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Southampton delays vote on environmental impact of The Hills

East Quogue residents Grace Cole, left, and Ginnie

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

The Southampton Town Board delayed a vote Tuesday on the next step in deciding the fate of a proposed golf and residential community in East Quogue that has divided the community for at least two years.

The board tabled a vote on accepting a positive environmental impact statement on The Hills at Southampton, with three members saying they wanted more time to review the findings.

Council members Julie Lofstad and John Bouvier said they would not have approved a positive statement, citing concerns over the 118-unit development’s potential impacts on the environment and Long Island’s sole-source aquifer. They also said they do not want a decision to keep dragging on.

“I believe the public wants and deserves to know our position. We need to move forward,” Lofstad said.

A positive statement would mean the project is “approvable” and minimizes harm to the environment. A negative statement would document why the project should be denied permits, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Board members said the findings statement, prepared by consulting firms and the town’s land management department, would be used to support their final decision on the project proposal from Arizona-based developer Discovery Land Co.

The board is set to vote on the statement at an Oct. 19 board meeting, which will include a public hearing on The Hills’ zoning change application from mixed use to a planned development district.

More than 120 residents were split on the project at the nearly five-hour meeting Tuesday. Supporters said the 167-acre project planned for Spinney Road would be better for the environment than other developments, while opponents said they were concerned about unpredictable environmental impacts.

During a heated debate, Mark Hissey, Discovery’s senior vice president, criticized Lofstad and Bouvier for siding with environmental groups. Richard Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, which opposes The Hills, called on Supervisor Jay Schneiderman to resign for his handling of the project.

Discovery Land representatives said that without Hills approval they will build a subdivision on the site — which would not require a zoning change — without some currently proposed environmental controls, including land preservation and an onsite sewage treatment plant.

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