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Residents, Peconic Land Trust hope to preserve property along New Suffolk Avenue

Along the picturesque stretch of New Suffolk Avenue, wide vistas of farmland and vineyards open to sprawling views over three creeks and the Peconic Bay to the south.

“It’s just so lovely in a quiet way,” said Carolyn McCall, who lives along the road in Cutchogue.

Ms. McCall is one of several residents working alongside the Peconic Land Trust on an ambitious effort to preserve an approximately 15-acre property at the corner of New Suffolk Avenue and Marratooka Road in Mattituck the group says will help protect scenic views, maintain community character and strengthen local water quality.

Its current owners, listed as the Koehler Family Limited Partnership in town planning documents, are currently working to finalize a seven-lot subdivision that would include 8 acres of open space.

In order to subdivide the land, the owners would also pay roughly $253,000 into the town’s affordable housing fund, officials said.

Working with the Peconic Land Trust, an organization founded in 1983 that has helped conserve more than 13,000 acres on Long Island, the community is hoping to rally support to purchase the property, which is listed on the market for $3.3 million.

An appraisal is also underway to assist in future discussions with the owners.

Holly Sanford, the project manager for the Peconic Land Trust, said in an interview Monday that the organization had been seeking state and local funding in order to preserve the property — funding that may not be available now as a result of the pandemic.

The land trust reached out to the landowners anyway, to see if conservation was an option they’d be willing to consider. “We don’t work in opposition to a landowner, we work in conjunction with them,” Ms. Sanford said, adding that the owners have been “very accommodating” thus far.

While he acknowledged that the property owners have a right to develop the land, which is in the Residential-80 zoning district, Greg Doroski, who lives nearby, said the property is one of several that would fundamentally change the area if developed.

“We’re trying to do what we can,” said Mr. Doroski, who’s a candidate for Southold Town Board this year. “It was never ‘let’s get our picket signs and stop development.’ It’s about working together and finding a plan to preserve [this property].”

If preserved, Mr. Doroski said the property could offer public access to Deep Hole Creek, one of several entryways to the Peconic Bay in the area.

Alison Delaney, a development officer for the Peconic Land Trust who also lives in the area, is helping to spearhead a grassroots fundraising effort in order to save the land.

“We want to raise as much money [as we can] now in pledge funds,” Ms. Delaney said, should the opportunity to purchase the land arise. She said community pledges will help demonstrate community interest and support.

She described New Suffolk Avenue as a “conservation story,” pointing out several preserved properties that dot the landscape despite it being in a densely populated residential area.

“This would be adding on to that story and resonate with community members, whether you’re a bird-watcher, walker, cyclist” or simply taking the scenic route in your car, Ms. Delaney said.

Ms. Sanford conceded that it’s a “heavy lift” in terms of fundraising, but said the land trust is dedicated to the goal of preservation of either the entire property or portions of it, with community support.

“We’re going to give this our best effort and see how things go. We’re hoping to have support.”

So far, they’ve seen interest and support from different areas of the community.

“It’s not just immediate neighbors,” said Ms. McCall. “Open space is what makes the North Fork special. If we have a chance to preserve it, why wouldn’t we?”

For more information on the ongoing conservation effort, click here.