05/20/15 10:00am
05/20/2015 10:00 AM
Like many agricultural parcels in Southold Town, Marratooka North Farm, an 18-acre farm off Main Road in Mattituck, is preserved land and can't be developed. (Credit: Carrie Miller file)

Like many agricultural parcels in Southold Town, Marratooka North Farm, an 18-acre farm off Main Road in Mattituck, is preserved land and can’t be developed. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

As Albany lawmakers work to extend the Peconic Community Preservation Fund to 2050 and break off a portion of its proceeds to protect the region’s water quality, Southold Planning Board members want the Town Board to know they’re not fully supporting the moves. (more…)

10/23/14 8:00am
10/23/2014 8:00 AM
Southold land preservation coordinator Melissa Spiro thanked the Sinatra Family of East Marion for their donation during Tuesday's board meeting. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Southold land preservation coordinator Melissa Spiro thanked the Sinatra Family of East Marion for their donation during Tuesday’s board meeting. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

The Southold Town Board voted unanimously to move forward with preserving two parcels as open space, one of which is being donated to the town for conservation.

Richard and Camille Sinatra of East Marion have offered the town a 10-acre property off Kayleigh’s Court that is currently zoned for residential housing. (more…)

06/19/13 11:32am
06/19/2013 11:32 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Environmental activists gathered in front of the Riverhead County Center to protest a bill proposed by Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) to revise the county’s land preservation program Tuesday afternoon.

Environmental advocates lined up Tuesday to speak out against a bill proposed in the Suffolk County Legislature that’s designed to revise the county’s land preservation program.

The bill, proposed by Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), would ensure that half of Drinking Water Protection Program funds, which must be used for land preservation, would be designated for purchasing farmland development rights.

With funding for the program dwindling, the environmental activists believe legislators should focus on securing future land preservation funds “rather than declaring one land type is more superior to all others,” said Kevin McDonald of the Nature Conservancy, during the public hearing portion of Tuesday’s Legislature meeting at the County Center in Riverside.

“We should in fact be arguing for additional funding for a wildly popular program that helps both the environment and the economy,” said Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, who also spoke during the hearing.

According to a press release from Mr. Krupski promoting his proposed bill, 95 percent of program funding currently goes to open space purchases, which include wetlands, Pine Barrens, woodlands and hamlet parks. The remaining five percent is allocated for farmland preservation, the release states.

Joe Gergela, director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said he applauds Mr. Krupski’s efforts in taking on the “sensitive” issue.

“It is a balancing act,” Mr. Gergela said at the hearing. “He has raised awareness of the importance of farmland in the program.”

Since the Drinking Water Protection Program started in 1988, about 12,000 acres of farmland have been preserved, leaving 23,000 acres to be protected, Mr. Gergela said.

Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment also took to the podium. She said that, according to the county charter, the Legislature does not have the last say on changing the voter-approved law, which directs a quarter penny sales tax on every dollar to the Drinking Water Protection Program.

A mandatory referendum is needed to make any amendments to the program, she said.

“You can’t do this legally,” she said.

“When the voters of Suffolk County approved this overwhelmingly important environmental program, they approved very specific wording and provisions and had an expectation that land preservation would proceeded accordingly,” Tom Casey, vice president of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, told legislators.

The program has secured more than a billion dollars for land preservation throughout the county, Mr. Amper said.

In 2007 the county accelerated the program, bonding purchases against future sales tax revenue through November 2011. But now the county must purchase land on a pay-as-you-go basis, significantly reducing available funds, according to previous Times/Review coverage.

Currently, the county has $25.1 million in program funds to spend on acquisition, but it already has 43 properties, totaling 420 acres, in various stages of purchase, together costing $23.9 million, according to an April 29 press release from Suffolk County executive Steven Bellone.

For future purchases, the county anticipates receiving $5 million from this years sales tax, along with $1.14 million that’s available from leftover program funds. Moving forward, it must rely solely on the yearly sales tax revenue to fund the program, according to the release.

During the hearing, Mr. Amper asked that legislators not lose sight of the program’s goal.

“This is for drinking water protection,” he said. “When you buy open space above important aquifer sources, the water below stays clean.”

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09/14/12 5:00pm
09/14/2012 5:00 PM

Land preservation has long been a top priority in Southold Town, and residents will have a chance to weigh in this week on shaping the town’s land preservation goals for the years ahead.

The town will hold two community meetings on the land preservation chapter of its new comprehensive plan. The first will be held Saturday, Sept. 15, at 10 a.m. at the East Marion firehouse. The second will be held Thursday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Peconic Lane Community Center.

The draft of the chapter is available now on the town website at southoldtownny.gov and at libraries throughout town.

The chapter touts the fact that the town has already protected 25 percent of its total land area using methods ranging from the purchase of farmland development rights to the outright purchase of property to the private preservation of land.

According to the draft, 41 percent of the town is already developed and 7 percent is wetlands, leaving just 26 percent of the land area unprotected and undeveloped.

The remaining acreage, about 8,950 acres, includes 5,755 acres of farmland and 1,904 acres of building lots, which total 2,394 parcels.
One of the primary goals of the comprehensive plan is to retain at least 8,000 agricultural acres, or about 80 percent of the land that is currently being farmed.

The plan recommends a variety of approaches to achieve that goal, including promotion of conservation subdivisions, where more land is preserved than is required by the code, and the use of Agricultural Planned Development Districts, a special zoning area created on a farm to allow the farmer to sell development rights one at a time.

The draft chapter calls for the town to “design both standard and conservation subdivisions involving farmland to enhance farming and minimize potential incompatibility with residential neighbors.”

The draft also calls for the town to consider increasing the mandatory open space percentage for subdivisions on land over sensitive aquifers.

A suggestion to zone Plum Island to “ensure that the natural and economic resources are protected, along with the public health, safety and welfare” is also included in the plan.

In addition, the draft chapter calls for the town to more stringently monitor its conservation easements to ensure that landowners are not incorrectly using parcels for which the development rights have been sold.

Another suggestion is that the town do more to manage preserved lands it already owns, including maintaining trails, creating management plans for preserves and creating a volunteer program for preserve maintenance.

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12/14/10 10:51am
12/14/2010 10:51 AM

The last pieces in the plan to preserve Pipes Cove at the western edge of Greenport village are falling into place, after the Southold Town Board agreed two weeks ago to negotiate the purchase of 23.5 more acres of the approximately 600 surrounding the cove slated to become a nature preserve.

Southold has been acquiring parcels for the preserve for at least five years, said the town’s land management director, Melissa Spiro. The few remaining small pieces on the town’s wish list are mostly wetlands, she said.

“The job’s not complete, but it’s substantially done,” she said.

The town is in contract to buy, with the county, a 27.4-acre property at the corner of Route 25 and Albertson Lane owned by Manor Grove Corp. for $1.125 million, with the town and county each paying half. As a result of its recent decision to proceed, the town is now in negotiations to buy the 23.5-acre parcel on the south side of Route 25 from Julia Sill, using $538,000 in Community Preservation Fund money.

The ultimate goal both to provide a pristine habitat for the extremely diverse animal and plant life in the wetland habitat surrounding the cove and create hiking trails in a larger preserved area extending from Long Island Sound on the north to the cove on the south.

Though no official trails have been established throughout the area, the town has opened a well-used public beach on preserved property at the end of Pipes Neck Road and some properties within the preserve have been used by bow hunters participating in the town’s deer management program, said Ms. Spiro.

“There are no trails sketched out. They are contingent on which properties we own. Some of them are pretty wet,” she added.

In another land preservation deal, the town has agreed to purchase the development rights on 8.26 acres of farmland on Wickham Avenue in Cutchogue from Flora Nurseries for $520,380. The nursery, which had proposed a subdivision on the land, withdrew that proposal after the Town Board approved the development rights purchase on Nov. 30. The land, at 6900 Wickham Ave., is used primarily for greenhouse production of tomatoes and flowers.

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11/17/10 6:18pm
11/17/2010 6:18 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | The Conway farm on Horton Lane this week became the first farm in Southold Town to be purchased through the 2007 farmland bond, which was designed to offer families who need to sell their farms an option other than development.

A 31-acre farm on Horton Lane in Southold, owned by the estate of Julia Conway, is the first property Southold Town will purchase using money from its 2007 farmland preservation bond, which was established to help farmers whose land has been caught in an estate dispute.

The farm, at 4395 Horton Lane, just north of the Lucas Ford dealership, was planted in potatoes, cauliflower and cabbage by the Conway family, which purchased the property in 1953. It is currently planted with sod by DeLalio Sod Farms, which leases the land.

Ms. Conway’s son, former town police chief Joseph Conway, is handling the sale to the town.
“We were looking to do something with it and we wound up dealing with the town,” said Mr. Conway. “I hope it stays in agriculture.”

The Southold Town Board unanimously approved the acquisition on Tuesday, Nov. 16, after a public hearing at which no members of the public spoke.

“The problem with estate sales is they become very difficult because different members of a family have different goals and objectives,” said Supervisor Scott Russell, who explained the purchase Wednesday.

The town will purchase the development rights to 29 of the farm’s 31 acres for $1.8 million, using money from the Community Preservation Fund. In an unusual twist to farmland preservation deals, the town also will buy the entire property outright for $822,500, using money from the farmland bond. It intends to sell the property in the near future with the development rights stripped from it so it can be used only for agriculture.

The development rights will remain on two acres of the property that contain a farmhouse, two barns and several small sheds.
The town pursued this method, purchasing both the development rights and the title, because the estate was unwilling to sell just the development rights.

“We have pursued development rights in the past but couldn’t get an agreement from the heirs,” said Mr. Russell. “We can’t sit back and hope that the right buyer acquires the farm and continues to farm. This is being more assertive.”

The farmland bond, which was approved in a public referendum in 2007, was established to help ease the burden on family farmers in distressed situations, who may formerly have needed to sell their land to developers to clear up divorce or estate disputes. Southold did not adopt a set of policies for the use of that money until earlier this month.

When the town sells off the property with the development rights stripped from the farmland, the proceeds would be used to replenish the farmland preservation fund.

An additional three acres will be retained by members of the Conway family, who are no longer farmers.

“Yes, it’s a nice, easy out for the purchaser, but it’s also an easy out to sell to a developer,” said Mr. Russell. “The only difference is the development rights will be extinguished and the land will continue to be farmed … The Peconic Land Trust has worked long and hard to get them to agree to sell to us. This is a prime piece of farmland that was very much on our radar. This is not a sweetheart deal.”

Tim Kelly contributed to this story.

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