Some East Quogue residents who signed a local committee’s petition to form a village say they were told they were signing to explore the idea and learn more about the process and not requesting a vote on the subject.
“I had someone knock on my door and say, ‘Please sign this. It’s not a yes or no vote, it’s just so that we can have further discussions,’” said Diane Dickson at a May 20 public hearing at East Quogue Elementary School on the sufficiency of the petition. “My husband and I signed it right then and there. Now I feel that it’s like a ‘yes’ vote. That’s not what I was told, nor was it what I intended.”
P.J. Mitchell said if people like the Dicksons hadn’t signed the petition, maybe the East Quogue Village Exploratory Committee wouldn’t have reached the 20 percent of registered voters necessary to bring it forward to Southampton Town April 3.
“It’s a very different thing to open a discussion and have a vote,” she said. “They’re two different things, and if that’s what happened, that’s completely inappropriate.”
Elizabeth Jackson spoke at the first public hearing and said she thought the committee had used an old list of residents, which included some who have since died or moved out of the hamlet or state, to arrive at the 20 percent number it needed. She felt similarly to Mitchell, saying she thought getting 20 percent of the hamlet’s population to agree would be more difficult than getting a majority on voting day. She said she too heard of people being persuaded to sign in support of future hearings and discussions, as opposed to signing to continue the process.
“People are being misinformed, whether intentionally or unintentionally,” Jackson said. “They might not all be as accurate as you’d hoped.”
Another resident, whose name could not be obtained, echoed previous sentiments that the petition was brought forward because of The Hills development, which calls for a golf course and more than 100 houses. He said he had moved to East Quogue from another village, and knew personally the cost to start and dismantle one. In his experience taxes also increased every year. He said he was happy with the town’s response times when calling about issues, and sees no real reason to incorporate, besides helping those who want the golf course push it through.
“We have to consider the effect on quality of life,” he said to rounds of applause. “Do we need aggravation and divisiveness by adding another layer of bureaucracy?”
Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, who oversees the process, closed the public hearing, but left the record open for written comment to be submitted to the town clerk’s office by email, mail, or in person by 4 PM May 31. Testimony will only be considered if based on the sufficiency of the petition. Schneiderman has 10 days from then to file his written determination.