Town partners with Land Trust to preserve land in Orient

09/16/2015 12:53 PM |

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Nearly 21 acres in Orient will be protected from development in perpetuity after the Peconic Land Trust recently partnered with Southold Town to purchase the land — and the development rights that go with it — from a longtime farming family. 

Farmland, woods and wetlands south of Main Road were all bought from Elbert and Harriet Edwards for $1.09 million in the middle of August, with Southold chipping in $700,000 from its Community Preservation Fund to help cover the cost.

The land, located just west of Latham Sand & Gravel, abuts another nine acres owned by Peconic Land Trust, and is close to another 600 contiguous acres that are also protected through state and county agreements.

“This was a very obvious addition to a very impressive collective between everybody — the state, the county, the town — and of course we own the property next door,” said land trust vice president Tim Caulfield. “So this is part of a really good assemblage in Orient.”

Since its inception in 1983, the Peconic Land Trust has partnered with municipalities and landowners to protect more than 11,000 acres of land. The CPF was established in the late 1990s as a tax on real estate transactions in the five East End towns. As of late, using CPF dollars for water quality projects has been considered, though that would need voter approval.

By partnering with towns and other levels of government — and managing them and leasing the land to farmers and other private groups — the land trust frees up CPF dollars the town can then spend on other projects.

“This property represents the heart of what the CPF is intended for — to preserve the agricultural and natural resources of our town,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell. “The town will continue to work with families, communities and organizations like the Peconic Land Trust to invest in our agricultural land through the CPF for the benefit of the people of our town and future generations.”

As more land becomes preserved, Mr. Caulfield said, keeping it actively used as farmland has remained a challenge. As a result, the group’s mission over the past eight to 10 years has shifted to not only preserving land, but preserving farmers.

The acreage purchased in Orient last month has been leased by an active farmer and will continue to be leased to him.

The $1.09 million price tag came with an agreement with the sellers that includes a three-year payment for the land. The land trust has since started a capital campaign to raise $450,000, which will cover closing and acquisitions costs, Mr. Caulfield said. He said $75,000 has already been raised.

Photo Caption: Peconic Land Trust partnered with Southold Town to purchase this land in Orient for $1.09 million. (Credit: Peconic Land Trust)

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