A unanimous decision by the Southampton Town Board to change the zoning on 915 acres of undeveloped land in East Quogue—the majority of which is located north of Montauk Highway—has saved the character of the hamlet, according to Al Algieri, president of the East Quogue Civic Association.
The zone changes that were codified by the Town Board last week increase the zoning restrictions on the land from 2- and 3-acre residential zoning to 5-acre residential zoning, significantly limiting the amount of future development that can occur in the hamlet.
The action preserves land and reduces the potential build-out because the zoning designation determines how many houses can be constructed on a given parcel. For example, a lot previously zoned 2-acre residential could accommodate one home on every 2 acres. Now, at least 5 acres will be needed to construct a single home, according to the adopted legislation.
According to Town Planning and Development Administrator Jefferson Murphree, the upzoning drops the number of potential units that could be built on the 915 acres from 390 to 321, a reduction of nearly 70 units.
Along with decreasing the number of developments, the zoning changes will protect natural resources, such as the area’s groundwater, and environmentally sensitive parcels located within the Central Pine Barrens, according to local civic leaders and legislators.
The 915 acres targeted by the legislation are bordered on the southwest by Lewis Road and on the southeast by the Long Island Rail Road tracks. Triangular-shaped, the northern tip of the acreage is the midway point between the railroad tracks and Sunrise Highway. Before the Town Board’s action last week, about 300 of the 915 acres were designated as 2-acre zoning, while the remaining 600 acres were classified as 3-acre zoning.
The Bohemia-based consulting firm Allee, King, Rosen and Fleming—commissioned by the Town Board in March 2006 to conduct an environmental study of the hamlet at a cost of $250,000—recommended the bump up in zoning. That study ran concurrent with the East Quogue moratorium that covered some 4,182 acres. That building ban lasted just over two years, beginning in April 2006 and expiring this past August.
But not everyone was happy with the Town Board’s vote. Randall Weichbrodt, an East Quogue attorney representing various property owners in the targeted area, said the change of zoning was unnecessary. He noted that about one-third of the acreage had already been preserved through the Pine Barrens Act.
Additionally, Mr. Weichbrodt argued that the increase in the zoning requirement would make the land unaffordable for most residents because 5 acres would now need to be purchased in order to build a house. “No fireman is going to be able to afford 5 acres in East Quogue,” he said.
Jodi Giglio, owner of the “The Links” property, some 150 acres of undeveloped land running from the railroad tracks north to Sunrise Highway, complained to the Town Board that the upzoning reduced her development potential from 49 lots to 29. Original plans for Ms. Giglio’s property included an 18-hole golf course as well residential housing.
But Joan Hughes, chairwoman of the East Quogue Citizens Advisory Committee, sees things differently. “Upzoning these parcels is the keystone to saving East Quogue,” she said, adding the changes would benefit the school district, which spends about $18,000 per student.
Ms. Hughes noted that the construction of fewer homes will mean that fewer children will have to attend East Quogue Elementary School, which is a feeder district to the Westhampton Beach School District. “We can’t continue to absorb future development,” she said.