As expected, the Southampton Town Board on Tuesday extended the East Quogue moratorium by three months, allowing more time for the completion of a review of an environmental study that examines how the hamlet will be affected by future growth.
The moratorium covers an estimated area of 4,182 acres in the hamlet and was set to expire May 11. It will now last until August 11. This the fourth extension of the moratorium since it was first enacted in April 2006.
The environmental review, called a Generic Environmental Impact Study, or GEIS, has not been warmly received by hamlet residents, developers and environmentalists. The Town Board held off on adopting the study and adjourned the public hearing until May 13.
Originally enacted to address concerns of possible future overdevelopment of the area, the moratorium has stalled the plans of developers who are now growing impatient.
Wayne Steck, developer of the 146-acre Links property, whose plans include residential units and a private golf course, said he was willing to work within the guidelines of the study but asked the town to expedite the process. Mr. Steck said he has suffered significant financial hardship while waiting for his application to be accepted.
“I’m a developer,” Mr. Steck said. “This is how I support my family.”
Over the course of four years, Mr. Steck said the taxes on his property increased from $85,000 to $400,000, while he has waited to begin work on his development. “I will abide by the study,” he said to the board, “but please approve my application.”
Al Algieri, president of the East Quogue Civic Association, asked the board to move ahead with the purchase of the development rights to the Densieski farm—which is a priority to East Quogue residents. The 300-acre property is at the intersection of County Road 104 and Lewis Road and serves as scenic gateway to the hamlet.
Attorney Joseph R. Attonito of Smithtown, who represents the Densieski family, said the town had not shown good faith in purchasing the development rights to his clients’ land. Mr. Attonito said the Densieski farm was the last major farm left in the community and that the family desired it to stay that way.
“My clients could have sold this land for a lot of money,” he said, “but they wanted to preserve it as a working farm. Now, the town should do its share.”
If the town purchases the development rights with preservation funds, the Densieskis would continue to own the land and be able to farm it, though they would be unable to develop it themselves or sell it to a developer.
Mr. Algieri also expressed concern over the environmental impacts of future growth, such as the proposed golf course, and said further analysis was required to guarantee the health of the sensitive pine barrens.
Joan Hughes, another hamlet resident and member of the civic association, voiced that same concern and questioned whether the environmental study called for the preservation of enough land.
Attorney Wayne Bruyn, who represents the owner of Rosko Farms, said his client’s development proposes only one unit per 4 acres. Mr. Bruyn’s client, Constantine Rosko, originally planned to construct 14 houses on 57 acres. That proposal was stalled by the moratorium. Mr. Rosko has since altered his plans to now build only eight units, thus saving more land.
This change is one reason why the Town Board granted Mr. Bruyn’s client an opportunity to seek an exemption to the moratorium. A hearing on that proposal has been set for May 13.
The Rosko property—located north of the Long Island Rail Road and south of Sunrise Highway—includes critical areas of the pine barrens that will not be affected by the development, according to the proposal. In March 2006, the project was approved by the Town Planning Board and in April 2007 it received the blessing of the Suffolk County Department of Health. Additionally, the town’s Department of Land Management recently determined that Mr. Rosko’s project contained adequate information to be considered for an exemption.
Another concerned citizen, Larry Oxman, said the lack of attention paid to affordable housing was a flaw in the study. He said only a few sentences mentioned the issue. Mr. Algieri also expressed concern that the proposed golf course development on the Links property, which includes a clubhouse and residential units, does not include workforce housing.
The study identifies important elements in the area’s natural resources and takes into account the historical setting and character of East Quogue so these factors are not lost in future development.