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Sep 1, 2015 2:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Supervisor Supports Public Hearing On Pine Barrens Commission's Right To Hear Hills Application

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.
Sep 2, 2015 10:56 AM

Environmentalists and members of the Central Pine Barrens Commission are battling over whether a public hearing is needed to decide if the commission has any jurisdiction regarding “The Hills at Southampton,” a subdivision and golf course proposed on a several-hundred-acre tract in East Quogue.

The five-member commission, which currently has only four members, is supposed to weigh in on applications that could threaten the Pine Barrens, an environmentally protected portion of wooded land. Last week, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who sits on the commission as a representative of Southampton Town, said she supports holding a public hearing to determine if the commission has jurisdiction, arguing that the hearing would make the proposal more transparent to the public and lay out the reasoning behind decisions made by the Pine Barrens Commission regarding the application.

However, Richard Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, an advocacy group focusing on protection of the Pine Barrens, maintains that the move to hold such a hearing is unprecedented. He said the commission clearly has the right to review the project, which lies completely within the Pine Barrens borders, and has never held a public hearing in the past to determine jurisdiction. The hearing would serve only to determine if the commission can be allowed to do its job, he says.

“The purpose of the public hearing on a specific application is to allow a commissioner to be informed of the project so they can vote in favor or against it,” Mr. Amper said. “Obviously, for the Pine Barrens to work, the commissioners cannot be voting on whether or not the commission should review a project. If they could do that, they could also host a hearing and have a vote on whether the Pine Barrens Act applies to their town—but that is not how state law works. We cannot have the commissioners voting on whether the Pine Barrens Commission is to do its job.”

Ultimately, the commission—whose members include the Southampton, Brookhaven and Riverhead town supervisors, as well as representatives from the state and county—opted in favor of holding a public hearing on Wednesday, October 21, at 2 p.m., at Brookhaven Town Hall.

To Mr. Amper, the decision to push for the public hearing makes it clear that Ms. Throne-Holst is pushing the agenda of the developer, attempting to remove the Pine Barrens Commission from the review process—a charge Ms. Throne-Holst vehemently denies.

“Within the environmental community, we are shocked,” Mr. Amper said. “She has represented herself as being very concerned about the environment in general, and about water quality protection. But environmentalists view The Hills as the biggest and most threatening project impacting water quality of anything currently being proposed anywhere on Long Island.”

Last week, the executive director of the Pine Barrens Commission, John Pavacic, said while it is common for jurisdictional questions to come up, that is typically decided through public comment, not a hearing. He was, however, at the meeting where Ms. Throne-Holst requested the hearing, and he said she made no mention of supporting the developer.

Ms. Throne-Holst cited the benefits of a public hearing. “In this case, there was some question about whether this was precedent-setting and whether there was room in the current Pine Barrens law to hold a public hearing on this, and the comment I made at the time was that to me it is a matter of transparency here,” she said. “This is an application that is complicated, and as someone who is probably going to have to vote on this and as part of my responsibilities, I want to see the best possible process and product being contemplated here. So if there is added transparency and process with this application being contemplated, then I am all for it.”

Ms. Throne-Holst also stressed the importance of giving the public as many opportunities as possible to hear the facts straight from the source about the application, and not through rumors. The hearing, she said, will do that.

“No matter how we vote on this, people will understand why someone may have voted for it or not,” she said.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, a member of the commission, said he supports Ms. Throne-Holst’s push for the hearing, noting that she repeatedly asked for transparency.

“I asked her if this hearing is the way she wanted to go, and she said yes,” Mr. Walter said, adding that he believes Mr. Amper is skewing the truth. “I will support Anna Throne-Holst and the hearing on jurisdiction.”

The Hills at Southampton application is for a mixed-use planned development district, or PDD, a special zoning designation that allows mixed uses and densities. The project would result in 118 homes—95 single-family homes, 13 clubhouse cabins and 10 clubhouse condominium units—and an 18-hole golf course just north of Lewis Road near Spinney Road in East Quogue. The developers, the Discovery Land Company of Arizona, hope to combine several properties, 431.3 acres of which they already own, as well as an additional 163.2 acres they are in contract to buy, for a total of 594.5 acres. The housing and golf course would be clustered on 168.1 acres, while the remaining land would be left as open space and natural vegetation.

The entire property lies within the Pine Barrens, with approximately 97 acres in the core Pine Barrens, where no building is allowed, and 330 acres in a “compatible growth” area, where construction is restricted, according to Mr. Amper.

In the opinion of the Group for the East End, The Hills application will mean a critical turning point for the local groundwater and surface water, according to Robert DeLuca, president of the organization. He said he hopes the jurisdiction issue is settled, and that he plans to attend the hearing to offer comments.

“From our standpoint, the project is in a critical resource area,” he said this week. “It seems that a project of this size and magnitude, with the significance it has for our ground and surface water, is exactly the type of thing you would want the Pine Barrens Commission to look at—give it another source for review.”

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"To Mr. Amper, the decision to push for the public hearing makes it clear that Ms. Throne-Holst is pushing the agenda of the developer ... "
Mon Dieu! Surely, this cannot be! Is he actually suggesting that Our Anna is carrying the water of a property developer!?
By highhatsize (4183), East Quogue on Sep 4, 15 9:17 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By rabblerouser (46), Hampton Bays on Sep 4, 15 11:45 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By rabblerouser (46), Hampton Bays on Sep 4, 15 11:45 AM
All one need do is review the campaign contributions to Ms Throne-Holts' state and federal campaign finance committees. She needs to recuse herself from voting on these issues. And at this point needs to step down from the Pine Barrens Commission.

Imagine she has the audacity to think she can represent us in Congress.

Imagine that while she is still enrolled in the Independence Party she calls herself a proud Democrat.

Is there no end to the shame within her?

Come ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Sep 4, 15 2:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
So, N, you caught that "proud Democrat" thing, huh? Good eye.
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Sep 4, 15 10:30 PM
This woman has no shame.
By Crabby (63), Southampton on Sep 4, 15 5:19 PM
Once again she has proven herself to be a POLITICAL PROSTITUTE selling herself for cash.
By bigfresh (4593), north sea on Sep 5, 15 6:45 AM
"Ms. Throne-Holst also stressed the importance of giving the public as many opportunities as possible to hear the facts straight from the source about the application, and not through rumors. The hearing, she said, will do that."

I hope this is a misstatement. Does Anna really believe the facts about the application come from the developer, his lawyers and consultants????
By grey ghost (6), Southampton on Sep 8, 15 3:59 PM
And, it seems that Anna is trying to shut down getting input from the Pine Barrens Commission - in the "interest of having the Town more control"... ?
Wasn't the Pine Barrens Commission created to exert control & protect this special land - that sits over our single-source of drinking water.
October 21st there is a hearing in Brookhaven at 2PM where Anna is going to be part of the board that decides if the Pine Barrens Commission gets to be part of the process.
Maybe she went to the ...more
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Oct 11, 15 9:02 PM
The "facts" straight from the developer have been vetted many times before. SHTB meetings, hearings and scoping sessions.......just how many more times are our elected official going to allow these bogus hearings to continue? Are the elected officials deaf to the protests from EQ residents, environmentalists, scientists, etc?
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Sep 10, 15 7:15 PM
Did you all read the SHPress EDITORIAL "No Question"? It's in The Sept. 10th Western Edition.
The Editor says
"....the question is enough to raise even more troubling questions."

We don't usually hear the Editors speak like this!
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Sep 23, 15 2:58 PM
And, another source of illumination was a letter to the Editor on Sept. 17th, 2015 in the Eastern edition - titled
Frightful Decline by Frederick Havemeyer
"Political opportunism and insincerity were rife"
By FiddlerCrab (96), Westhampton Beach on Sep 23, 15 3:04 PM
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