officials, who recently announced that they also plan to buy and preserve another 33 acres in East Quogue—land that could accommodate up to 29 single-family homes—have argued that the construction of another subdivision in the hamlet, with independent cesspools, would further degrade already compromised groundwater. Additionally, the developer states in its FEIS that it intends to construct a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant that would serve both the 117 houses—including 95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and nine clubhouse condominiums—and the golf course.

“I truly believe you can have responsible developments that end up either having no effect on the environment or very, very little effect on the environment,” Mr. Overton said, later adding that Discovery Land’s conceptual system could eventually be viewed as a “standard for future projects.”

In a previous interview, Dr. Gobler noted that while Discovery Land’s proposal has merit, the systems that would be employed by the developer have a largely unproven track record. He also said that the developer’s statement that such practices would remove some 2,500 pounds of nitrogen from the groundwater annually is “a significant overestimate.”

In a prior report, Dr. Gobler also argued that, in his opinion, development under current zoning would have less of an adverse impact on the environment than the luxury golf development being pitched by Discovery Land—though that was offered before the developer announced its intention to buy an additional 33 acres in East Quogue for preservation.

Mr. Overton said he thinks the developer’s proposal is still the better option, pointing to the myriad community benefits being offered, including improvements to the hamlet’s Main Street and the upgrading of residential septic systems in the immediate area. Those benefits, which also include improvements to the elementary school, are mandated as part of the now-banned PDD application process; the Discovery Land application has been allowed to proceed because it predated the move to eliminate PDDs altogether.

“I’ve gone through the [Environmental Impact Statement],” Mr. Overton said. “What they’re proposing, in the manner it’s being proposed, has good community benefits across the board, if they’re held accountable.”

He urged Mr. Schneiderman and his Town Board counterparts to make a ruling on the application as soon as possible, arguing that they’ve had ample time to form an opinion.

“No matter what the Town Board decides, this will end up in the courts,” Mr. Overton said. “So, it’s time to vote on it. It’s been sitting there too long.”

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"That's where the money is..."
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Aug 22, 17 1:40 PM
Bye-bye, Ray Overton. If he wasn't heading for a loss before, just for being a lightweight in comparison to Jay Schneiderman, he's surely heading for a loss now. Why? Because Ray Overton has just alienated the majority of voters who believe The Hills is an environmental disaster, a blatant land grab by a cynical and ruthless developer who has despoiled the land and waters in many other places and now seeks to ruin ours.

When I speak of "the majority of voters," I mean the majority of ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Aug 22, 17 1:49 PM
1 member liked this comment
I believe you are correct here, Bridge. Overton may have alienated the majority of "those who believe the Hills is an environmental disaster" but that splinter group of a splinter group that actually believes the scare stories being perpetrated is so small to begin with that even a majority of them will be so insignificant to barely tweak the outcome.

The vast majority of all residents, especially those who educate themselves about issues and actually vote, are not going to fall for your ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Aug 22, 17 3:23 PM
... the East Quogue area does not need to be "better" and this is not about the hacks scrambling at Hissey's feet for a piece of the action - the little builders. Those assembled at the town meetings were just that, his contractors and builders and employees, and those that want to be.

Your condescending benevolence in attempting to "turn around decline" is unnecessary.The hamlet is fine, the school is fine. The destruction of the pine barrens and the preservation of the water is the issue ...more
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Aug 22, 17 4:52 PM
Didn't the democrats endorse Camden Ackerma, a Discovery Land Co. Spokesman for Trustee? Isn't Jay Schniderman's next fund raiser being held at Discovery Land Co. Spokesman Mark Hissey's Sebonac Golf Club? Stop lying to us Democrat Leadership.
By CleanWaters (80), Southampton on Aug 22, 17 1:52 PM
The taxpayers got rid of Ray because he didn't understand. Now try for a Bigger job... Still doesn't understand...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Aug 22, 17 2:43 PM
... it must have been the free Sebonack golf shirt he's wearing that helped him make up his mind!
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Aug 23, 17 12:07 PM
The Republicans are in favor of the Hills. Jay certainly acts like he is in favor of the Hills. The Democrat leadership endorsed Hills employees for Trustee of our waterways. When we had a chance to vote for a Democrat that actually cares for the environment, Fred Havermeyer, the Democrat leadership pushed him out of a primary. I have lost so much faith in my party to actually support us, not just give us lip service. On Election Day I'm staying home or writing in Fred Havermeyer.
By CleanWaters (80), Southampton on Aug 23, 17 1:42 PM
Just to be accurate, the shirt I am wearing in the photo is a US Women's Open Golf tournament shirt that was part of the volunteer uniform. I paid the USGA for the uniform and the privilege of volunteering for 3 days at the US Women's Open at Sebonack. Great opportunity to watch great golf up close.
By roverton (64), Westhampton on Aug 23, 17 1:43 PM
I'm sure you'll get an apology from William Rodney for his mistake. Let's hope so. I've always known him to be a principled man. His strange and wrong insinuation of bribery has to have some other explanation.
By Mark Hissey (171), East Quogue on Aug 27, 17 11:46 PM
CleanWaters, Staying home is not an option. Not voting is a vote for "The Hills PDD". Your first reaction to write in Fred Havemeyer, a true environmentalist, is correct. If all Southampton Town registered voters stick together, we can defeat Discovery's buyout of our elected officials.
In November, WRITE-IN FRED HAVEMEYER for Town Supervisor. .........., It's that easy!
By SpeedRacer (160), Southampton on Aug 23, 17 4:59 PM
This "SpeedRacer," who only started posting five days ago, is either a GOP operative or a Hills operative, or both. Why? Because a write-in vote for Fred Havemeyer this November, which SpeedRacer urges, is a vote for the GOP and The Hills, pure and simple.

Do the math. A write-in for Fred, opposing The Hills, doesn't take a vote away from Ray Overton who supports the project; it takes a vote away from his opponent, Jay Schneiderman. That makes it easier for Overton to win and is therefore ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Aug 24, 17 10:18 AM
Write Ins don't work. I just think its funny that both Supervisor candidates are in favor of the Hills project but only ONE, the Republican Overton, is man enough to say it out loud. Before you get the Turkey Bridge's of the world jumping up and down remember no one would be talking about Writing In Fred Havermeyer if Jay was opposed to the Hills.
By Gillnetter (105), Hampton Bays on Aug 24, 17 10:32 AM
Turkey Bridge, Your logic is a little strange. You write... Don't vote for the Republican, because he is in favor of "The Hills PDD". Vote for the Conservative / Democrat (whatever political philosophy that is) because he won't vote for "The Hills PDD", until after the November election. Give me a break! Even the least politically minded person can see through Jay's position. I guess you are the one with the credibility problem. Whenever an underdog beats the odds and wins, the naysayers wonder ...more
By SpeedRacer (160), Southampton on Aug 24, 17 1:24 PM
Can we really do this? On Election Day can we say no to Jay by writing in FRED HAVERMEYER !?!?!!? That would be incredible and send the real message to Town Hall that we will not stand for over development.
By CleanWaters (80), Southampton on Aug 25, 17 9:03 AM
Yes CleanWaters, you can absolutely write in FRED HAVEMEYER for Town Supervisor. On the November ballot, under Town Supervisor, every voter can write in the name of a person they want as Town Supervisor. Look for more details, as we get closer to November.
By SpeedRacer (160), Southampton on Aug 25, 17 1:18 PM
Now I know who NOT to vote for.
By Hillsnbells (43), Southampton on Aug 26, 17 4:24 AM
Devil's advocate - shouldn't the town board be taking their time with this decision? This is a serious development that requires an awful lot of intense study, which is apparently ongoing. One misstep by the town board could result in a lawsuit from either side. Ray has stated his position and Jay is still weighing the options. At some point in the near future the town board will vote on this project and then we'll decide whether or not to support that decision. Just my opinion, but I actually appreciate ...more
By Craigcat (258), Speonk on Aug 26, 17 11:20 AM
... five years isn't a sufficient amount of time?
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Aug 27, 17 6:59 PM
The pre-application was filed in October 2014. That was when the clock started ticking. It's called a SEQRA process. It's the law. It's the way things are run. There are milestones and requirements at every step of the way. You may not like that, but you or no other individual don't make the rules. We are complying with the law every step of the way.
By Mark Hissey (171), East Quogue on Aug 27, 17 11:41 PM
Screw the party politics, "The Hills" is a disaster in the making. Ray, you f###ed up big time , via con Dios.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Aug 26, 17 6:08 PM
Apparently this Dr. Gobbler guy agrees with Overton and says the PDD is less of an environmental impact then the as of right construction. Since he's the east end water expert that all the anti-Hills people were waiting on I guess we can all agree now that the Hills is a good thing. I'm glad to see this guy Overton show some initiative and back it.
By Gillnetter (105), Hampton Bays on Aug 28, 17 3:08 PM