The developers behind a proposal that would bring an 18-hole golf course and dozens of new luxury, second homes to East Quogue rolled out a new plan last Thursday night, February 6, which now calls for the construction 36 additional residential units in exchange for preserving a swath of wooded land to the east.
The announcement, which came about 45 minutes into a informational hearing hosted by those behind the proposed The Hills at Southampton project, caught some of the estimated 60 community members by surprise, with a few noting that the revised plan—which now proposes the construction of 118 residential units, and not the 82 as originally pitched—is much different from the pre-application approved last month by the Southampton Town Board.
Those changes, and the associated benefits of the modified proposal, did not sway the opinions of those residents who were steadfastly against the proposal, like Billy Kearns, who said he hardly recognized the plan discussed last Thursday night, which seeks to develop 436 acres in East Quogue.
“This project changes on a weekly basis,” Mr. Kearns said. “The current addition of potentially 36 new homes into the project is ridiculous, and I think there’s nothing static about this project—it’s always changing.
“I don’t think it’s a positive development for East Quogue,” he continued. “It’s detrimental to the water, it’s detrimental to the Pine Barrens.”
Mr. Kearns went as far as to say that the developers pulled a “bait-and-switch” on both the Town Board and community by securing board approval for the pre-application on the 82-unit plan in mid-January and then significantly altering the proposal less than a month later.
Wayne Bruyn, the attorney representing the East Quogue Group LLC, which owns the 436 acres, said the town’s application process for planned development districts, or PDDs, is designed to be fluid so changes can be made to fit the interests of the town, the developer and residents. So while the proposal has been modified, Mr. Bruyn added, it is within the developers’ rights to do so.
East Quogue Civic Association President Al Algieri, who has long opposed the project, also said he still isn’t sold on the idea or the recent changes. Specifically, he said he is concerned that the proposed 33,000-square-foot clubhouse and restaurant, despite the assurances to the contrary by the developers, could still be used as a catering facility. Mr. Algieri also said he is concerned about the increase in traffic that the homes and golf course would generate, even though most of that would be generated by those who own the multimillion-dollar homes and have access to the golf course.
“There’s a lot of things they have to substantiate—period,” Mr. Algieri said. “And that’s going to be the process. “They covered everything they could by statements, not facts. When the real process comes in, they’ll have to do a [Generic Environmental Impact Statement], they’ll do a traffic study. I think the traffic study will be the biggest part—because there’s one lane in and one lane out.”
Charles “Chick” Voorhis, an environmental planning consultant with Melville-based Nelson, Pope and Voorhis LLC hired by the would-be developers, the Discovery Land Company and East Quogue Group, explained to those gathered in the East Quogue Elementary School auditorium last week that his clients plan to buy two more properties in the hamlet and transfer their development rights to the estimated 436 acres that they already own. The two partners are collectively known as DLV Quogue, which is the name that is listed on the pre-application for the Mixed-Use Planned Development District, or MUPDD, that is being sought for the new development.
The first additional property, a 62-acre plot that sits to the west and abuts the DLV Quogue land, is owned by the Kracke family and would be used to house an entry road into the new development. Currently, the land is zoned residential and can accommodate up to a dozen single-family homes.
The second property measures approximately 94 acres and sits about a half mile east of The Hills property, and was once part of the Parlato family’s proposed Atlanticville subdivision. Up to two dozen single-family homes could be constructed on that undisturbed property, according to current zoning.
The main 436-acre property, which is already owned by DLV Quogue, is partially disturbed and extends from the intersection of Lewis and Spinney roads north and crosses Sunrise Highway. If the MUPDD is ultimately approved by a super-majority of the Southampton Town Board, the Parlato property would be preserved in perpetuity, according to Ed Divita, the senior development and construction manager for Discovery Land Company, the primary partner behind DLV Quogue.
The purpose behind acquiring the Kracke property is to quell concerns about traffic congestion near Lewis and Spinney roads, Mr. Voorhis explained, citing the complaints many residents raised about the area’s existing traffic problems, particularly in the summer months, during the project’s pre-application public hearings in front of the Town Board last year. The preservation of the Parlato property is meant to address claims that the MUPDD’s pre-application did not provide enough of a public benefit, which is a requirement under the town’s laws regulating PDDs.
“We heard all the public input, and we developed a plan that we believe includes a good deal of that … that looks at the overall area more comprehensively,” Mr. Voorhis said. “What you’ll notice is the basic plan is almost identical to the original plan. However, this time we are contracted to buy additional lands that would be preserved for open space purposes.”
But, as pointed out by several audience members, the proposed land acquisitions would not be entirely altruistic, as DLV Quogue also would transfer the development rights from both properties to the larger parcel that it currently owns. The Kracke property has a development yield of 12 houses, while the Parlato property has a yield of 24—raising the total number of proposed houses in the development from 82 to 118.
Without an approved MUPDD, DLV Quogue can build 82 single-family homes as of right on the main property, most of which would be clustered on approximately 1- to 2-acre lots. But the MUPDD would allow the Town Board to add conditions for approval, including environmental regulations, that would not be available if the property were developed according to current zoning. Likewise, the MUPDD requires a community benefit, which can be negotiated as part of the approval process.
The Scottsdale, Arizona-based Discovery Land Company took the lead on The Hills project in 2011, shortly after being approached by the East Quogue Group LLC, the original owner of The Hills property and the group that pushed a failed PDD bid in 2009.
Last Thursday night’s informational meeting was the first of its kind since the developers received approval from the Town Board in January to submit a final application. During the nearly two-and-a-half-hour meeting, representatives from Discovery Land Company introduced themselves and the work that they’ve done at the 13 other luxury communities they’ve constructed throughout North America, including those in Los Cabos, Mexico, Whitefish, Montana, and Kohala, Hawaii.
“Each is respectful and bases itself on the historical and cultural aspects of each community,” Discovery Land partner Steve Adelson said, referring to his firm’s other completed projects. “We feel that there’s an innate spirit in land, so we feel it’s important to capture that—combining the environmental components along with combining the rich cultural history.”
The pre-application is also projecting that the luxury home and golf course development would generate almost $3.6 million in new annual school taxes, without adding any students to the East Quogue School District. Still, many in the audience were skeptical as to whether the developers could honor that promise, citing other subdivisions in the hamlet that ended up adding children to the district.
Mr. Divita explained that his company’s houses would come with restrictive covenants that would prevent residents from using the homes as their primary residences, and also restrict the amount of time they could spend in the homes during fall, winter and spring months. These restrictions would be monitored by those who manage the property year-round on behalf of the company. Mr. Adelson also noted that a condition of the deeds on the houses would prevent them from being rented out by their owners.
Mr. Divita also offered up a bevy of potential community benefits that could be added to the final PDD application, which has not yet been filed with the town, including the installation of sidewalks along Lewis Road to allow children to walk to school more safely, an on-site wastewater treatment facility for the new development and sponsoring a comprehensive study of the troubled Weesuck Creek watershed.
Donna Lanzetta, the president of the East Quogue Chamber of Commerce and a staunch advocate for The Hills, said the meeting gave the community an opportunity to see how open the developers are addressing their questions and concerns. Her organization helped coordinate the informational forum, which was moderated by East Quogue Elementary School Principal Robert Long and Frank Costanza, the editor of The Southampton Press Western Edition.
“We’re just beginning the process of talking about some things, community benefits that will come out of this development,” Ms. Lanzetta said. “I think, in the long run, it’s going to be good for our community. I really do believe that.”