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Proposed East Quogue golf course remains a divisive issue

East Quogue residents Grace Cole, left, and Ginnie

East Quogue residents Grace Cole, left, and Ginnie Alestra look over a proposed conceptual alternative to The Hills at Southampton before the start of a public meeting on the controversial project at East Quogue Elementary School on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

More than 100 residents took sides Tuesday night at East Quogue Elementary School on a controversial proposed golf and residential development on Spinney Road in East Quogue.

The continued public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement for The Hills at Southampton — which would include a golf course, 118 residential homes and underground parking — was the third of four meetings giving residents a chance to make and submit comments on the proposed development.

Discovery Land Co., the Arizona-based developer behind the project, is proposing a zone change from residential to mixed-use planned development for the 591-acre parcel, of which 167 acres will house the proposed project.

Environmental advocates and residents opposing the project at Tuesday’s hearing cited concerns over the impact of construction on quality of life and the area’s groundwater.

Christopher Gobler, a marine biology professor at Stony Brook University, presented the Southampton Town Board with findings that the project could increase nitrogen levels into the groundwater nearby and in Shinnecock Bay.

“How many golf courses does the East End need?” said P.J. Mitchell, an East Quogue homeowner opposed to the project. “I’m sure [Discovery Land] will do good work, but frankly, I don’t care because I don’t want a golf club. I care more about my drinking water than I do about a golf club.”

Proponents of the development argued that the project could provide an economic boost to the region.

Dan Manning, an East Quogue homeowner on Spinney Road, told the board he supports the project and called Discovery Land “a responsible company” whose proposal “will bring in new business to the town.”

Mark Hissey, senior vice president of Discovery Land Co., defended the project at the meeting and said he found suggestions from audience members that residents supporting the project were getting paid to publicly support it “absolutely outrageous.”

Citing Gobler’s study, Hissey said he was open to further discussing the nitrogen findings.

“We really want to create a project here that everybody can be proud of,” Hissey said. “We have been an open book. All we want to do is to do the right thing, and we absolutely welcome his invitation to sit down and let’s make this project a success and do the right thing for the environment.”

After the meeting, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he was still considering all the information and had not come to a conclusion on the project.

The board will likely make a decision on the project around June, Schneiderman said.

The next and final public meeting on the project is at 6 p.m. on Feb. 7 at Southampton Town Hall.

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