UPDATE: Suffolk County legislators unanimously approved the measure on Tuesday night to allow LI ABATE to use the former Beagle Club property.
ORIGINAL STORY: After Suffolk County bought 150 acres in Calverton nearly two years ago for $8.9 million using money from its Drinking Water Protection Fund, the county is now considering using the property to a nonprofit organization focused on motorcycle awareness and safety.
A measure to allow the county parks department to enter into an agreement with Long Island ABATE was OK’d at last week’s Parks and Recreation Committee meeting (LISTEN), and will go forward to a vote at Tuesday’s general Legislature meeting in Hauppauge.
The acronym in the organization’s title stands for American Bikers for Awareness, Training & Education.
The nonprofit’s president, Jim Barr, explained at last week’s meeting that the group would like to use the property for ABATE’s general monthly meetings, weekend get-togethers and public events such as drivers education and motorcycle classroom safety courses, as well as fundraisers to put dollars back into renovating the property.
The property, which is on the west side of Edwards Avenue, south of Sound Avenue, has three buildings on site, including a meeting room and two barns.
Mr. Barr said at last week’s meeting that the group “is not a motorcycle club in any sense of the word” — a statement reinforced on the group’s website, which reads “WE ARE NOT A MOTORCYCLE CLUB.”
He said Long Island ABATE would like to keep the premises open on Saturdays and Sundays for group members and the public at large, adding that other uses on site could include holding a community garden or drive-in movies, and partnering with other nonprofits that might need some extra space.
“We’re a charitable organization,” he said on Monday. “We’re very supportive of veterans, children and the needy.”
The property was previously used by the Long Island Beagle Club, which bought the land in the early 1930s and used the site to train beagles for hunting. In 2006, a developer was under contract to buy the land and create 73 clustered residential lots on the property before the proposal fell through.
Passing by a 14-4 vote, the land was purchased, according to the 2012 resolution, “for passive recreational use, specifically, hiking on trails; retaining the use of one existing, main building as an environmental program/meeting facility and a caretaker apartment and two existing out-buildings for park maintenance/storage; and continued use of existing unpaved parking area.”
Mr. Barr said on Monday that the property’s use wouldn’t be exclusive to the ABATE group.
He said if Long Island Cares food pantry needs a collection point, for example, the organization could help set that up. Or, say, if Boots on the Ground — a support group that sends care packages to veterans — needed a place to use, they could use the clubhouse.
In addition, he hopes to encourage horseback riding on trails there, as well as hiking.
North Fork Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) sponsored the measure, and said on Monday morning that he had been approached by the organization and after failing to find out specifically why the property was bought in the first place, figured leasing it to the nonprofit seemed to be a reasonable choice.
“We’d like to get some use out of it,” he said. “The county owns all these buildings, and they are very expensive to maintain … they are willing to do some of the work and pay any expenses to help maintain the property.
Bob DeLuca, president of Group for the East End and one of several advocates who called on the county to purchase the land in 2012, said on Monday that upkeep on the property would be much-needed. As long as ABATE doesn’t degrade the property, he didn’t see a problem with the lease, he said.
“Our principal concern is that any lease in place doesn’t degrade the property in some way,” he said, adding that he was not aware of any potential arrangement. “It could use a little window washing. So maybe people being in there wouldn’t be the worst thing.”
Long Island Pine Barrens Society president Dick Amper said on Friday he was unaware of any possible agreement as well, though he said, “It doesn’t sound good to us.”
Mr. Barr was the only member of the public to speak at last week’s meeting on the measure, and Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, was the only legislator to speak on the effort.
Mr. Schneiderman brought up the obvious when speaking about motorcycles — noise — noting that “you’re going to have to make sure you’re good neighbors.”
Mr. Krupski added on Monday that any license agreement that would be signed with ABATE “can be cancelled at any time.”
“We intend on being very good neighbors,” Mr. Barr said on Monday.