Founders Village residents object to land trust’s plan for farm

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | The contested greenhouse planned for the Charnews Farm in Southold would occupy the open space between these two buildings.

Residents at Founders Village on Youngs Avenue in Southold are up in arms over the Peconic Land Trust’s plan to erect two 384-square-foot greenhouses at Charnews Farm next door to the senior independent living community.

The project is currently before the town Planning Board.

Carol Bertsch has been circulating a petition among the 92 senior community residents, many of whose backyards are not far from the farm’s property line.

Ms. Bertsch is urging the land trust to reposition the greenhouses, but land trust representatives say they are being placed within an area that was reserved for agricultural structures when the development rights were sold to the town four years ago.

The site, which is behind the farmhouse, is screened from Founders Village by an evergreen buffer. The land trust preserved the 21-acre property as a working farm in 2008.

Speaking during a Monday night public hearing, Ms. Bertsch said the patios of 10 residents would face the greenhouses. She said she’s worried that will cause property values to fall. When they purchased their units, she added, it was with the “reasonable expectation that Charnews Farm will not farm again.”

“We welcomed them next door in 2008. We continue to support their goals, but that land had not been farmed in a generation,” she said.

Don Wagner, president of the Founders Village homeowners association, told the board, “We never had this trouble when it was owned by the Charnews.”

The senior community was built 27 years ago, but “in the last four years all heck is breaking loose here,” Mr. Wagner added.

He said Founders Village complied when the land trust asked them not to use insecticides on their lawns and that many people there have donated to the land trust, but they’re very unhappy with living next to the farm.

Resident Polly Wells, 91, said she will see the greenhouses outside her living room window.

“I just wish that they could put it in a different place,” she said.

John Abel said he was concerned by the greenhouses, which he believes constitute development on a property whose development rights are sold. He said he’s afraid the site will begin to look like Catapano Farms on Route 25, which has a row of greenhouses much larger than the ones proposed by the land trust on its property.

Land trust project manager Stephen Searl told the board he believes it’s important to remember that the intent of the preservation was “to conserve a working farm and a working landscape.”

“Historically, this is where all the ag buildings had been,” he said. “Our mission is to ensure that farmers have access to productive working farmland. We thought long and hard about proposing other locations and, as much as we’d like to be able to squeeze [the greenhouses] between the barns and the fence, we need access all around the fence. It’s not realistic.”

The board closed the hearing but did not vote on the application.

Also on for public hearing Monday was a proposed 2,880-square-foot electrical contractor building on the north side of Route 25 between Lower Road and Ackerly Pond Lane. It’s a proposed Morton building with a burgundy roof.

Platinum East Electric plans to use the property for a warehouse and to store its four vans.

Neighbor Dan West said he’s concerned that the aesthetics of the entrance to Southold, just east of Triangle Park, not be diminished by the new building.

“We just fixed up Triangle Park. The next lot is this one … I’m concerned about the history of the town. No matter how you do it, it’s still going to be a lot of metal looking at us.”

Bill Kelly, who appeared at the hearing for the applicant, said the building will be as far back from Route 25 on the property as possible and will be landscaped with tall evergreens.

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