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Town’s ‘largest’ preservation effort yet protects 116 acres at Island’s End golf course from development

04/24/2019 3:21 PM |

The Southold Town Board voted Tuesday night to preserve 116 acres at Island’s End Golf and Country Club in Greenport, a big win for both preservationists and golfers who love the course. Negotiations by the Peconic Land Trust with multiple owners of four different tax parcels at the club helped put the deal together, said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell.

Two conservation easements — one for Island’s End Golf and Country Club Inc., amounting to about 30 acres, and the other for William King and Robert Turner of King Trust, amounting to about 86 acres — were adopted, giving the Town Board the ability to purchase development rights on the properties, which are classified by code as “protected areas.” Before the 116-acre easements, none of the total of 126 acres was protected. Two of the tax parcels are owned by Island’s End, while the other two are owned by King Trust.

“This is one of the largest size and acreage projects, probably the largest one that the town has undertaken,” said land preservation coordinator Melissa Spiro. 

The golf club has been open and in use since 1961, according to Catherine Chaudhuri, president of the Island’s End board of directors. Ms. Chaudhuri thanked the Peconic Land Trust, the landowners, Ms. Spiro and the Town Board for their preservation efforts.

The town will acquire the two easements through the Community Preservation Fund for a total of $5,175,000. Given that the town’s purchase offer is below fair market value, the landowners may be eligible to claim a bargain sale, meaning that the difference between the easement costs and fair market values may be acknowledged by the IRS to defray taxes, which is subject to IRS approval.

The purchase of the development rights comes as a major win for the Town Board under Mr. Russell, as the property is listed in the town’s Community Preservation Project Plan as land that should be preserved due to its recreational, open space, agricultural values and for protection of roughly 800 feet of undeveloped beach and shoreline on Long Island Sound. 

Legally, the town had to hold two separate public hearings for each easement, but because all four tax parcels fall within Island’s End terrain, the board combined the hearings so that each speaker wouldn’t have to step to the podium twice. According to Ms. Spiro, Island’s End has leased property from King Trust. 

Virtually all the acreage protected by the easements cannot be touched or developed for any purpose as they are still considered private land under the easements. Island’s End and the King Trust still own their respective parcels, but now, restrictions are in place that prohibit development of that land for housing or commercial purposes. It can be used only for public recreation – namely, access to the golf course for members and nonmembers alike. 

Peconic Land Trust project manager Holly Sanford said, “The easement states that should, in the future, golf cease to exist,” housing development is still prohibited. Current zoning would have allowed for the development of approximately 53 residential lots, she said.

“We were very pleased because we’ve been working for a number of years with the owners who were open to this, along with the golf course,” Ms. Sanford said. “Peconic Land Trust looks forward to seeing the future … to see this in perpetuity.”

Members of the Town Board expressed satisfaction with the purchase.

An East Marion resident said he’s watched his kids grow up on the course.

“We play together with the family quite often,” said Robert Syron, CEO and president of Peconic Landing. “The camaraderie and the kinship and everything that it brings when you go over to the clubhouse is quite remarkable. I commend the town for making this happen … because it’s really important to us all.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated the larger parcel was owned by the golf course. We regret the error and have updated that paragraph.

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