A lawsuit filed by two environmental groups and several East Quogue residents seeks to overturn a recent Southampton Planning Committee decision that paved the way for a 130-unit golf community in the pinewoods.
The Article 78 petition filed Monday in Suffolk County Superior Court argues that the proposed Lewis Road development was approved by the Planning Board on Dec. 8, despite zoning restrictions against a resort. The planning authority also failed to comply with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act in approving the project, the petition said.
Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, and board member Nina Leonhardt, at the Ridge Conservation Center on Tuesday. The center is adjacent to a piece of land that their non-profit organization hopes to preserve. Credit: Barry Sloan
Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, and Robert DeLuca, president of Group for the East End, filed the lawsuit on behalf of their organizations.
Amper said the lawsuit was necessary to prevent the developer from moving forward.
“The approval process was fraught with problems from the start,” he wrote in an email.
The proposed development, which would include affordable housing units as well as a private 18-hole golf course and a recreation complex with a spa and fitness center, pool, clubhouse and other amenities, would become one of the largest developments in the environmentally sensitive pine wasteland . The petition also argues that the golf course is not a permitted use under the city’s zoning.
The Planning Committee voted 4-3 to approve a subdivision and site plan for Arizona-based developer Discovery Land Company to proceed with the controversial project.
“The Planning Committee’s decision contradicts nearly four decades of conservation efforts by increasing land-use intensity in this critical area, thereby threatening water quality at a time when water quality efforts are intensifying due to ongoing water quality degradation.” , said the petition says.
Claudia Braymer, a Glens Falls attorney who filed the petition with East Hampton attorney Jeffrey Bragman, called the request and its approval “really unusual.”
“It’s basically a huge resort project in an area where resorts aren’t allowed,” she said. “The planning authority just seemed to see it differently.”
In 2017, Southampton City Council voted 3-2 in favor of the plan when it was still known as ‘The Hills’, but the motion fell through because a supermajority was required for a zoning change. A few months later the project reappeared and its review fell to the Planning Commission.
The petition names the Southampton Planning Board, the Southampton Town Board and several LLCs that were named in the application, which received Planning Committee approval.
Attorney Scott Kreppein, who has represented the planning authority, said he had not seen the petition when asked for comment on Wednesday. Discovery Land Company officials could not be reached for comment.
With Jean Paul Salamanca
Joe Werkmeister covers the cities of Southampton, East Hampton and Shelter Island. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University and previously worked as an editor for two community newspapers in North Fork.