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Jul 17, 2018 3:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Schiavoni Withdraws Proposed Moratorium On Development In Aquifer Districts

Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni.
Jul 23, 2018 11:43 AM

UPDATE: Thursday, 4:15 p.m.

At a Town Board work session on Thursday, Mr. Schiavoni withdrew his application for a moratorium. Although he did not provide an explanation for his move, he said, “there are few things more important than the aquifer.”

Original Story:

The newest member of the Southampton Town Board is leading a charge to curb development that could harm the South Fork’s underground drinking water reservoir.

Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni has filed a resolution to enact a six-month moratorium on development within the town’s aquifer protection overlay districts, environmentally sensitive areas above the deepwater recharge sole-source aquifer, much like the Central Pine Barrens to the west, from which much of the area’s drinking water is taken.

The measure will be introduced for a vote on July 24, with tentative plans for a public hearing on August 14.

The moratorium would put a temporary halt on all development within the districts, which make up a large portion of the town, to allow a newly formed committee to review laws, studies and plans that focus on the protective zone, including the town’s master plan and sustainability plan, and to come up with recommendations for new, tighter regulations.

Mr. Schiavoni said his ultimate goal is to find a way to protect clean water for future generations.

“I think we need to be protective of our efforts to secure fresh drinking water,” he said on Monday. “This is about the health of drinking water in the town.”

But not everyone on Town Board is in favor of the moratorium.

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he is worried that a moratorium could have negative ramifications when it comes to a $100 million lawsuit that was filed against the town by Discovery Land Corporation earlier this year over the board’s rejection of a planned development district proposal in East Quogue, called “The Hills at Southampton,” which called for a 118-home subdivision and golf course, that would have been within the aquifer.

The project is back with a pre-application filed with the Town Planning Board, seeking approval of a planned residential development under existing zoning.

“We are in litigation,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “This would stop the Planning Board from making their decision on The Hills, which is a subject within the courts. There is a real question about whether the Town Board can consider this moratorium request.”

The aquifer protection overlay district was designed to encompass the deepest and greatest groundwater recharge areas in the town. Known as water catchment regions, the town chose to strictly regulate activities within them, aiming to reduce the use of fertilizers and to protect natural vegetation. Density of development also is restricted in an effort to protect the aquifer and water quality.

Two areas in particular were set up as aquifer protection overlay districts: one to the west of the Shinnecock Canal, which covers a swath of land from Northampton to Flanders, and the other area to the east of the canal, including parts of North Sea, Water Mill, Sagaponack, Sag Harbor and Noyac.

Mr. Schiavoni said if the board chooses to enact the six-month moratorium within the aquifer protection overlay districts, he would push for the creation of an advisory board that would review the current town code and provide recommendations to increase protections in the districts.

Mr. Schiavoni said he was concerned that the existing restrictions are 30 years old, and issues like the percentage of a parcel that a property owner can clear should be re-evaluated, as should restrictions on fertilized vegetation. The town also should update protection of well heads and limits on pesticides that property owners can use to combat pests. “It all goes into our water,” he said.

According to Mr. Schiavoni, the temporary moratorium would affect only new applications or current applications in the first phase of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, review process, within the aquifer overlay districts.

He noted that the aquifer that provides drinking water to the town is vulnerable, and he wants to try and get restrictions in place that will avoid contamination from pesticides and fertilizers for the future.

There are seven projects within the town that would be stalled by the moratorium, Mr. Schiavoni said he was told by town officials, although he could not name them in interviews on Monday and Tuesday.

Mr. Schiavoni said the moratorium had nothing to do with work being proposed by Discovery Land, which proposes a luxury golf course resort community in East Quogue. Since its rejection, Discovery Land has filed a $100 million lawsuit against the town and board members Julie Lofstad and John Bouvier. The company has also filed a new application to build the project under current zoning, claiming that the golf course, if restricted to residents of the development, could be considered an accessory recreational use. The Planning Board is reviewing the claim, with the Zoning Board of Appeals, to determine if the developer should be permitted the golf course under existing zoning rules, which would not need Town Board approval.

Although the town has done a great job studying the aquifer, Mr. Schneiderman said, many of the problems being seen in the water source are from perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, which have been identified as potentially causing health risks to humans.

Still, the supervisor said the issue of PFCs are secondary to whether the town can take action on the moratorium without creating significant liability to the town—specifically, with the Discovery Land lawsuit.

“I’m the chief fiscal operator of the town,” he said. “My job is to protect the interest of the town.”

Mr. Schiavoni disagreed.

“I don’t think we, as legislators, should take lawsuits into consideration when making decisions for the town,” he said. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to our posterity to make good law.”

Discovery Land aside, Bob DeLuca, president of the environmental advocacy organization Group for the East End, said the moratorium has been needed for a while. He said he supports the measure because the town’s drinking water is jeopardized, and if the town can put rules and regulations in place to ensure 50 more years of clean water, that is what it needs to do.

“Look at all projects, not just The Hills,” Mr. DeLuca said. “Half of the town’s problems don’t relate to Sand Land or The Hills.”

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New nickname for our Supervisor: "There's no way Jay." Funny how he finds obscure rules that give him the ability to hire $200,000/year comp package admins to build low income housing but protecting our water supply is subject to legal mumbo jumbo from rich politically connected real estate developers. Shame on the Democratic Party for foisting this Montauk motel operator on us.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jul 18, 18 12:23 PM
3 members liked this comment
He was voted in. Try to get a republican to run next time.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jul 18, 18 12:38 PM
Because Republicans have a proven record for protecting the environment? Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Jul 19, 18 10:08 AM
2 members liked this comment
Tommy John Schiavoni and all who support this moratorium deserve our greatest thanks. Water quality versus unrestrained development is the biggest and most pressing issue for Southampton Town. Everything we have depends on the environment -- our health, our quality of life, and our economy -- and the environment depends ultimately on the water under us and around us. Think about it; this is undeniable fact.

Just consider the last forty years of trying -- and not really succeeding -- ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 18, 18 3:26 PM
2 members liked this comment
Turkey Bridge?

You should rename yourself "Ostrich Bridge".

This is your board. Your Supervisor.

By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jul 19, 18 9:37 PM
Thank you TJ yes if we do not protect our clean water.What do we have?I do not want to have to look at the color of the water coming from my fosset before drinking it.As water Commissioners you al have a big responsibility.
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Jul 18, 18 3:45 PM
Wait, wait, wait, does anyone really understand the size and scale of the acquifer protection districts?! Especially the one that runs through almost all of the area north and east of Southampton, North Sea, Water Mill, Sag Harbor, Sagaponack and Bridgehampton? A moratorium would shut down a huge swath of area, as the article states, most of the Town, and would negatively impact the economy. Has anyone estimated the loss of economic activity for that entire area? Are we talking about new construction ...more
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Jul 18, 18 4:57 PM
Translation: Leave no postage stamp undeveloped.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 18, 18 9:17 PM
No, that's a very simplistic view. My comment would certainly attract someone thinking in the extreme, but I'm pointing to the fact that our economy could be severely affected by a moratorium, and if there has been no discussion of that impact, then more work needs to be done before a moratorium is voted on.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Jul 18, 18 11:09 PM
Perhaps that could be a positive. If you want to talk extreme, do a census at 10 AM, and another at 10PM. Let us know the difference.

Truthfully, bigfresh has a point.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 19, 18 9:56 PM
No more trade parade...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jul 18, 18 7:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
I would like to see these on an annual basis to run from April through September.
Summer for the vacationers and winter for the builders...:)
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jul 18, 18 9:08 PM
Need to keep in mind that real estate is the economic engine for the east end, so to wholesale a moratorium will kill sales in thos areas and the market is beginning to turn. While I understand a need to take a look at current regulations they can be done while everything is actively running. What about requiring a permit for blacktop driveways. Many are installed with no drainage and into the streets from this non perking surface all the water goes. Installing driveways should come with a requirement ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jul 19, 18 6:34 AM
... a healthy environment is the economic engine that runs the east end, not real estate. That translates into clean drinking water, fresh water ponds,the bays and the ocean. We are in a water crisis. This moratorium will allow us to assess the damage large scale development is doing to the environment, our health and economic future.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jul 19, 18 10:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
... great work Tommy John.
By William Rodney (561), southampton on Jul 19, 18 3:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Great idea TJ!! As to new construction in the suggested area, we are saturated , full, maxed out ! Enough is enough.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 19, 18 6:46 AM
Thank you TJ! Schneiderman will work out "his" problems, so don't let him stop you from taking action to protect what is of utmost importance
By deKooning (106), southampton on Jul 19, 18 3:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
Will the town compensate those taxing districts for lost revenue when they turn down development? It only seems fair that all those who benefit from his plan should subsidize those areas for lost revenue in perpetuity.
By Greg129 (5), East Quogue on Jul 19, 18 3:09 PM
Pave paradise.put up a parking lot.
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Jul 19, 18 5:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
This legislation needs to be accomplished
The changes to the water shed zones in addition to the constant bombardment by developers to maximize the housing numbers on already zoned land is very disturbing
Real estate professionals will not be happy when all of the vistas that make our hamlets unique and special are gone because of over development
Please keep us special
By LKDLucy (3), Southampton on Jul 19, 18 5:27 PM
Ban teachers that also get paid as town councilman like this clown does. A ward of the state
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 19, 18 7:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ward of the state? It’s called public service. Plus a teacher. Explain how that makes him a ward of the state. Chief, this is the most far fetched thing from you yet.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jul 19, 18 7:35 PM
You folded like a cheap camera TJ
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Jul 19, 18 7:56 PM
Those old collapsible Polaroids ain't that cheap these days...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 19, 18 9:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
TJ, Your priorities are spot on. As a former East Hampton Town Board member and member of the Planning Board for 15 years ( 8 years as chairwoman ), I worked to update our comprehensive plan and zoning code. Maybe we should get together over some Long Island iced tea! I support your efforts. Deb Foster
By Debra Foster (4), East Hampton on Jul 19, 18 9:02 PM
2 members liked this comment
Sounds to me like the someone in the Town attorney's office poured some cold water on TJ's proposal. Maybe they are running scared from the threat of litigation from developers such as Discovery Land. I would love to know the real reason...
By fritzdaddy (35), southampton on Jul 21, 18 8:15 AM
1 member liked this comment
Sounds like Schiavoni didn't due his due diligence and check with Planning and the Town Attorney offices about the legality of a moratorium before writing his resolution.
By A Great American (103), East Quogue on Jul 21, 18 9:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
A Great American has it wrong and fritzdaddy has it right. It's not a matter of the moratorium being illegal (it's legal), but of misguided litigation tactics on the part of Jay Schneiderman and Town Attorney Jim Burke.

I say "misguided" for the reasons stated in my above post of July 18 at 3:26 PM. Won't repeat it all here, but I disagree with Jay on the tactical question. What I hope, really hope, is that Jay's basic support of The Hills project isn't influencing his statements of how ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jul 22, 18 11:54 AM
HAS HE DONE ANYTHING SINCE BEING ELECTED EXCEPT SKIP MEETINGS? sorry for the caps. offers up an idea and takes back next day. not very through with his so called research
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Jul 22, 18 7:23 PM
HAS HE DONE ANYTHING SINCE BEING ELECTED EXCEPT SKIP MEETINGS? sorry for the caps. offers up an idea and takes back next day. not very through with his so called research
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Jul 22, 18 7:23 PM
Let's store (literally) tons of human feces for many decades in antiquated cesspools above our aquifers : /
By Aeshtron (431), Southampton on Jul 23, 18 10:58 AM
THANK YOU!!! NOTHING is more important than our drinking water. Nothing. The end.
By LocalEnthusiast (23), East Quogue on Jul 24, 18 9:58 AM
P L E A S E D O N O T L E T T H I S D I E !
By deKooning (106), southampton on Jul 25, 18 4:47 PM