By Courtney M. Holbrook
When Maureen Kirrane Devlin works in her house on Wildwood Road, she says she hears an almost constant buzz of construction. When she looks out her backyard, she adds that she sees a flat space filled with bulldozers that is bereft of trees.
It is not Devlin’s property, but that of the adjacent lot belonging to the Noyac Golf Course where the trees have come down. Last year, the golf course began construction to put in a new irrigation system on property that lies directly behind Devlin’s backyard.
According to Devlin, the course managers said it would be a quick event, and that they would clean up the debris. But today, equipment remains on the land and Devlin is concerned over whether she will ever again be able to look out her back window without seeing “an industrial zone” and hearing the “constant drone of equipment.”
“I found out the [Noyac] Golf Course was bringing in pipes,” Devlin said. “We’ve never had a problem with [the golf course] before, so when they told me it was temporary, I didn’t worry.”
Now, Devlin has filed a complaint with the Department of Public Safety regarding the Noyac Golf Course construction. In the complaint, Devlin states that golf course has removed “numerous trees, plant life and wild life. They have leveled and filled what was once natural green terrain and marsh, creating a construction site that houses equipment and motor vehicles.”
As the property belongs to the golf course, the Devlins have little recourse; however, they have asked that the golf course clean up the construction and maintain communication regarding the completion of the project. On a recent visit to the Devlins house, it is, in fact, easy to see a vast expanse of dirt with bulldozers and trucks smack in the center of what the Devlins have termed “the industrial site.”
The fight to clean up the construction began with John Kirrane, Devlin’s brother, who says cleaning up the site is of vital importance in maintaining “the natural beauty of the area.” The house that overlooks the construction, where Devlin lives in the summer, was the sibling’s childhood home.
“This house has been in our family since 1963,” Kirrane said. “It used to be a place that stayed like it was in the old days in Noyac, when there were trees and wildlife everywhere. But now, it’s just been corrupted. You’re in a construction zone.”
Both Kirrane and Devlin have embarked on a trail of email and phone calls that now involves John Larson, the general manager of the golf course, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and the Suffolk County Department of Parks. After Devlin went to the Southampton Town Hall to look into the property boundaries, she learned that the piece of land upon which the construction equipment had been driving to access the site was considered Suffolk County Park land. At that point, Devlin and Kirrane approached the county’s parks department to try to block access to the lot via their property.
At this point, the legal documents regarding that 50-foot wide piece of county property are in the hands of the county attorney’s office. According to Nick Gibbons, the Principal Environmental Analyst for the Suffolk County Parks Department, the entire process is in a “to be continued state.” He notes that the legality of using the county property to access the work site is ultimately dependent upon whether or not there is a preexisting agreement that allows the golf course to use that land for the transportation of their trucks.
“The [Noyac] Golf Course did send documents to the county attorney’s office, which in their view stated that they did have an allowance to use that area,” Gibbons said. “It all comes down to what happens at the county attorney’s office. If [the golf course] does not have the legal right to use county park land, then we will take corrective steps to ensure they can’t use it. We will block that land off. But right now we’re still waiting.”
Meanwhile, Kirrane said the construction had made trash and excessive noise a daily occurrence. Devlin complained that daily life now consists of loud noises and smells. However, she said what concerns her is the lack of communication she feels has come from the golf course.
“I just want to know when it’s going to be over,” Devlin said. “If they could just be straight with me, then maybe it would be better. But they told us it would be over in May, and that obviously didn’t happen. Now, they won’t speak to me.”
Devlin has also stated a concern for the wildlife surrounding her home. The creation of the “gravel dump,” as she calls it, has caused the flora and fauna that once lived on her own property to vanish, according to Devlin.
“I don’t know whether it was caused by whatever chemicals [the golf course] is using to build the irrigation system, or if it’s just the fact that they’ve wiped out the trees,” Devlin said. “But we used to have deer, turtles, chipmunks everywhere; not anymore.”
Despite repeated telephone calls to his office, John Larson, general manager of the Noyac Golf Club, could not be reached for comment. However, the president of the Noyac Golf Club, Steve Maietta, contacted the Sag Harbor Express on Wednesday.
“At this point, we have not seen the complaint form that [Devlin] submitted [to the Department of Public Safety],” Maietta said. “Until we have made a review of the order with our legal advisors, it would not be fair for me to make a comment.”
Maietta did say that once the golf club had discussed the legal issues formally, they would be happy to comment further on the case.
Kirrane has offered to pay for the clean up process should the Noyac Golf Club allow him. However, at this point, Kirrane has not received any response regarding his offer.
For now, both Kirrane and Devlin intend to continue searching for a solution and they hope that everything can be settled peacefully.
“We just want some communication about the whole thing; maybe that will make it stop, or at least give us an answer,” Kirrane said. “The one thing about this land is that nature is so resistant. If they — when — they stop, Mother Nature will take care of itself.”