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Officials raise concerns about proposed East Quogue development

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. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Civic leaders in East Quogue outlined their opposition to a controversial development proposal during a public meeting Saturday in advance of a Southampton Town Board hearing on the project.

The Hills at Southampton, as the development is called, would add 118 high-end homes, a golf course, an underground parking lot and other amenities to a 167-acre site in the pine barrens.

Opponents of the plan say it will imperil the region’s groundwater and ecosystem, and change the character of the area.

About 80 people came despite the snowstorm brewing Saturday morning to hear presentations on the plan by elected officials, community leaders and legal, planning and environmental specialists.

“It’s clear-cut that this is a bad project for East Quogue; it’s a bad project for the Town of Southampton, and it’s a bad project for the region,” said Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor).

“It does not fit in the character of our community,” Suffolk Legis. Bridget Fleming said.

Representatives of Discovery Land Company, the Arizona-based firm proposing the development, attended the meeting but did not speak. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Christopher Gobler, a professor of marine biology at Stony Brook University, said the proposal could increase the amount of nitrogen that seeps into the groundwater and Shinnecock Bay. Nitrogen has already damaged the local ecosystem, he said, by degrading salt marshes that protect the land from coastal flooding.

Lisa Liquori, former director of planning in East Hampton, presented an alternative proposal that she said would develop far less of the site and include less fertilized turf, among other differences with the company’s design.

Discovery Land first proposed the project in May 2013, according to Al Algieri, president of the East Quogue Civic Association, which organized the meeting.

Since then, he said the company has submitted four draft environmental impact statements, only the last of which was finally accepted as complete by the Southampton Town Board, in late 2016.

The board has not approved any other aspects of the plan so far, he said, including a zoning code exemption to build the 18-hole golf course.

The meeting Saturday was cut short before the public comment section due to the intensifying snowstorm.

The Town Board hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at East Quogue Elementary School.

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