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Sep 23, 2009 2:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suffolk County wants to buy 146 acres in East Quogue

Sep 23, 2009 2:40 PM

Suffolk County wants to team up with Southampton Town to buy and preserve 146 acres in East Quogue, undeveloped land that was once slated for a golf course and subdivision and, most recently, a 29-home subdivision.

Most of the land in question, commonly known as “The Links at East Quogue,” is located south of Sunrise Highway and within the pine barrens. The narrow, boot-shaped parcel begins at Old Country Road, near the Long Island Rail Road tracks, and runs north to Sunrise Highway, just east of Lewis Road.

The land is in a groundwater protection area and therefore qualifies to be preserved as open space under Suffolk County’s Drinking Water Protection Program, according to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk.

“It is a fairly large development in a very sensitive area for groundwater,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who introduced a resolution to buy the East Quogue property during the Suffolk County Legislature meeting held Thursday, September 17. The measure was approved by a 15-3 margin but still needs to be signed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy before it is officially adopted.

The county resolution does not include a price tag for the proposed land acquisition, or how much the county would expect to get from the town to finalize the purchase. Mr. Schneiderman said the county plans to first survey the land before getting it appraised. He said he does not think the land will be appraised for at least another six months.

If the owners agree to sell the property to the county, Mr. Schneiderman said he does not expect the deal to be finalized for at least a year. He declined to speculate how much the county could offer for the land, a very small portion of which is actually located in Flanders.

Wayne Steck of the Wayne Paul Construction Company in Melville is one of the owners of the property. He said that he and his fellow owners would most likely be willing to sell the land—for the right price.

“I’ve looked at what [price] they have purchased other properties,” he said, referring to Suffolk County officials. “We would sell our properties well within that range,” he added, declining to offer concrete figures.

Mr. Steck added that, if for some reason, he and the other owners do not sell the land, they will use it for farming because recent zone changes made by Southampton Town have made subdividing the property unprofitable.

Mr. Schneiderman said he brought the resolution before the Suffolk County Legislature after Raphael Greenspan, one of the owners of the property, approached the county and inquired if it would be interested in buying the 146 acres. Mr. Greenspan could not be reached for comment this week.

The developers withdrew their plans to build 29 homes on the land in June, after a zone change in the hamlet limited the number of homes that could be built there. In 2006, the developers announced their plans to build an 18-
hole golf course and up to 80 new homes on the property. The filing of that application was stalled because of a building moratorium in East Quogue that ran from April 2006 until August 2008.

In December 2008, the Southampton Town Board agreed to change the zoning of some 915 acres in East Quogue, including the 146 acres now being targeted by the county. The town changed all 2- and 3-acre zoning to 5-acre zoning, following the suggestion of a study completed during the moratorium.

As a result, the developers, who had previously filed an application to build a 49-lot subdivision on the land, withdrew that application and submitted another one for a 29-lot subdivision. That plan was withdrawn in June due to financial concerns.

Mr. Steck explained this week that the owners would be unable to turn a profit if they are allowed to build only 29 homes. The developers recently announced their intention to grow corn on the property, adding that they need that revenue to help pay off their $400,000 annual tax bill.

“It is impossible to make money,” Mr. Steck said of the withdrawn application to build 29 new homes. “It is just too small of [a] yield.”

If the developers agree to sell their land, Mr. Schneiderman said he hopes that the county will not make the acquisition alone. “The county would be looking to partner with the town,” he said.

Mary Wilson, the manager of Southampton Town’s Community Preservation Fund, said Wednesday that even though her office just learned about the proposal, the town might be willing to contribute funds for the acquisition.

“It’s a large block in the pine barrens,” she said. “It should be protected, if possible.”

Ms. Wilson explained that the next step would be for members of the CPF’s advisory board to review the proposal and decide if they should partner with the county. That committee would then make a recommendation to the Southampton Town Board.

Ms. Wilson declined to speculate how much the town would be willing to contribute to the purchase.

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That's good. In a time of economic crisis and the Towns being without money, let's take more land off the tax roles so everyone else has to pay more. The pizza pie is the pizza pie and the real taxpayers slice continues to get bigger. Let them develop it and pay taxes like everyone else.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Sep 24, 09 3:11 PM
Once again our elected officials are not seeing the real picture. We can not afford to buy all property that has not been developed and expect everyone to share the burdon of the lost property taxes. If we are concerned with the pine barrens for drinking water then look at changing pollution issues. Whats wrong with a golf course? They provide taxs for all, you can regulate the use of organic fertilizers. We need to balance the books, not keep going the same direction by getting deeper into ...more
By trurepublician (53), hampton bays on Sep 26, 09 10:59 PM