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Jun 27, 2019 4:41 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Planning Board Deems Discovery Land Golf Course Application Complete

The Southampton Town Planning Board met with Michael Bontje of B. Laing Associates on Thursday to discuss the golf course application. VALERIE GORDON
Jun 28, 2019 3:44 PM

The Southampton Town Planning Board has unanimously agreed that a supplemental environmental review is not required to move forward with consideration of a proposal to build a luxury golf course resort in East Quogue.

Based on an analysis of a previous environmental impact statement conducted under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the board’s consultant, Michael Bontje of Fort Salonga-based B. Laing Associates, recommended that the board use the information supplied in the original EIS to move forward with the latest application.

He stressed that the board can request any further information not detailed in the existing EIS upon its review and approval of a subdivision application.

The next step is for the Planning Board to forward the application, in its entirety, to the New York State Central Pine Barrens Commission, which reaffirmed its jurisdiction over the project in May.

The commission will determine whether the project complies with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan—which was put in place to enforce the Pine Barrens Protection Act.

Mr. Bontje was hired by the Planning Board in January to determine whether an additional environmental review of the project—proposed by developer, Arizona-based Discovery Land Company—was necessary based on a number of changes to the original application.

Originally, the developers had sought a change of zone, known as a planned development district, for a similar iteration of the proposed project—known then as The Hills at Southampton—which called for a 118-unit seasonal subdivision, and an 18-hole private membership golf course.

After the Town Board denied the application in 2017, Discovery Land revised the project, limiting the golf course to use only by residents of the subdivision and their non-paying guests, saying it qualified as an accessory use, similar to a neighborhood tennis court.

Additionally, they included 12 workforce housing units, two of which were originally proposed off site. However, at the Planning Board meeting on Thursday, the members agreed that in order to approve the application, they would request that the applicant include those two on site as well.

After meeting with the Planning Board on several occasions, Mr. Bontje suggested in April that the board seek additional information about the project from the applicant, including the potential environmental impacts the development would have should it be converted from a seasonal residence to a full-time community.

Discovery Land’s attorney, Steven Barshov of New York City-based Sive, Paget & Riesel, replied that his client had no intention of complying with the Planning Board’s request to provide a detailed analysis pertaining to scenario where the property might be used for full-time residences instead, calling it beyond the scope of the board’s jurisdiction under SEQRA. He also stressed that the developer had no intention of allowing full-time residency.

However, at last week’s meeting, Mr. Bontje explained that in a separate response—prepared by Charles Voorhis of Nelson Pope & Voorhis, who is also representing the developer—the applicant supplied information that allowed Mr. Bontje to analyze the environmental impacts of year-round residency.

He pointed to the previous EIS, approved by the Southampton Town Board in November 2017, which includes an “alternative” review, including 118 full-time units and an 18-hole golf course, but no workforce housing.

Based on that review, Mr. Bontje estimated that the neighboring school districts could potentially see an influx of approximately 133 to 140 students if the houses were used as primary residences—which includes the two to three additional students expected to come from the workforce housing units.

Additionally, he agreed with Mr. Voorhis’s assessment that, when compared to The Hills, the applicant’s revised project, with the elimination of the private membership golf course, ultimately would result in less traffic.

According to a trip generation comparison, completed as part of an “alternative” plan, weekday morning traffic is expected to decrease from 63 to 31 vehicles per hour, weekday evening traffic is expected to decrease from 103 to 39 vehicles per hour, and Saturday traffic is expected to decrease from 125 to 51.

However, Mr. Bontje added that the assessment was done in March and suggested that the Planning Board, as part of its subdivision application approval process, request that the applicant update the analysis to reflect summer traffic.

The last major component to determining whether an additional environmental review was needed in order to move forward with the project was the development’s nitrogen impact on groundwater.

A previous SONIR modeling analysis, completed as part of the previous EIS, assumed a 10 mg/L nitrogen effluent—meaning approximately 10 percent of the nitrogen used to maintain the proposed golf course would reach the groundwater.

However, at Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Bontje said that recent studies have argued that effluent levels can potentially reach levels of 30 mg/L.

Using a conservative number of 20 mg/L, Mr. Bontje adjusted the SONIR analysis and concluded that roughly 2,200 pounds of nitrogen would be loaded onto the site seasonally to maintain the golf course—still below the EPA standard of 1 part per billion.

The original analysis estimated those nitrogen levels to be closer to 1,238 pounds annually.

Based on the adjusted numbers—and taking into consideration the applicant’s Storm Water Prevention Plan and Integrated Turf Health Management Plan to install polyethylene liners beneath the golf course greens to capture drainage water to be reused for irrigation—Mr. Bontje estimated that roughly 2.4 mg/L of nitrogen would impact the groundwater on an annual basis.

For context, the State Department of Environmental Conservation nitrogen limit is 2.5 mg/L.

Mr. Bontje suggested that the Planning Board, as part of their subdivision approval, require a more detailed analysis of those impacts, particularly near the southern edge of the proposed golf course, which he said is roughly 200 feet from Weesuck Creek.

The land use plan provides a breakdown for clearing limits based on the zoning and square footage of a proposed project, as well as limits fertilization to no more than 15 percent of an entire development site.

The proposed 78-acre golf course, as well as an additional 11.07 acres of proposed fertilized land, just barely exceeds that limit, at 15.07 percent, according to a draft analysis previously provided by Long Island Pine Barrens Society Executive Director Dick Amper.

Additional factors include the project’s effect on the pine barrens slope, as well as the impact the development would have on the various endangered plant and wildlife species native to the area.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, at Southampton Town Hall to hear and address concerns from the public regarding the application.

In the meantime, at its meeting on Thursday, the Planning Board officially deemed the application complete and adopted a findings statement—the first step in the pre-application phase.

“The application is complete—it can move forward,” Planning Board Chairwoman Jacqui Lofaro said.

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