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Apr 12, 2019 1:20 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Planning Board Seeks Answers From Developer Behind East Quogue Golf Proposal

Michael Bontje, president of B. Laing Associates, met with the Southampton Town Planning Board on Thursday to discuss whether a supplemental environmental impact statement is needed to proceed with a proposal to build a golf course resort in East Quogue. VALERIE GORDON
Apr 17, 2019 11:01 AM

The Southampton Town Planning Board has posed a series of questions to Arizona-based Discovery Land Company that must be answered before it decides whether an earlier environmental review of its plans for a luxury golf course resort in East Quogue is adequate for its latest application.

The Planning Board unanimously approved two resolutions last week in relation to a pre-application from the developers. The board hired a third-party consultant in January to review an environmental impact statement, or EIS, that was completed for an earlier iteration of the project, known as “The Hills at Southampton.”

Since then, the board has met with Fort-Salonga based B. Laing Associates several times to compile a list of questions to be sent to Discovery Land seeking additional information on the project.

The consulting firm’s president, Michael Bontje, said that only after receiving the developer’s response can the firm recommend whether or not a supplemental EIS will be needed to proceed with review of the project.

Additionally, the Planning Board approved a resolution to send a letter, written by Southampton Town Planner Anthony Trezza, to the Central Pine Barrens Commission in response to the group’s request for detailed information on the project.

The Planning Department's letter, written by Planner Anthony Trezza in response to the commission's request for additional information, reiterated the department's stance that the information requested is currently under review by the local municipality.

At the Planning Board’s meeting on Thursday, April 11, Mr. Trezza explained that the questions posed by the Pine Barrens Commission, regarding the project’s adherence to the Pine Barrens Protection Act and Comprehensive Land Use Plan, are addressed in the letter being sent to the applicant.

“From what I understand, there’s been a lot of heat and noise,” Mr. Bontje said. “We’re in the process of getting more information to respond to the [Pine Barrens Commission.]”

“I think they’ll be okay with this,” Mr. Trezza said of his response to the commission’s request.

The Pine Barrens Commission agreed to resend a letter, first sent in March 2018, to the Planning Board last month, seeking information about the project, specifically, whether the applicant’s revised project meets the clearing and fertilization limitations set forth in the Pine Barrens Protection Act.

Discovery Land changed several aspects of the project after failing to secure a necessary change of zone, known as a Planned Development District, from the Town Board last year.

To conform with existing zoning, known as a Planned Residential District, the developers agreed to limit the use of the proposed 18-hole golf course to only the members of the 118-unit subdivision and their non-paying guests. Originally, the golf course was intended to be open to the public by means of a private membership. Also, the developers added 10 on-site and two off-site workforce housing units to the application.

Additionally, the resort was originally intended to be used only seasonally as part of an agreement with the town. But under the current plan, the development may be open year-round—an aspect that Mr. Bontje said is the main catalyst behind his firm’s request for additional information.

Last month, he explained that the previous EIS did evaluate what he called “alternatives,” which included a subsequent environmental analysis in regard to full-time use of the resort and its facilities.

However, he said that the study “wasn’t done at the same level as the seasonal use.” For example, the alternative EIS shows only estimates in regard to school, traffic and sewage wastewater impacts. “Let’s look at it apples to apples and see where we go.”

Additionally, the letter seeks information on the environmental impact of the workforce housing units, and asks Discovery Land to explain the need for an underground parking garage.

At a previous meeting, Planing Board member Robin Long asked why the parking was needed if the golf course would be limited strictly to the subdivision’s residents.

The letter also delves into a question that’s been on the minds of those opposed to the project: Will there be a limit to the number of people who would utilize the golf course if a unit was purchased as part of an LLC or timeshare? Use of the golf course would be limited to residents of the housing development under the existing zoning, but there is a concern that a single shared unit might allow access to the course from a large number of non-resident golfers.

“That’s a question that should be answered—I think that’s valid to ask,” Mr. Bontje said. “I’m asking questions I think I already have the answers to, but I want to hear from the applicant.”

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This is the song that never ends....
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Apr 13, 19 5:31 PM