Golf resort

September hearing set for Discovery’s East Quogue golf resort plan

Renamed the Lewis Road Residential Planned Development, Discovery Land Company’s East Quogue golf resort plan will be released to the public next month as naysayers continue to explore litigation.

Southampton Planning Council last week voted 5-0, with one abstention and one member, Chair Jacqui Lofaro, absent, to judge the applications complete and schedule public hearings on parallel site plans and subdivision reviews.

Glorian Berk, who abstained, was the only member to make dissenting comments. She and Lofaro both voted against preliminary approval of The Hills, a previous iteration of the project, in 2019. Board Vice Chairman Dennis Finnerty voted in favor of the proposal. The other board members have been appointed since that vote.

“I’ve been struggling with this for the past week,” Berk said during the Aug. 11 vote. “I don’t really know what I’m voting to approve.”

The veteran was talking about the number of times the application had been reviewed. Although she said she was not opposed to the public having the opportunity to intervene and wanted to receive their comments, she wanted to have a clearer picture of how the app has changed since its inception. .

Discovery Land Company wants to build 118 housing units, a private 18-hole golf course and other private recreational facilities on 608.45 acres of land, in the Central Pine Barrens Overlay District and the Aquifer Protection Overlay District in East Quogue. The site is north and east of Lewis Road near Spinney Road, extending north to Sunrise Highway and then beyond.

Approval of the preliminary subdivision plan in 2019 was the subject of litigation by environmentalists, as was a zoning appeal board ruling that an 18-hole golf course was considered a use. “accessory” to residential development. The lawsuits were dismissed.

Addressing the petitioners – including State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., the Pine Barrens Society, the East End Group, as well as a handful of East Quogue neighbors – Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge Carmen Victoria St. George determined that they lacked standing to sue.

For the judge, the notion of standing rests on the ability to demonstrate that the approval or determination of the ZBA would cause “direct” harm to litigants.

“The plaintiffs are currently pursuing a review of the (ongoing) dismissal before the Appeal Division – pending the outcome of that review, we may be back in the lower court on the merits of the original case,” Group for the East End chairman Robert DeLuca said this week. “The outcome of any subsequent review on the merits may also require appellate review, but that cannot yet be determined.

“Having said that, we are prepared to engage the final submissions of the claimant as they currently exist before the Planning Board at the next public hearing,” he added.

Opponents argue that there is no designated lead agency for the action under the state Environmental Quality Review Act, nor a coordinated review, nor a determination required importance defining the level of potential environmental impact of new applications. The original SEQRA review of The Hills project is used and supplemented to include new information for the current application.

“These steps are essential requirements of the environmental review process because they ensure transparency, disclosure and consideration of alternative designs, yet they are being ignored,” DeLuca said.

Ed Romaine, a member of the Central Pine Barrens Commission and supervisor for the town of Brookhaven, made a similar argument when that body considered it in 2020 in a process marked by multiple adjournments, continuations and revisions to the application. It was finally approved in January 2021, with Romaine as the only dissenting voice.

The commission consisted of Romaine, plus Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and Dorian Dale, acting on behalf of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. At the time of the vote, it was missing one member, its president, Carrie Meek Gallagher, who then represented Governor Andrew Cuomo, having left the position for a promotion to the post of executive deputy commissioner of the Department of State for the conservation of the environment.

Opponents – including Romaine – have argued that once a project has been substantially revised, it must undergo a new review under SEQRA. Colleagues on the commission disagreed, concluding that the changes to the plan were not substantial enough to warrant reapplying.

The Hills, said Romaine, “was a totally different project.”

Schneiderman agreed that a lot has changed from one iteration to the next. But those things that changed lessened the environmental impact of the original plan, he claimed during the committee’s vote.

“At this point, developers and, unfortunately, some city employees continue to disregard the unambiguous requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), returning continually to a pre-COVID environmental review undertaken years ago, for a different application, with different density, different design, different review standards and different environmental mitigation,” DeLuca said this week.

“Speaking from nearly 40 years of experience as a practitioner and teacher of the local land use process, I don’t think there is any doubt, but the city is simply scared because of the frivolous claim and irresponsible $100 million filed against it by Discovery Land, after it lost its original bid for a zone change,” DeLuca continued.

“Unfortunately, the city appears to have decided it was best to forgo the value of a public review process as an acceptable compromise in its attempt to appease developers,” he said.

He continued: ‘It is not lost on us that after months of inactivity, when the Chairman of the Planning Council was out of town, developers reappeared and rushed to get a public hearing. , immediately after the Labor Day holiday, and start the clock on a final decision. It should also be noted that several current members of the recently reconfigured Planning Council have little experience with this complex proposal. »

Berk raised the same concern, wondering how new members could learn and digest the sheer volume of complicated information provided throughout the project’s history, a story she, Lofaro, and Finnerty have experienced.

To bring new members up to speed, representatives from Discovery Land appeared at a Planning Council business session in July, with a presentation that Berk criticized as similar to a marketing tool.

“We’re about to have a full application,” Clare Shea, deputy planning director, said during the preview given by attorney Wayne Bruyn and Carrie O’Farrell of the land use society. lands Nelson, Pope and Voorhis on July 28.

“I believe we’re there,” Bruyn offered. Since the previous version, the project has been modified to provide additional protection to the environment and significant mitigation of potential environmental impacts, he said. “It’s more of a positive application,” the lawyer said.

The changes to the plan are “very good for the environment,” O’Farrell said. They result in what she called a “more compact development”, with greater preservation of adjoining open spaces. She predicted that the completed project will have a different look and feel to the classic emerald green golf course and sprawling residences.

Residential units have been grouped more closely together and the course holes have been moved to provide more open space – 433 acres of it, O’Farrell reported. While the overall size of the property has increased by 20 acres since the previous approval, the applicant is not asking for any additional yield of units — he could have four more depending on city code.

The required 12 workforce housing units would be available to anyone who goes through the city’s affordable housing process, Bruyn said.

The members of the Pine Barrens Commission were not satisfied with the proximity of the labor units to the proposed treatment plant. It was moved, but still nearby.

Discovery Land will build eight condominiums, with owners building their own individual homes. The final approval request breaks down the 118 units into: eight lodges, 15 village chalets, 53 village lots, 16 village estates and 26 woodland estates, plus the additional 12 workforce housing units. A homeowners association will have a say in the construction of individual homes before applying to the city for building permits.

Responding to Berk’s reluctance to vote for the public hearing and consider the application complete when released on August 11, Shea noted that the question on the table was whether the applicant had provided enough information to that the council analyzes the project.

“The staff tells you that we have submitted all the required information,” explained Charles “Chic” Voorhis, of Nelson, Pope, Voorhis. “We feel ready to come back with a detailed presentation for the public,” he said, adding that the planners “beat us pretty well.”

Public hearings will take place on September 8.

Opponents will watch.

“Of course, we will continue to fully participate in the administrative opportunities that still exist and lay the groundwork for future legal review of this entire debacle,” DeLuca said, “but it is deeply unfortunate that the general public must constantly monitor their local government to ensure that environmental protections and processes long established by law are followed.

“Bad policy leads to bad outcomes, and this review is one of the worst we’ve ever seen.”