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06/22/13 8:00am
GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue.

GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue.

We would like to clear up some misconceptions about the potential preservation of 15 acres of land on the northwest corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road, near Reeves Park.

We are writing to show our support for Suffolk County’s acquisition of the entire parcel, owned by Ed Broidy, as farmland preservation instead of parkland preservation. We feel this would ensure the property will continue to be farmed forever for future generations as a real working farm.

In a current lawsuit settlement between Mr. Broidy and the Town of Riverhead, the landowner would preserve seven acres along Sound Avenue as farmland and be able to build 15 homes to the north, on the remaining eight acres.

[Related: Don’t undermine preservation efforts]

Suffolk County is looking to purchase this property to create a park, which would include recreation trails and parking for the facility. This land has been farmed for 200 years and it is almost unthinkable to take a prime-soil farm out of production and replace it with a Suffolk County park. You only have to wonder what county officials were thinking about to put hiking trails in the middle of an open potato field. We have trails at our 2,000-acre Enterprise Park at Calverton property, 300 acres at the newly purchased North Fork Preserve and many other trails throughout Riverhead Town.

The land proposed to be preserved as park would require taking the entire property out of farming permanently and would require not only use of town Community Preservation Fund monies, which have been depleted in recent years, but also ongoing maintenance of the park with town resources — on behalf of all Suffolk County residents.

The Town currently owes over $76 million in debt in open space purchases and incoming CPF funds can no longer keep up with the annual debt service. CPF proceeds come from a tax on property sales. Unless the economy makes a big recovery, our reserves will be depleted in five years. At that time, our taxpayers will be facing a big increase in their taxes, as we would then have to dip into the general fund to make up for the debt payment shortfalls.

This potential debt would rival our suffocating landfill debt. It would be irresponsible to continue to spend money we don’t have. On the other hand, a farmland purchase of development rights by the county would add nothing to this debt, and is by far the better option to see the entire 15 acres preserved.

We would like to see this farm continue for another 200 years. The overwhelming majority of Reeves Park residents we have spoken to support a farmland purchase over the proposed park. On another note, to the Reeves Park residents, if this county park is built, the once-quiet Reeves Beach will be gone forever.

Step up, Suffolk County officials, and listen to our residents.

We had a conversation with the farmer who has been farming there and he indicated he would like to continue to farm the parcel. In speaking with Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, we are all in agreement that this would be the best benefit to the community.

It seems reasonable that an agreement can be reached among Suffolk County, Riverhead Town, the landowner, and the farmer to make this a reality. A win-win for all. It is much more desirable to preserve this entire parcel as farmland in keeping with our rural character, farm heritage and agritourism focus.

We believe preserving this parcel as farmland would be in keeping with the rural character of Sound Avenue and support the Scenic Rural Historic Corridor.

Ms. Giglio, of Baiting Hollow, and Mr. Gabrielsen, of Jamesport, are both members of the Riverhead Town Board.

06/13/13 8:00am
06/13/2013 8:00 AM
GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue.

GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue, just south of the Reeves Park neighborhood.

Riverhead Town should not dare to scuttle Suffolk County’s plans to purchase 15 acres of farmland along Sound Avenue for preservation.

The property stretches north into the Reeves Park neighborhood, and Reeves Park residents — as well as others across the North Fork and all Suffolk County — have made it clear that developing the state-designated rural corridor is not in the best interest of the neighbors, or the region as a whole.

Yet town council members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen have said they don’t want the town to contribute the $75,000 that would allow the joint purchase to move forward. They argue the town shouldn’t be taking developable land off tax rolls and that Riverhead’s preservation funds are dwindling. But last we checked, housing developments weren’t exactly money-makers. And $75,000 for 15 acres is an excellent deal that won’t break the bank.

The two council members have the power to block the move. Supervisor Sean Walter has recused himself from a vote because he used to represent property owner Ed Broidy as a lawyer. If Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen do kill the measure, they would not be acting as fiscal conservatives, as they might believe. They would instead be acting penny wise and pound foolish, as Councilman James Wooten has said.

Too much money and effort have been invested over decades into preserving Sound Avenue as a treasure for all Long Islanders, starting in earnest with the two-lane highway’s designation by the state as a historic rural corridor. There have been years of litigation between the town and Mr. Broidy since the town’s master plan rezoned the land (and other parcels on Sound Avenue). In the meantime, former county legislator Ed Romaine lobbied hard to get support for Suffolk County’s purchase of the Broidy property, with area civic leaders and other residents showing up in Hauppauge to support preservation efforts. This newspaper took the unusual step of running an opinion-based photo spread of rural Sound Avenue on its cover, urging the county to act to protect the corridor. Residents later displayed those photos to county lawmakers in Hauppauge to help win support for the cause.

Throw into the mix developer Kenn Barra, who has recently sold a 4.1-acre property on the east side of Park Road, also fronting Sound Avenue, to the county for parkland. That done, one might have thought preservation of the Broidy land was also nearing the finish line.

But now it seems the deal might be dead — and over a measly $75,000?

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski should step in and pressure Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen to vote with their constituents. There may be no better example in this town of open space that should be preserved. It’s been 10 years since Mr. Broidy proposed a 22,000-square-foot shopping center for the site, causing great dismay among preservationists and everyday citizens. It’s now time to put this all behind us.