Southampton Town Board Pushes Votes On The Hills Findings Statement And PDD To December

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A vote on the findings statement for The Hills at Southampton golf course resort development in East Quogue—the last hurdle before the Southampton Town Board can take action on the application itself—was pushed off for the second time in as many months on Monday night, with the board’s two Republican members saying the document is incomplete.

Board members now are scheduled to vote to accept the findings statement, the last step in a required state environmental review, at a special meeting at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, December 5, at Southampton Town Hall. At the same meeting, they also are expected to vote on the formal application, which requires the approval of special zoning called a planned development district. The findings statement needs only a majority vote to be approved, while the PDD application requires the support of four Town Board members, known as a supermajority.

At Monday’s hearing, for the first time, representatives of the East Quogue School District offered their opinion of the project, urging Town Board members to approve the PDD, saying that they preferred that option over another large subdivision.

Steven A. Goodstadt, an attorney at Ingerman Smith LLP in Hauppauge, who represents the school district, stated its position that the golf course community would have the least impact on the school.

“If the school population is forced to increase, it will hurt the facility, it will hurt the staff, and most of all it will hurt the students,” Mr. Goodstadt said.

Monday’s vote was tabled at the request of Councilwoman Christine Scalera and Councilman Stan Glinka. The Republican board members asserted that the findings statement was not complete because it did not include comments from all required interested parties—a list that includes the Suffolk County Planning Commission, the Pine Barrens Commission, and the Southampton Town Planning Board and Conservation Board.

Both the county’s Planning Commission and the town’s Planning Board have supported the project—albeit with some conditions related to its potential impact on the environment—while the Pine Barrens Commission declined to make a recommendation until the application was formally in front of its board. The town’s Conservation Board has yet to offer its opinion; it has until Wednesday, November 22, to send its comments for consideration.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Councilwoman Julie Lofstad and Councilman John Bouvier all said they were prepared to vote on the findings statement on Monday night. Mr. Schneiderman said he planned to vote in favor, while Mr. Bouvier and Ms. Lofstad planned to vote against the document, citing concerns with its potential environmental impacts. The two also are considered “no” votes on the PDD application, which would be enough to kill it.

The developer, Arizona-based Discovery Land Company is seeking permission from the Town Board for a PDD, a special change of zone, to build the 18-hole private golf course and 118 luxury houses.

The findings statement vote had already been postponed once in October due to the developer’s failure to properly notify the community. It was the responsibility of the applicant, Discovery Land Company, to post signs and mail notices to the community at least 14 days before that hearing, which had been scheduled for a special meeting on October 19 at the East Quogue Elementary School. But in a letter sent to board members a few days before the scheduled meeting from the developer’s attorneys, it was revealed that the developers had failed to notice the hearing on time.

Wayne Bruyn, an attorney with O’Shea, Marcincuk and Bruyn LLP in Southampton, who is representing Discovery Land Company, acknowledged the firm’s mistake regarding notice of the earlier hearing.

“I want to apologize to the Town Board both personally and professionally,” Mr. Bruyn said on Monday from the podium while standing before board members and approximately 200 attendees. “The public hearing previously scheduled for October 19, our office failed to get the over 1,200 mailings prepared in time to get that out, and it caused the adjournment of this hearing.”

He also stated that the board should approve his client’s project, noting that the developer took all of the recommendations made during previous public hearings and applied them to its proposal.

At the hearing on Monday, speakers both for and against the proposal spoke, as they have at earlier hearings and other discussions of the project. But at least one new entity was heard from.

As Mr. Goodstadt addressed the Town Board on behalf of East Quogue School District officials, Superintendent Robert Long and a few members of the School Board—including President Chris Hudson, Vice President Jessica Stalters and member Brian Babcock—stood behind him.

Mr. Goodstadt said the addition of more students to the school would be a “cataclysmic disaster” for the district.

Under the PDD proposal, homeowners would be asked to sign a covenant that says The Hills is a seasonal community—thus preventing homeowners from establishing it as their primary residence, and enrolling children in the school.

The as-of-right subdivision—which calls for 137 units and a clubhouse with sports fields but no golf course—would not have such a covenant, meaning that more children could enroll at the elementary school as a result.

Until Monday night, Mr. Long and the School Board had remained tight-lipped about the project, noting only that they were paying close attention to the application and its potential impacts on their school.

Under the PDD proposal the school district would receive a number of benefits from the developer, including a $500,000 cash donation, student scholarships and added tax revenue from the development.

In 2015, Mr. Long put his signature on a letter from Discovery Land Company to acknowledge that he is aware of the potential benefits to the school. At the time, Mr. Long stressed that the signed statement was not meant to be an indication of the district’s support for the project.

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