RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — On Long Island, a controversial proposal to build a luxury golf community on the East End drew a large crowd, both for and against.
It’s nearly decision time in a five-year battle over a proposed resort atop the sensitive Pine Barrens.READ MORE: Federal Arrest Warrant Issued For Gabby Petito's Missing Fiancé Brian Laundrie
Concerned residents packed a hearing in Riverhead on Wednesday.
“Golf courses, they say they don’t pollute, but it’s almost impossible not to,” one man told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
“They spray a lot of stuff on there to control the grass and keep the fairways. It’s a lot of pesticides,” another man said.
Opponents gave an earful to the State Pine Barrens Commission, who must decide if the new resort community complies with strict regulations.
A developer proposes creating a playground for the rich with 118 seasonal homes, a private 18-hole golf course and luxury amenities on 600 pristine wooded acres in East Quogue next to pastoral farmland.
“This project is net negative in terms of nitrogen,” said development consultant Chic Voorhis.
Dick Amper authored the 1993 Pine Barrens Protection Act, in which Suffolk voters chose to protect the land above Long Island’s purest drinking water.
“What they are doing basically is urbanizing our natural treasure,” Amper said.READ MORE: 'I Can't Take This Anymore': Heavy Rain In Tri-State Area Renews Flooding Concerns For Many Still Dealing With Damage From Ida
Until the Pine Barrens Protection Act, limited development is allowed. Developers say they will comply with all regulations, but Amper calls the project too big.
“It is the worst place you could put pesticides and fertilizer,” he said.
The development, which was once rejected, has now been renamed the Lewis Road Development and has Southampton Town approval.
Discovery Land Company, of Arizona, says it will leave more than half the land in natural form.
“We will apply the minimum amount of chemical usage,” Voorhis said.
In quaint nearby hamlets, merchants say they can use the economic boost.
“There’s a lot of environmental guidelines that they have to follow and they will follow because they are going to have to,” business owner Cathy Seeliger said. “I think it will contribute to the lowering of the taxes.”
Opponents warn approval would set a bad precedent.
“It’s a natural forest that exists in few places on earth,” said Bill Kearns, of East Quogue.MORE NEWS: 1 Killed, 13 Injured In Shooting At Kroger In Collierville, Tennessee
The commission has until April 20 to decide. Either way, the golf course showdown is likely to land in court.