By Marissa Maier
The Suffolk County Legislature is in the process of purchasing a 27.8 acre parcel of land in North Haven for preservation, but, according to county legislator Jay Schneiderman, will most likely need Southampton Town to lend some financial support to complete the buy.
“I met with [Southampton Town Supervisor] Linda Kabot and explained to her that purchasing this land without a partnership with the town would be very difficult,” said Schneiderman.
A partnership between the county and town would be a marked change in the way land is purchased for preservation. As of now, says Schneiderman, land preservation purchases are often completed independently by either the town or the county, but not typically as a partnership between the two. But with a troubled economy and money becoming scarcer for many local governments, Schneiderman believes it will be necessary for both parties to provide joint funding for land preservation projects in the future.
The North Haven parcel —known as the Lack property — sits on 27.8 acres of land in the southeast part of the village off Fresh Pond Road and was rated high under the Suffolk County Open Space Rating System for its natural environments. The property contains tidal and freshwater wetlands and is part of the Peconic Estuary.
According to North Haven Village Mayor Laura Nolan, Randy Parsons, the finance and policy advisor for The Nature Conservancy, was approached by the owner of the Lack property about selling the piece of land to the county. Parsons then contacted Schneiderman about the possibility of the county purchasing the land.
The resolution to begin the acquisition process of the property passed the Suffolk County Legislature on December 16. Previously, on December 4, the Suffolk County Executive, Steve Levy, had vetoed the resolution arguing that if the property was developed, the developers would be required by law to preserve 15 acres of the parcel. But Schneiderman, who sponsored the resolution, was able to gather enough votes to override the veto. According to Parsons, the resolution to acquire the land is pending a final signature from Levy. When it is signed the County Real Estate Division will order an appraisal, says Parsons.
The passing of the resolution authorizes the county to begin its planning steps for purchasing the property, including making an offer. Schneiderman adds that the Environmental Trust Board also needs to review the property and agree upon the price with the appraisers. He adds that once a final price has been agreed upon with the owners, the county legislature will still need to authorize the purchase, meaning it will have to come before the legislature for a vote.
Schneiderman believes the project will not pass this final vote, unless the county forms a partnership with Southampton Town to finance the purchase.
“Because of money everything is difficult right now,” said Schneiderman. “No one wants to spend money. [The county legislature] looks at all of the preserved properties on the East End and they say ‘Haven’t we done enough?’ especially considering the price of land here.”
Though he’s hoping for a joint purchase of the North Haven property, Schneiderman is concerned that Southampton Town may not be able to commit the necessary funds due to other parcels already at the top of the town’s Community Preservation Fund (CPF) wish list.
The CPF monies come from a two percent tax on all real estate transfers in town. With less revenue coming in to the CPF due to a decline in real estate sales, the town may not have as many funds available for these projects as it has in the past.Â Schneiderman estimates that the town CPF revenue has decreased by nearly a third this year.
The owner of the Lack property — who has not been publicly identified — has been in close contact with Schneiderman and is eager to sell the land to the county for preservation. Schneiderman hopes an alliance can be struck between the county and the town before the purchase of the property goes to a vote in the Suffolk County Legislature.
In the meantime, Schneiderman will continue to work on developing a partnership with Kabot and the Town of Southampton with an eye toward the purchase.