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Southampton Town Board votes 3-2 to reject The Hills project

Environmental impact study was approved, but after years of debate luxury housing community was denied over concerns about unintentional consequences, such as water pollution.

The town board did not reach a supermajority needed to approve The Hills at Southampton, a proposed luxury housing community in East Quogue, during a packed special meeting at town hall on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. (Credit: Newsday / Rachelle Blidner)

The Southampton Town Board voted down a proposed luxury housing community in East Quogue on Tuesday after years of debate.

Though the vote was 3 in favor and 2 opposed, the board did not reach the required 4-1 supermajority needed to approve a mandatory zone change for The Hills at Southampton, a proposed 118-unit seasonal golf community.

Arizona-based developer Discovery Land Co. sought to change the property from mixed-use zoning to a planned development district, a tool that grants special zoning regulations to large-scale projects in exchange for public benefits.

Discovery Land officials issued a statement later saying they “are very disappointed with today’s decision by the Southampton Town Board.” They said they had hoped the views of those against the project “could be changed at this special meeting” to see the “logic and rationale for approval of our application.”

“We really appreciate the overwhelming support of the project from the community,” the statement said.

Julie Lofstad, a Democrat who cast one of the dissenting votes, said before the vote that she was concerned that the project would have been in the aquifer overlay district and could have had unforeseen consequences, such as groundwater pollution.

“This project could have been a good one if sited in a less sensitive location, but it’s not a good project in this location,” she said.

Christine Scalera said she did not want to rule based on speculation of what could happen and noted that a planned development district would have given the town long-term monitoring authority over the project.

“Voting no is not in the best interest of the community and surrounding town,” Scalera said before the vote.

Supporters of The Hills said they had looked forward to lower school taxes and an influx of jobs and shoppers.

“East Quogue residents will be disappointed for a while because we all wanted this to work out,” said Heather Girgenti said. “We want the future of East Quogue to be lucrative and to have a great economic standing.”

More than 100 people packed Town Hall for the meeting, with residents and board members speaking for or against the project. More than half of residents supported The Hills.

Opponents gave standing ovations to Lofstad and John Bouvier, who cast the other no vote.

“Congratulations. I think you beat the bad guys,” Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, which opposed the project, told the board before the vote.

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Council member Stan Glinka said they supported the project because it would be better for the environmentally-sensitive property than the 137-unit subdivision that Discovery has proposed as a backup plan.

Discovery officials have said the subdivision would not include the community benefits pledged for The Hills, such as more than 450 preserved acres and an on-site low-nitrogen wastewater treatment.

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