Closed loophole OKs trustees to receive land from county

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A view of Peconic Bay from Mattituck Beach.
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A view of Peconic Bay from Mattituck Beach.

A loophole that was closed will now allow Suffolk County to transfer land to East End Town Trustees at little or no cost.

Under the county law, land can only be transferred to municipal corporations – which include counties, towns, villages or fire districts.

The new law, sponsored by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), now defines the Town Trustees of Southold, Southampton and East Hampton each as municipal corporations, allowing them to acquire land from the county.

If the county has no use for a particular piece of land it obtained through tax foreclosure, Suffolk County will often transfer that land to other local governments to be used as affordable housing or open space – if the local government obtaining the property simply pays the back taxes, according to a release from Mr. Thiele.

The new law, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, simply adds trustees to that list.

“The Trustees are clearly local elected government bodies. They will greatly benefit from the ability to receive land at no cost from the County or other local governments, to be placed under their stewardship,” Mr. Thiele said in a release.

Mr. LaValle said “this common sense legislation corrects an oversight in original law, making it easier for land to be transferred between local governments.”

The omission became notable when the county wanted to transfer land to the Southampton Town Trustees, said David Bergen, Southold Town trustee.

“The county found they could not just give away the land,” Mr. Bergen said. “If that situation was to occur where the county had land in Southold, and the land was within the trustee jurisdiction, so mostly wetlands, they could now do that.”

Currently the county has not offered the trustees any land transfers, Mr. Bergen said, but added the new law “enhances the opportunity for the preservation of wetlands” in the future within the town.

Southold Town Trustees currently have jurisdiction of about 2,000 acres of underwater lands, allowing them to regulate what activities are done within 100 feet of sensitive wetlands and underwater lands within the town, helping to protect them.

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