Want to own the East End’s largest piece of real estate? Just $32 million

11/19/2011 8:19 AM |

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Nicole LaBella, associate broker and vice president at The Corcoran Group (center), with siblings Kathy and Jack Wulforst on the Wulforst family's 187-acre property in Baiting Hollow.

In 1951, four potato farmers from Syosset, all brothers, purchased a giant piece of land in Baiting Hollow.

Harold, Cyril, Ambrose and George Wulforst grew cabbage, cauliflower, sweet corn and potatoes — especially potatoes — there for the next 50 years.

As the brothers grew older, they handed the reins to their children and stopped farming. George, 97, is the only brother still living.

The Wulforst family has been renting much of the land for the last seven years to Jeff Rottkamp of Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm.

Now, 14 Wulforst children have decided to sell the 187-acre farm, which local realtors and town planners believe is the largest property for sale in Suffolk County. The asking price? $32 million.

“We’ve thought about selling it for a number of years now,” said Ellen Wulforst Stone, Harold Wulforst’s daughter. “My cousins and uncles have retired from farming; we’ve been unable to make it as profitable as our fathers.”

The original four farmers focused exclusively on potatoes for the last 15 years they worked the land, selling the produce to national distributors, their children said.

“Every night we had some form of potato,” Harold’s other daughter, Kathy Wulforst, recalled. “Fried, mashed or baked.”

She remembers piling into her father’s pickup truck, playing on the irrigation pipes and drinking water from one of two wells on the property.

“That was the best water in the world,” she recalled. “Nothing beat it.”

The Wulforsts have listed the property with Nicole LaBella, vice president of The Corcoran Group, who said it is the largest piece of land to reach the North Fork market in recent memory.

“I believe in the land,” Ms. LaBella said. “I believe in it because I love looking at it. I call it a piece of heaven on earth.”

The property, south of Sound Avenue, runs west from Baiting Hollow Lane west to Twomey Avenue and lies in an Agricultural Protection Zone, according to Riverhead Town planning director Richard Hanley. This means that 70 percent of the land — or about 130 acres — must be preserved for agricultural use. The remaining 30 percent can be subdivided for residential use.

COURTESY PHOTO | (From left to right) Cyril, George, Ambrose, and Harold Wulforst, brothers and potato farmers, purchased land in Baiting Hollow in 1951. Their 14 children have decided to sell the 187-acre farm, a piece of property realtors and town planners believe is the largest for sale in Suffolk County.

Ms. LaBella said she’s in talks with an entrepreneur from the Hamptons who’s interested in purchasing land for a polo club, one of the many allowed uses for the larger portion of the land.

A new owner could also use the majority of the land for a farm, farm vineyard, riding academy or other horse facility. Site plans for parking lots and structures like stables would have to be approved by the town’s Planning Board.

The remaining 30 percent of the property, or 56 acres, could be subdivided into 81 residential lots, each about 30,000 square feet, or just over a half-acre, Mr. Hanley said.

“Each lot could be sold for a reasonable price,” he speculated.

The property comes with 187 transfer of development rights units. Should its new owners decide not to subdivide the property, they can instead sell the development rights for use in higher density areas in Riverhead Town designated by the Planning Board.

Mr. Hanley said development rights have recently been selling for about $65,000 each.

He said a new owner could not build a nursing home or assisted living facility on the property, as those uses aren’t allowed in the Agricultural Protection Zone.

Mr. Rottkamp, who would like to continue farming the land under a new owner, knows George Wulforst and once kept in touch with each of his brothers as well.

“They were very conscientious, had a lot of ambition and strived for success,” Mr. Rottkamp said. “It’s good farmland.”

Ms. LaBella said the size of the property alone makes it a rare find on the North Fork.

“If somebody wants to buy land in an unbelievable, beautiful area, this is it,” she said. “Where else are you going to find this on the North Fork? You’re not going to find it.”

Kathy Wulforst says she’s glad the majority of the farm will be preserved and hopes a new owner would either plant grapevines and open a winery or create a polo field.

“It would be nice to keep it the way it’s always been,” she said.

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