Southold Town preserves roughly eight acres of farmland in Cutchogue

At just under eight acres, a new parcel of preserved farmland along Main Road in Cutchogue is a bit smaller than a typical acquisition would be.

But land preservation advocates say the property, which the Town Board voted unanimously to purchase the development rights to last Tuesday, is a crucial part of ongoing preservation efforts.

“The preservation of this farm connects two existing preserved farms and results in a block of just under 120 acres of preserved farmland,” town land preservation coordinator Melissa Spiro wrote in a letter to the Town Board, which hosted a public hearing before approving a resolution Tuesday.

The 7.8-acre agricultural property at 21657 Main Road, owned by the McCall family, connects town and county-owned preserved parcels and is also located near the Downs Farm Preserve.

Covenants and restrictions will require that a small adjacent parcel at 21380 Route 25 Cutchogue will remain permanently attached to the farm. 

“It’s an interesting piece of property,” landowner Russ McCall said. “It makes a nice piece.”

Mr. McCall, who grew up summering in the area, has been a chronic preservationist who worked with the Peconic Land Trust and other groups in the mid 1990s to save Downs Woods and surrounding farmland from the threat of a condominium development. The site was once home to the Algonquin Indian tribe.

Since then, he’s tacked on dozens of more acres to the preserved area through partnerships with the land trust, town and county.

“I’m happy to see that property be the way it was when I was growing up,” Mr. McCall said.

The town plans to use Community Preservation Funds to acquire the development rights easement for $505,700, which town officials noted is below the fair market value determined during an appraisal.

“[Mr. McCall] is well known to the town, as he has sold development rights before and has helped facilitate the preservation of other lands,” Ms. Spiro said, extending thanks for his “past and most likely future participation” in land preservation.

Town supervisor Scott Russell said the property had been a priority on a master preservation list due to its proximity to already-preserved land. “When we established criteria for rating properties to establish priorities, properties that are located in areas where other properties have already been preserved are put at the top of the list,” he said. “One of our preservation strategies focuses on creating large, expansive areas of protected lands rather than a checker-board approach. Once we buy this one, it will be a key parcel for implementation of that strategy. The McCall family has always been a great and generous partner in ensuring the preservation of a large portion of that  whole area,” Mr. Russell said.