Many questioned the motive behind Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni’s proposal to limit the amount of active recreational space planned residential developments could have. Others were just plain against the idea.
At a town board meeting October 9, a handful of people spoke against the proposed legislation that would put a cap on the amount of active recreational space to 10 acres, or less than seven football fields or 150 tennis courts. After hearing residents weigh in during public portion of their meeting, board opposed bringing it to a separate public hearing in a 3-2 vote.
Some said Schiavoni’s proposal was another attempt to thwart Discovery Land Company’s proposal to develop The Hills at Southampton in East Quogue, a 118-home subdivision and golf course.
“It seems very targeted,” Nancy Kane said. “I was puzzled to discover the recent roadblock Mr. Schiavoni has erected. I’m confused why he would argue for a law that would reduce active recreation spaces. Discovery Land has already done so much for the community and has had such unwarranted opposition.”
Just three months ago, Schiavoni called for a moratorium on all development in aquifer protection districts — The Hills is proposed for one such area. Discovery Land had filed a lawsuit against the town, and also named Schiavoni, Councilwoman Julie Lofstad, and Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. That proposal was also turned down.
Schiavoni’s call for a hearing on the imposing limits on recreational space found only support from Councilman John Bouvier, who cited the public’s right to debate and Schiavoni’s right to bring the potential law forward. Schneiderman, Lofstad, and Councilwoman Christine Scalera voted against it after advice from counsel.
“This reeks of bias,” Larry Oxman said. “Considering the pending litigation, this has a strong appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Schiavoni said in the case of his most recent proposal that he thought the PRD application pointed out a need for guidelines and limits on space.
“The code is silent on active recreation and planned residential developments, and that in my mind is posing a problem to the board,” he said. “This would affect a number of parcels, not just this one proposal that everyone is talking about. Now a judge will be deciding this number instead of us. That’s no way to make town code. This will affect the landscape of the town for generations to come.”
Others agreed with him.
“This will only set a limit; it won’t make it go away,” said Bob DeLuca, president of the environmental advocacy organization Group for the East End. Ed Divita, a partner in Discovery Land Company, said of the 591 acres in his group’s application, 424 are proposed to be permanently preserved and another 33 are proposed to be preserved through revegetation, a concept he said was attractive to the board. The land protected would be 78 percent of the total acreage.
Kane was also confused as to why Schiavoni would want to limit recreational space at all.
“You said in a campaign story you’d camped in the woods and played golf here,” Kane said to Schiavoni. “I did, too. I couldn’t imagine my beach club where I spent my childhood summers without tennis courts because of a restriction in the acreage to build them. I can’t imagine my brother would’ve have gone on to run a golf camp at his school if he hadn’t been able to play on the golf courses here as a kid. Will Mr. Schiavoni next want to limit the waterways I swim in? I truly can’t imagine the Town of Southampton with limited outdoor recreation space.”