Two properties comprised of 43 undeveloped acres on Main Road in Jamesport that were once eyed for 42,000 square feet of commercial development have now been acquired for open space preservation by Suffolk County.
Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) announced the acquisition Wednesday morning.
“This is really a big deal not only for Jamesport, but for the whole North Fork,” Mr. Krupski said, standing on the wooded parcel located across from Cliff’s Elbow Room.
“Land preservation requires a willing partner,” he said, thanking real estate developer Robert DiNoto, the most recent owner of the property. “It’s a voluntary program.”
The county recently closed on the $3.8 million purchase, according to Mr. Krupski. Mr. DiNoto purchased the foreclosed land in 2015 for just under $5 million. The prior owners, Jul-Bet Enterprises LLC, had proposed several controversial projects at the site, including a 42,000-square-foot commercial project called Village at Jamesport and an assisted living facility.
“We could be standing in 40,000 square feet of building with a bistro and the Jamesport Civic Association never let up in their vision for keeping the rural character in this area preserved,” said Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith.
Prior to being elected supervisor, Mr. Jens-Smith, a Laurel resident, had advocated on behalf of preserving the parcel.
“This is something that we can all cherish not only now, but for future generations,” she said. “It’s a place you can have a moment by yourself and walk through the woods instead of walking through a parking lot.”
Known locally as Sharper’s Hill, the property is also home to a Native American burial ground that dates back at least 3,000 years, according to David Martine, a historic preservation officer with the Shinnecock Nation in Southampton.
“This site represents one of the most sacred time periods of our life here, and so to have something like this preserved is very moving,” he said.
Mr. Martine pointed out that other burial grounds, namely on the South Fork, have been destroyed as development projects began.
“We appreciate the foresight here to preserve it,” he said.
The burial ground is the last known one left on the East End, said Richard Wines, chairman of the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The Greater Jamesport Civic Association had been working for more than a decade to preserve the land from development. To the north, it is surrounded by adjacent protected farmland.
“It really competes a nice block,” Mr. Krupski said of the most recent acquisition.
William Van Helmond, president of the civic association, said preservation was a “dream come true” for the community.
“This is a wonderful day for Jamesport,” he said.
According to Mr. Van Helmond, the civic group will now work with town officials to create a “pocket park,” with paths. He hopes to work closely with the Shinnecock Nation to eventually provide some educational information on the burial ground.
He also read comments from past civic president Angela DeVito, whom he referred to as a “pioneer” in land preservation.
“Without her, this project wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
In a statement, Ms. DeVito said the preservation was a “victory to save what’s left.” Riverhead Councilman James Wooten said keeping hamlet centers quaint is an important function of the town board.
“You never want that heavy intensive commercial that we’ve got on 58 ever to sprawl east, ever.”
The county also recently purchased the development rights to 19.5 acres of land on Twomey Avenue for around $1,362,000.
“It’s active farmland and it adds to a big block, so these are the ones we really like to commit to because they make agriculture a lot more effective if you have larger blocks of land,” Mr. Krupski said last week in a phone interview.
In total, about 150 acres are preserved on Twomey Avenue, according to Mr. Krupski.
WITH RACHEL SIFORD
Photo caption: The vacant Main Road parcel once slated for development will now be used for nature trails and education, official said. (Tara Smith Photo)