The Southold Town Board voted last Tuesday to spend $1.65 million to purchase a development rights easement on a Cutchogue farm owned by Richard James McBride and James Michael McBride.
“We’re lifers out here,” James McBride, who attended the meeting, said after the resolution passed.
McBride Farms was purchased by his great-grandfather in the mid-1800s, he said. It produces potatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, sweet corn and cabbage, among other crops. “It’s special, you know,” he added.
The farm at 10725 Oregon Road comprises about 31 acres, 24 1/2 of which will be preserved. The land, on the north side of the road, is zoned Agricultural Conservation. The purchase price amounts to $67,500 per buildable acre.
“Whenever we are fortunate enough to buy development rights to farmland, it is always a good investment,” Supervisor Scott Russell said in an email. “The voters time and time again have endorsed our developments program with their support for bonds and endorsement of the Community Preservation Fund.”
The CPF, created in 1998, allows the five East End towns to use money generated by a 2 percent land transfer tax toward open space and farmland protection. In 2016, voters approved its extension until 2050. Money can also be used to fund water-quality improvement projects.
Mr. McBride said he initiated the process to preserve the land in May.
“The farm includes over 95 percent prime agricultural soils and expands an existing block of 100 acres directly to the east of other preserved active farmland,” said Melissa Spiro, land preservation committee coordinator. “This is a really important piece to expand that preserved block.”
Mr. Russell expressed gratitude to the McBrides for agreeing to preserve their land.
“The reality is the town is not preserving this land, the landowners are, and I want to thank Jim and Rich for participating in this process and ensuring that this maintains itself as prime farmland in perpetuity,” he said.
Mr. Russell said there are several other properties that the town is considering buying, either outright or through development rights. The town would consider any properties that owners have expressed interest in selling, he added.
“The landowners have decided that they feel the best use for this is going to be farming from now thereafter and, as a farmer, I find that very heartwarming,” Councilman Bill Ruland said.
Photo caption: Roughly 24.5 acres of the Oregon Road farmland will be preserved.