Tag Archive | "Sagaponack"

Peconic Land Trust Still Working Hard to Preserve Farmland

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The Pike farm stand on Main Street in Sagaponack. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Mara Certic

The Peconic Land Trust has been dedicated to preserving the natural lands and working farms on the East End for over 30 years. As real estate prices continue to climb, the land trust has been exploring ways to impose restrictions that would keep local farmers farming.

John v.H. Halsey, president of the Peconic Land Trust, spoke about some of the methods to preserve farmland at this month’s meeting of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday, July 28.

The most common way, the purchase of development rights, was pioneered nationwide by Suffolk County in 1970s. The practice has since been emulated throughout the nation.

“A simple explanation is this: when you own land, it comes with a bundle of rights. Zoning, of course, gives you the parameters of what you can do with it,” Mr. Halsey explained on Monday. “Probably the most valuable right associated with land is the right to build,” he said. The other rights, such as the right to farm or the right to walk on the land have less value in the marketplace.

“So the farmer would sell the most valuable rights associated with the land, but they would retain all the other rights with it,” he said. This became an opportunity for farmers to tap into the equity of their land and afford the estate tax on their land. It was also a way to ensure that farmland remained agricultural land and to prevent the over development of open space.  Beginning in the early 1980s, East End towns began creating funds to purchase development rights and open space.

Another way of protecting agricultural land is through the subdivision process. The  cluster provision, which came into use in the 1980s, typically “clusters” development in the least valuable portion of the property and requires that 50 to 65 percent of the rest of the land be preserved.

According to Mr. Halsey, both methods have been successful components of conservation through the years, but more needs to be done.

“As land value goes up, the federal estate tax becomes more of an issue. The value of real estate has continued to go up and today it’s higher than it’s ever been and it’s higher than anyone could have thought,” Mr. Halsey said.

“Non-farmers are not bound by the same economic reality,” he continued. Over the past 40 years, 12,000 acres of farmland has been protected in Suffolk County; several thousand of those acres are in the Town of Southampton.

However much of this land has been taken out of production,  with much of it going top equestrian uses, which is defined as an agricultural use by New York State, he added.

Mr. Halsey was keen to say that he has no problem with horses, but stressed, “It is disturbing to me that that could end up being the only agricultural use that anyone has in the long run. I’m seeing the intent of these programs unraveling.”

“We need to do something and do it in a way that’s fair,” he added.

In 2010, the Peconic Land Trust purchased 7.6 acres of farmland from the Hopping family in Sagaponack for $6 million. It then sold the development rights to the county for $4.3 million. “We wanted to get this land into the hands of the Pikes,” Mr. Halsey said, noting that Jim Pike had farmed on the land when it was owned by the Hopping family but did not have the means to purchase it from them directly.

As a public charity, however, the Peconic Land Trust cannot sell something to someone at less than market value, and even without the developmental rights, the farmland was expensive for the Pikes.

So the trust borrowed restrictions that Massachusetts and Vermont have been using to protect farmland. It was then able to put in these additional restrictions, which “reduced the value of that farmland so non-famers weren’t interested,” he said.

Under the deal, the parties agreed to eliminate equestrian use and drastically limited the right of Mr. Pike to use the property for nursery stock. The trust has retained the right to lease the land to a farmer if it is taken out of production for two years. The trust also put on a restriction to ensure that it has the right to review the future sales of the farmland and that it must be sold to a qualified farmer. It sold the property to the Pikes for $167,200.

“Our goal has been to model these restrictions and try to get the town to consider incorporating them into the town purchasing policy,” Mr. Halsey told the CAC.

Three months ago, these additional restrictions were used by the trust to purchase 33 acres on Head of Pond Road in Water Mill. “We’re very pleased that the town board agreed unanimously to purchase the additional restrictions,” he said.

“We’re the first municipality in the State of New York to include these new restrictions and [the members of the board] deserve a lot of credit for that,” he said.”

The Peconic Land Trust will celebrate the latest acquisition on Monday, August 5, at 10 a.m. at the newly acquired land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still No Decision on Bridge

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The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday again tabled a resolution allowing it to sign a contract with the state Department of Transportation to obtain a $500,000 federal grant to refurbish the Bridge Lane bridge that connects Sagaponack and Bridgehampton.

Work on the project has been put on hold for months because residents have opposed plans to modernize the structure, specifically plans for new guardrails and the removal of curbing along the pedestrian walkway.

The Village of Sagaponack even offered to reimburse the town for the grant money if it would proceed with a design that is more in keeping with its residents’ wishes, but Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor has refused to change the design, saying alternatives would not meet safety standards.

Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender had planned, at Mr. Gregor’s request, to bring the resolution up for a vote on Tuesday, but was forced to ask the board to put it off for another month, until its August 26 meeting.

“We’re still at an impasse,” he said before Tuesday’s meeting.

Barbecued Bingo

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Townline BBQ on Townline Road in Sagaponack will be hosting Bingo Nights every Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The night will consist of seven rounds of bingo for $4 a card or $10 for three cards. Attendees can win cash, prizes and other goodies.

The Bingo Night will replace Quiz Night, which was held every Thursday during the off-season.

Townline BBQ is open daily at 11:30 a.m. For more information, visit www.townlinebbq.com or call (631) 537-2271.

Wine Spectator Recognizes Long Island’s Rising Tide of Great Wines

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Wölffer No. 139 dry rosé hard cider. Photo courtesy Wölffer Estate Vineyard.

Wölffer No. 139 dry rosé hard cider. Photo courtesy Wölffer Estate Vineyard.

By Tessa Raebeck

After years of falling by the wayside in conversations about great American wine, the coastal vineyards of Long Island are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

In the June 15 issue of Wine Spectator, Ben O’Donnell writes of “Long Island’s Rising Tide,” focusing on three local wineries, the Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, and McCall Wines and Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue.

“It’s an exciting time for Long Island wine,” writes Mr. O’Donnell.

Winemaker Roman Roth created Wölffer’s signature rosé in the 1990s, when neither the wine nor the region were as well known. Today, the vineyard sells 17,000 cases of rosé a year—usually selling out by August—and 37,500 cases overall. It recently delved into the hard cider market with “Wölffer No. 139” dry rosé and dry white ciders.

With sustainable farming, organic cattle raising and credit as the first vineyard to erect an energy-generating windmill, McCall Wines in Cutchogue is at the forefront of modern agriculture. A relatively new winery, the first vintage bottled in 2007, McCall’s Bordeaux blend is a Merlot-dominated cuvee with a measure of Cabernet Franc and splashes of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

A huge force in popularizing Merlot in the region, Bedell Cellars, also in Cutchogue, produces 12,000 to 15,000 cases a year. Bedell bottles are decorated by artists, a creative addition of owner Michael Lynne, who is also president of New Line Cinema.

“These exemplars,” writes Mr. O’Donnell, “are pushing themselves, and each other, to capture the best possible wines from what the land—and the sea—gives them.”

Trivia Night at Wölffer Estate Vineyard with Local Quizmaster Paul Johnson

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By Tessa Raebeck

As part of its Locals Nights series, the Wölffer Estate Vineyard hosts Trivia Night with Paul Johnson Tuesday, April 1.

In teams of up to five, players will compete for prizes in rounds on topics ranging from wine to celebrity gossip.

Mr. Johnson has made a name for himself on the local bar game scene hosting the popular Thursday night trivia game at Townline Barbeque in Sagaponack.

“When I’m coming up with questions, I like to strike a balance between fun and challenging,” Mr. Johnson said. “If it’s too easy, the hardcore trivia fans are going to be disappointed. Too difficult and the casual players won’t want to come back. When I’m hosting, I want everyone to enjoy themselves—myself included.”

“On any given night, there could be one round about classic literature, one about celebrity marriages, one about fast food; it’s really limitless. I just try to make sure that there’s something for everyone,” he added.

With half-price glasses of wine and rotating themes for a cover charge of $10, Locals Nights at Wölffer are every Tuesday from 4 to 8 p.m. Trivia will run from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit wolffer.com or call 537-5106.

Sagg Bridge Stalemate Continues

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Sagg Bridge

 

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Village of Sagaponack and Southampton Town remain at a stalemate over Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor’s plan to forge ahead with a controversial plan to replace the Sagg Bridge.

The village has objected to a plan to install modified guardrails offered by Mr. Gregor, and he says he has no intention of allowing the village to annex the bridge, which village officials have raised as a possible solution.

The dispute over the tiny span, from which Bridgehampton derives its name, erupted in December when Mr. Gregor unveiled plans for a new bridge that included larger guardrails that meet the state highway safety code, but which Sagaponack residents say would cut off the view of the pond.

As an alternative, in February, the village offered to reimburse the town $500,000 for the federal grant money Mr. Gregor was planning to use for the project and help pay for future upkeep if the highway superintendent would cancel plans for installing the new guardrails.

But Mr. Gregor has refused. “I’m simply trying to make the bridge safe right now,” Mr. Gregor said on Tuesday.

As a compromise, Mr. Gregor said he offered to use a more historic-looking type of guardrail that he saw on numerous bridges on the Pacific Coast Highway during a recent vacation in California. The new railings would add about $22,000 to the coat of the project, but village officials have rejected his suggestion, he said.

Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim said on Wednesday the village was stumped by the town’s refusal to accept its offer to pay for the bridge work or annex the structure.

“We thought we were giving the town a gift,” he said of the offer to pay for the work. That would free the town to use the grant money on another deserving road project, he added.

He suggested the board was unwilling to move forward with the village’s offer because it did not want to ruffle Mr. Gregor’s feathers.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gregor said he was growing tired of the delays. The highway superintendent said he had informed Sagaponack officials that was going to replace the bridge shortly after he took office in 2010 and delivered a complete set of plans for the new span last summer.

“I didn’t hear boo from them until I had my public information session late last year,” he said.

Mr. Gregor said he was hoping to go out to bid on the project this month, but he cannot do so until the town board votes on a resolution to accept the $500,000 construction grant that was procured by U.S. Representative Tim Bishop but is administered by the state Department of Transportation.

Mr. Gregor added that he had the authority to stop the village from annexing the bridge, which lies partly in the village and partly in town.

“According to the New York State Department of Transportation I own and am responsible to maintain the bridge and approaches to it,” Mr. Gregor said, referring to the town Highway Department.

But Mr. Louchheim rejected that notion. “Mr. Gregor has no authority over it,” he said. “The town owns the bridge. The town board can do it if it wants to do it.”

Even if the village were able to gain control of the bridge, Mr. Gregor said it was unlikely they would be able to get what they wanted.

“They must think they are going to be able to go to the DOT and have them tell them they can put in something that is less than standard,” he said.

Not true, again, said Mr. Louchheim who insisted the state could not force the village to bring the bridge up to code if it was not paying for the work.

Poetry and Wine: Locals Night at Wölffer Estate Vineyard

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Locals nights are every Tuesday at Wölffer Estate Vineyard.

Locals nights are every Tuesday at Wölffer Estate Vineyard.

By Tessa Raebeck

What will bring locals out of their winter hibernation for a springtime Tuesday night? Wine and poetry is a good place to start. As part of its Locals Night series, the Wölffer Estate Vineyard is hosting an evening of local poets, complimented by half-priced glasses of local wine.

Scott Chaskey, the “poet farmer,” published author and farm director at the Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, will read selections of his work, as will his wife Megan. Local poets Julia King, Lucas Hunt, Tom Oleszczuk and Ivo Tomasini will also perform.

“Come support two thriving, local art forms: winemaking and poetry, while enjoying great local wines,” said event organizer Tyler Armstrong, a local ecologist who will host the evening and read selections of his own poems.

The evening of poetry, wine and local friends is Tuesday, April 29 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Wölffer Estate Vineyard, 139 Sagg Road in Sagaponack. With a $10 entry fee, half-price glasses of wine are available from 4 to 8 p.m. For more information, call 537-5106 or visit wolffer.com.

Jackson Dodds & Company Inc. Tree & Plant Health Care Gets Homeowners Ready for Spring

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Jackson Dodds of Jackson Dodds & Company Inc.

Jackson Dodds of Jackson Dodds & Company Inc. Photo by Steven Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

If you want to catch Jackson Dodds, the owner of the landscaping company of the same name, sitting still, you’ll have to move quickly.

After a long and tough winter, Mr. Dodds said he is anticipating a very short window this spring to prune storm-damaged trees, clean up and prepare gardens for the season, repair damage to driveways and curbs caused by snowplows, and get irrigation systems up and running, all jobs his full-service company handles.

“Everybody is going to be really busy,” he said of the trade in general during an interview in his Southampton office. “So if you want to get on the schedule, don’t wait a month because we’re going to have a really condensed season.”

Every spring seems to bring a different challenge, said Mr. Dodds. Last year, it was damage from Hurricane Sandy. This year, ‘it’s been a brutal winter, and the deer damage is obscene,” he said. “A lot of deer-resistant plant material has been completely defoliated.”

Mr. Dodds, who grew up on what today is the Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, said he always wanted to “work outside” and the East End was one of the few places that offered the opportunity “where you could be a landscaper and still make a living.”

“I started dragging brush right of high school,” after landing a job with Ray Smith and Associates 19 years ago, where he was soon made a partner, Mr. Dodds said, adding that he was proud that he was the youngest certified arborist in New York State at age 18 and today is the vice president of the Long Island Arboricultural Association.

Mr. Dodds attended both Alfred State College and the State University of New York at Delhi before later completing his education at Farmingdale State College, where he received degrees in landscape design and turf management with a minor in business. “Farmingdale is a great school on Long Island for horticulture,” Mr. Dodds said.

Three years ago, he made the break to form his own company. Today, Jackson Dodds and Company has 14 employees, spread over four divisions, landscape design and installation, tree pruning and removal, irrigation and lawn care and planting.

During his career, Mr. Dodd said he has seen everything, including a trend that started in the mid-1990s before pausing for a few years when the economy tanked in 2007: the removal of full-size specimen trees from one property to be planted on another property, where the homeowner wants an instantly mature landscape.

“They say, ‘the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps and the third year it leaps,’” Mr. Dodd said about tree transplants, although he quickly added that mature trees sometimes take a couple of more years to recover. “The after-care is everything,” he said. “That is where we carve out a niche, watching the plant’s health and care, prepping the soil and feeding.”

And how big are these trees? Last year, Mr. Dodds said his crew used a 110-ton crane to move a tree that had a 108-inch root ball. “Some of my clients move trees like they move furniture,” he said. “Nothing is too big.”

Fruit orchards are another specialty. “Fruit trees require a very specific timing on when you apply fungicide to the leaves,” he said. “You have to do everything to keep the leaf healthy to keep the fruit healthy. If you miss the timing, your fruit turns into a shriveled up prune.”

Mr. Dodd smiles when asked about organic plant care. It doesn’t work on orchards, he said, and the problem with it is “it typically doesn’t give the kind of results people expect out here.”

That’s not to say he is an advocate of wholesale applications of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Mr. Dodd said he used integrated pest management system and coordinates the applications with the temperature at which they will do the most good and the least harm. “We all have to drink the same water here,” he said, “so we’re by the book when it comes to that.”

For more information on Jackson Dodds & Company Inc., visit jacksondoddsinc.com or call 604-5693. 

State Education Aid Increases by $1.1 Billion

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced Monday that the 2014-15 state budget will increase state aid to education by $1.1 billion to more than $22 billion.

“The State Legislature has improved the governor’s 2014 state budget proposal by increasing school aid from a proposed 3.9 percent to 5.3 percent across the state,” said Assemblyman Thiele. “Suffolk County’s share of aid also would increase by 5.3 percent. Suffolk had gotten its fair share of this year’s school aid increase.”

A major part of the school aid increase was the reduction of the Gap Elimination Adjustment by $602 million. The GEA was originally enacted to close a state budget deficit back in 2008-09.

Mr. Thiele said the final state budget also includes the governor’s $2 Billion Smart School Bond initiative to improve classroom technology and construct pre-kindergarten classroom space. He expressed support for the governor’s Smart School Bond Act, which must be approved by voters in November.

“The focus on improving quality education is a goal I fully support,” said Mr. Thiele. “This state aid proposal accomplishes that goal for Long Island and New York State.”

“Superintendents in my district conveyed that their priority for this year’s budget was the reduction of the GEA—a budget-balancing fiasco imposed by the Democrats in 2010 when they controlled all three branches of government.” said Senator Kenneth P. LaValle. “This year, we were successful in restoring $602 Million of the GEA money to local school districts. The state’s commitment to education is now well over $22 billion. This budget meets the needs of New York State’s children while at the same time providing property tax relief to residents who help underwrite the costs. I am pleased to have obtained increases for each school district in my area.”

Under the state budget, the Sag Harbor School District will receive $1,637,585, a 5.92-percent increase in state aid. The Bridgehampton School District will receive $656,377, a 10.9-percent increase. The East Hampton School District is set to receive $2.76 million in state aid, a 4.15-percent increase, and the Southampton School District will get $2.6 million, a 9.9-percent increase.

Poxabogue Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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Poxabogue Golf Center in Sagaponack.

Poxabogue Golf Center in Sagaponack. Photo courtesy of Poxabogue.

By Tessa Raebeck

On “Poxy days,” Alfred and Robyn Poto would wake up their young children, Jennifer and Eric, get out the family bikes and head down Town Line Road to the Poxabogue Golf Center on Montauk Highway. After breakfast at the Fairway Restaurant, the family would spend their morning hitting golf balls on the range.

“When I think of Poxabogue, I smile,” recalled Jennifer, now a grown woman. “It has a warming sense of tradition and milestones for so many people.”

Opened in 1964, Poxabogue is celebrating 50 years of tradition this year. Originally a small potato farm, the Sagaponack course and driving range was started to give local residents an affordable alternative to the region’s standard of elite, members-only clubs.

Over a half a century, Poxabogue has become the range of choice for locals, tourists and summer residents alike.

“When I was a kid, I loved going to the range, it was a nice little family activity,” said Jennifer Poto, whose family had a summer home in Sagaponack. “It became a family tradition for us. Poxy golf and breakfast both just instantly remind me of my childhood.”

“It was a place where we could interact with our young kids, while surrounded by the beautiful landscape,” her mother, Robyn Poto, said. “No better way to start off a weekend morning, only to end the visit with a great breakfast with Dan [Murray],” who has been operating the Fairway Restaurant, the independently owned diner next to the course, since 1988.

An ad celebrating the opening of Poxabogue Golf Course in 1964. Photo courtesy of the Bridgehampton Historical Society.

An ad celebrating the opening of Poxabogue Golf Course in 1964. Photo courtesy of the Bridgehampton Historical Society.

While the Poto family enjoyed their “Poxy days” on sunny summer mornings, others honed their golf skills at Poxabogue bundled up on winter weekends and after school.

“I’ve always loved hitting golf balls there since I was young,” said Brendon Spooner, who grew up in Wainscott around the corner from the range. “It’s good for learning the game, having the nine-hole course out here.”

When developers threatened to turn the property into a housing development or a miniature golf attraction in the early 2000s, residents—billionaires and longtime locals alike—quickly spoke out to save Southampton’s only public course. In March 2004, the towns of East Hampton and Southampton recognized the public pressure and stepped up to the plate, splitting the cost to purchase Poxabogue.

Southampton bought out East Hampton’s share of the course in 2012 and is now the sole owner. PGA Director of Golf Steven Lee took over the day-to-day operations last June.

Mr. Lee manages the course and runs it as if it’s his own, paying the town in an agreement similar to a lease. He has a relationship with the town, he said, “to provide the people of Southampton and East Hampton with a public golf course in an area that has mostly private clubs.”

“What makes it special is that there’s not a lot of public golf out in the Hamptons,” said Mr. Lee. “And it’s really ironic, because at a time when all of the golf courses started becoming bigger and bigger and more expensive and more challenging—and that’s really one of the things that’s driven people away from the game—now they have Poxabogue, where people are coming out to. They love coming out, they love hitting balls.”

Matt Nielsen started playing at Poxabogue when he was 16. Some of his friends from East Hampton High School worked on the range, driving the caged carts around picking up balls. Mr. Nielsen first came to Poxabogue to perfect his golf game by taking aim at the carts his friends were driving, but he quickly became a regular.

“It’s important because it gives us locals a place to play that we can actually afford,” he said. “Some of the private courses out here cost more money than I will make in my lifetime. It’s a course for real golfers, not the rich stockbroker that just plays to close a business deal.”

Like the regulars on the range, Mr. Lee is hopeful Poxabogue will enjoy another 50 years providing the community with a place to play golf. One of his goals, he said, is to get more of locals to come out and hit balls in the off-season.

“As long as I live here, that’s my course,” Mr. Nielsen said.