The owner of nearly 15 acres on the northwest corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road in Riverhead says he might be willing to sell his land to Suffolk County and scrap his plans to build housing along the state-designated rural corridor, the News-Review has learned.
That news comes as residents of the nearby Reeves Park neighborhood are still holding out hope that developer Kenney Barra will ultimately agree to sell his 4.1 acres at the northeast corner of that intersection, instead of developing a commercial center there.
The owner of the 15-acre parcel, Ed Broidy, recently wrote a letter to county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), whose district spans the North Fork, about the possibility of selling to the county.
In response, Mr. Romaine proposed a bill to have the land preserved as open space, but the proposal scored low in a preservation scoring system used by the Legislature’s environment, planning and agriculture committee and was tabled.
Mr. Romaine plans to meet soon with county parks and planning officials, as well as Reeves Park residents, to craft a proposal to have the property purchased for use as what’s called a “hamlet park.” Such parks can be maintained by towns, villages or even nonprofit groups.
“This is a process where the county does not exercise eminent domain and must have a willing seller,” Mr. Romaine said. “I have an interest in doing this because I would like to see less commercial development along Sound Avenue. It has a little bit to do with changing the course of direction, not always allowing the developers every square inch of roadway on Long Island. This is truly the last rural corridor that exists here.”
Mr. Broidy first proposed building a 22,000-square-foot shopping center six years ago, around the time the town changed the zoning at his property and several others along the road and at the intersection to prevent commercial development.
He was one of three property owners who then sued the town to challenge the rezoning, the others being Mr. Barra and the owners of R&K Precision Autoworks, on the south side of the intersection. Both Mr. Barra and the R&K group ultimately prevailed in court, but Mr. Broidy instead began negotiating a settlement with the town in which he would agree to build houses instead of stores.
Mr. Broidy, who currently leases his land to a farmer, said this week that he had wanted to build 18 houses on the 15 acres, which is more than the zoning permits, but he has since agreed to build 16 houses with a “gentleman’s farm in the front, along Sound Avenue, to make it look nice.” That is, if he doesn’t sell to the county.
Asked if he would prefer to build the homes or sell the land to the county, Mr. Broidy said, “Obviously, if I got enough money from the county, why should I build?” The county would first need to do an appraisal of the property, to which Mr. Broidy said he is not opposed.
“If the county buys it would be for parkland, which I have no problem with,” he said. “It would look nice there.”
Mr. Romaine said Reeves Park residents have pitched an idea to turn Mr. Broidy’s property into a public farm from which plots could be leased to area residents.
As for Mr. Barra’s land, residents have asked that it be purchased as a hamlet park. The site would include parkland and a Sept. 11 Memorial. But Mr. Barra thus far has publicly stated that he intends to build, not sell. Still, the county has begun planning steps towards the acquisition of Mr. Barra’s property.
“I think we have a high point of entry,” Mr. Romaine said of the county possibly acquiring the properties, “because the owners are looking to maximize [property values] and the county is looking to go with straight appraisals, which are coming in much lower than they did two or three years ago, but it’s certainly worth a shot.”
He said the process of acquiring a property, from inception to closing, lasts at least a year.