Occupancy Restrictions Offered On Proposed Golf Course Development In East Quogue

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Representatives of the developers who want to build a golf course and accompanying housing complex in East Quogue told Town Board members and area residents Tuesday that they would offer occupancy restrictions that would essentially guarantee that no children from the development, if approved, would go to area schools.

Attorney Wayne Bruyn, speaking for the owners of Discovery Land Company, said his clients would offer occupancy restrictions of the 82 units that would be built around the 18-hole golf course. They would limit the number of days that the residences could be occupied between October and April to ensure that owners cannot use the units as a year-round residences and register students in local schools.

Their proposal, Mr. Bruyn and development consultant Chic Voorhis said, would not bring any of the potential for additional costs to the East Quogue and Westhampton Beach school districts, that latter being the sending district for East Quogue’s middle and high school students, that 82 single-family homes would carry. Current zoning allows for those homes to be built on more than 430 acres. Their proposal would generate an estimated $4.4 million in annual tax revenues, of which $3.5 million would go to the East Quogue School District, according to the consultants.

As they had at a previous pre-application hearing on the plan, several residents and business owners spoke in favor of allowing the Planned Development District to go forward, both for the tax revenues and job benefits.

“As a business owner, when we see a project of this scale that would bring well-heeled people into our community, it’s kind of exciting,” said Catherine Seeliger. “As an East Quogue mom, I have four children in the school district and I know first-hand what is affecting the district right now … If we can get an extra $3.5 million toward the school budget every year, this is a perfect opportunity.”

The impact of the development on school taxes has been one of the two main topics of discussion surrounding the proposal. The other is potential environmental impacts of developing the property, which was again discussed on Tuesday.

Pointing to ongoing issues with local water quality and the environment, critics said it would be foolish for the town to approve a golf course. Many asked the town to preserve the land using Community Preservation Fund money.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the town has tried on numerous occasions to ink a deal to preserve the land but has been stymied by high property values, restrictions on how much the town can pay for land under the CPF, and refusals from the county and state to partner in a purchase effort.

“This Town Board did pursue the conservation options here,” she said. “We have very little leeway as to what we can offer to the developer in the pursuit of conservation.”

Ms. Throne-Holst added that efforts to put together a deal for the preservation of all or part of the land are ongoing but, in the meantime, the board remains concerned with ensuring that the development’s impacts be minimized as much as possible if it does go forward.

Councilman Chris Nuzzi said that allowing the PDD application to advance could even help the efforts to spur partnerships with the town in pursuit of the property’s preservation.

In the last two years scientists from Stony Brook University have made direct links between burgeoning blooms of destructive algae and residential development. In discussing the chronic problems seen in Quantuck and western Shinnecock Bay, Dr. Christopher Gobler, a Stony Brook professor and one of the nation’s leading experts on the harmful blooms, has pointed repeatedly to the importance of preserving the property and a similarly sized neighboring parcel from development. On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Gobler reiterated his warnings to the board in person.

“We’re pouring money in and our students are putting in a huge effort to make things better,” Dr. Gobler said. “If the decision is made to let this go forward, we know it’s going to make these things worse.”

Mr. Voorhis, an engineer for Nelson Pope & Voorhis, said that in addition to the tax benefits, the proposed development, known as “The Hills at Southampton,” would pave the way for stringent and detailed controls of designs and accommodations for sewage treatment, clearing limits and fertilization controls.

“You’re much better off with this PDD than with an 82-lot subdivision,” Mr. Voorhis said. “And it can only become better.”

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