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Former duck farm in Aquebogue may be purchased by state for preservation

New York State is in the early stages of trying to purchase the nearly 100-acre former Broad Cove duck farm in Aquebogue for preservation.

The property, which hasn’t been active duck farm in more than 30 years, has been targeted for preservation for decades, although the latest preservation effort is in its early stages.

Back in 2007, the Nature Conservancy listed it as one of the three most important properties for acquisition. The other two properties have since been acquired.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has not yet initiated negotiations for the purchasing of the property, according to officials.

The DEC notified the Riverhead Town Board on Dec. 30, 2019 about its interest in potentially purchasing the land known as Broad Cove for conservation purposes. The proposal would use, in whole or in part, Environmental Protection Fund monies, according to officials.

According to state Environmental Conservation Law, the local government is to be notified of acquisitions proposed to utilize the EPF and give the municipality a chance to object through a resolution within 90 days. Should the town not wish to object, it may choose to take no action or send a letter of no-objection to the DEC.

At its meeting on Wednesday, the Riverhead Town Board unanimously voted to support the DEC acquisition of Broad Cove using EPF funds.

Receiving no-objection over the acquisition of this property is the first step in the acquisition process.

In 2016, a 360,000-square-foot resort and spa were proposed on the property after it had been proposed for acquisition by Suffolk County, only to have the property owners reject that move. The property is owned by Walo LLC of Smithtown. 

Only about 7% of the property would be developed under that plan, according to Larry Oxman, a representative for the property owners. That proposal required a special permit from the Town Board, which did not issue one.

Back in 1975, the property, then owned by Normal Felske of Quogue, received a special permit for 500 condos and boat slips and renewed it five times before the DEC fined the property owner $500,000 for illegally bulldozing wetlands. Mr. Felske successfully sued the town, which refused to renew the permit again, and a judge upheld the permits.

The town then voted to renew the permit if Mr. Felske agreed to reduce the number of condos to 396, but that approval was successfully challenged in court by the North Fork Environmental Council.

Suffolk County had offered $8.5 million for the property in 1999 but later dropped its price to $6 million, according to News-Review reports at the time.