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Vote on fate of The Hills at Southampton postponed by town board

The decision on whether to approve an environmental impact statement and a zone change for the luxury housing development now will be held on Dec. 5.

The town board said it was not ready to vote on an environmental impact statement for the proposed East Quogue housing development at a meeting at the East Quogue Elementary School on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 (Credit: Newsday/Rachelle Blidner)

The Southampton Town Board again postponed voting on the fate of a proposed luxury housing development in East Quogue on Monday after residents spent four hours debating the merits of The Hills at Southampton.

While Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he was ready for The Hills to move forward in the approval process, council members Christine Scalera and Stan Glinka said they wanted to wait until the town’s conservation board submits a final report on the 118-unit seasonal community and golf course.

Council members John Bouvier and Julie Lofstad echoed their earlier pledges to vote against the project.

The board said it will now vote on The Hills’ environmental impact statement — which typically must be a positive report for a project to go forward — on Dec. 5, when it also plans to vote on a zone change needed for Arizona-based developer Discovery Land Co. to break ground. It is the third time since September that a vote on the impact statement has been rescheduled.

About 200 people filled the East Quogue Elementary School cafeteria Monday, with about half wearing green stickers urging a “yes” vote to “Protect East Quogue.”

Speakers were greeted by applause and boos, prompting Schneiderman at one point to admonish the crowd that “this is not going to be a shouting match.”

More than half of the 80 town residents who spoke at the hearing supported the project, citing that it would potentially lower school taxes and be better for the environment than the developer’s backup plan of a 137-unit subdivision, which was recently submitted to the planning board.

Unlike The Hills, a subdivision would not be monitored by the town or have certain environmental controls, such as an onsite low-nitrogen sewage treatment plant and preservation of a nearby property with a proposed 44-unit subdivision before the planning board.

Wayne Bruyn, Southampton Village’s attorney who also represents Discovery, said the developer has gone “above and beyond” to include community benefits and environmental controls in The Hills proposal.

The Hills’ subdivision alternative would also be worse for the East Quogue school district than the resort community because it would allow full-time residents, said Steve Goodstadt, an attorney representing the district.

“If you increase the population, it will be a cataclysmic disaster for the school district as a whole,” Goodstadt said, citing that the district already sends about 400 students in grades 7 and up to the Westhampton Beach school district for $11 million a year.

Opponents of The Hills project questioned why Discovery would submit such a subdivision alternative and expressed hope that the town board would find a way to preserve the property.

“If Discovery is so concerned about the environment, why is it threatening the town in this way?” Hampton Bays resident Maria Hults asked. “We will suffer.”

Mark Hissey, a senior vice president of Discovery, said there is no way the land will go “fallow.”

“I can assure you 1 million percent that will not happen,” Hissey said. “This land is going to be developed.”

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