The 18-hole golf course would sit on 91 acres of the nearly 600-acre parcel property and be developed by Discovery Land Company. Town officials continue to debate if building the course would violate Southampton Town zoning codes.
The Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) said September 6th that it will make a decision on November 15 regarding whether a proposed 18-hole golf course should be allowed to be built as a recreational amenity to a residential housing complex in East Quogue, reported The South Hampton Press.
Additionally, the five board members who were present at the meeting agreed to extend the date for written comments from both supporters and opponents of the project, until Thursday, September 27, at 3 p.m.
Originally, at the ZBA’s first meeting on July 19, the board said it planned to stop accepting written comments on August 24, reported the Press.
However, much to the frustration of Wayne Bruyn, an attorney with Southampton-based O’Shea Marcincuk & Bruyn LLP, who is representing the developer, Arizona-based Discovery Land Company, the ZBA accepted at least a dozen submissions on Thursday—more than a month after the predetermined deadline, the Press reported.
When reached on Friday morning, ZBA Chairman Adam Grossman said that the board never intended for August 24 to be a final date for comments; it was intended as a courtesy date for the attorneys related to the project to submit their documentation by, so that the board would have ample time to review the submissions before the meeting, the Press reported.
However, he added that as of September 27, the board will no longer be accepting any form of documentation in relation to the golf course application.
Mr. Grossman added that the extra time allows anyone from the community to let their voices be heard, reported the Press.
“It’s a rather complicated application,” he said. “It’s going to take some time to go through everything and figure out exactly what we’re going to do.”
One of those who submitted comments on Thursday was project opponent Carolyn Zenk, a Hampton Bays-based environmental attorney and former Southampton Town Board member, who has repeatedly argued that the developer’s proposal is in violation of the Southampton Town zoning code, the Press reported.
Discovery Land’s current proposal comes after the Town Board rejected a similar plan, known as “The Hills at Southampton,” which fell one vote short of a supermajority needed for a special change of zone called a planned development district, or PDD, reported the Press.
Now, Discovery Land is insisting that it can build its development, including the golf course, without securing a change of zone. The company points to a little-used portion of the town code—a planned residential district, or PRD—that permits the addition of certain recreational amenities, such as tennis courts, in residential neighborhoods, reported the Press. Discovery Land maintains that a golf course used only by residents of the development’s planned 118 units is comparable to other recreational amenities and thus permitted by current zoning.
Mr. Bruyn has repeatedly argued that, under the town’s zoning code, a golf course is not specifically listed as a recreational use in the town code—but neither is it specifically prohibited. “Unless it is expressly prohibited,” he argues, “it’s allowed.”
Ms. Zenk, and several others who attended Thursday’s meeting, strongly disagreed, the Press reported. She pointed to Chapter 330 of the town code, which reads: “all unlisted uses are prohibited.”
Listed uses include residence uses, residential community facilities, general community facilities, business uses, industrial uses and accessory uses.
The problem is, there is no set list that accompanies the portion of the code that specifically lists every permitted accessory use, reported the Press.
To argue his case, Mr. Bruyn explained that golf courses have acted to enhance residential communities across the United States for decades. “My opponent’s interpretation of the town zoning code is erroneous and rejected by multiple courts,” he said.
However, Ms. Zenk argued that Mr. Bruyn’s argument was irrelevant, based on the fact that not every state or country has the same zoning code, the Press reported.
“It’s nice that New Jersey does that, but you don’t know the underlying code,” she said. “Look in your residential zones.”
She added that, based on research performed by the Southampton Town Planning Board, there have been zero incidents in Southampton Town where golf courses were allowed in the 5-acre residential zone, the Press reported. All of the land owned by the development company is located within that zone, which is constituted as the most restrictive in the town because of its environmental sensitivity.
Again, she mentioned that the only form of golf allowed in a 5-acre zone is mini golf, which requires a special exception and is limited to 1 acre. The proposed golf course would sit on 91 acres of the nearly 600-acre parcel, reported the Press.
“When Wayne talks about different things all over the state, it’s not relevant, because it pertains to different zoning codes,” Ms. Zenk argued. “Don’t bite the bait. Don’t fall for it.”
Amityville-based attorney Richard Handler attended Thursday’s meeting as a representative of the Group for the East End’s attorney, Jeffrey Bragman, who was hired by The Group and supports his client’s opposition to the project, the Press reported.
Mr. Handler said his biggest concern was not the golf course itself but everything that goes along with it. He pointed to the developers planned maintenance facility, clubhouse and septic system, all needed to maintain the golf course. “I ask that you look at whole package,” he told the ZBA.
William Kearns, who lives adjacent to the Lewis Road development site, was equally opposed to the golf course and everything that goes along with it. He, like Ms. Zenk, argued that the developers would not have gone through four years of attempting to get the PDD zoning change if they didn’t need it in order to build their proposed golf course, reported the Press. “Without this golf course, the housing development is useless, and they know it,” he said.