Land preservation rarely happens at light speed, but for one piece of farmland beloved by people in Mattituck and its environs, that’s exactly what’s happening right now.
If you take the turn down New Suffolk Avenue by the Handy Pantry in Mattituck, you’ll soon come upon a magical field, on your right just before you reach Deep Hole Creek, where tufts of grasses often glisten in the late afternoon sun.
This 15-acre property, which had historically been planted in corn and other local crops, had been on the market for the past several years and its owners, the Koehler Family Partnership, had a seven-lot residential subdivision application nearly complete before the Southold Town Planning Board when a group of about 15 neighbors got the Peconic Land Trust involved in the spring of 2021, hoping to preserve its agricultural use into the future.
Now, just a few months later, warp speed in land preservation terms, the Peconic Land Trust is in contract to purchase the property, hoping to close by the end of the year. The Land Trust would act as an interim buyer, then selling the property to someone who intends to keep it as agricultural land.
“This literally would not have happened without community support,” said Alison Delaney, the Development Officer for the Peconic Land Trust, at a community tour of the property Nov. 7.
The property had a $3 million asking price when the Koehler family first put it on the market, and PLT Project Manager Holly Sanford said they had two higher offers when they accepted the Land Trust’s offer, which will be revealed after the closing.
The Land Trust’s plan, in partnership with Southold Town, is to reassemble a farmstead on the property, carving out a two-acre lot that currently contains a small cottage alongside the creek, and another 12 acre lot where the town will buy the development rights to ensure it remains in agriculture in perpetuity.
This is an unusual project for the town, which “likes to see farm parcels in active cultivation, and abutting other farm properties” said Ms. Sanford.
The remaining acreage may be used to provide access to another landlocked occupied creekside property, which is currently accessed from New Suffolk Avenue but would need to be rerouted to a side road. The Land Trust and the adjoining property owner are working out the details of that access now, which could involve selling a sliver of the southernmost part of the property to the neighbor.
While the Land Trust’s ultimate goal is to sell the cottage property and the farmland together to one owner who intends to either farm the land, lease it to a farmer or let it remain fallow, they’re looking for the community’s help in coming up with funds to cover their legal expenses and pay the interest on a loan they’ve secured in order to make the deal happen.
“We got a line of credit to act as the buyer, and the community is offsetting our costs. The appraisals we got were very high because the permits were almost together,” said Ms. Sanford, who added that a lot of normal land transaction processes, like surveys and appraisals, are taking longer than usual due to the incredibly amount of activity in construction, development and land transactions of late.
To date, they’ve raised $593,000 from private donors across the North Fork, and they’re looking to raise another $312,000.
“We’ve had over 80 donors, from Laurel to Orient, donating from $20 to $100,000. Half of them are first-time donors… A longtime donor stepped forward to cover the interest on the loan,” said Ms. Delaney, adding that many North Forkers are keenly aware of the development pressures being faced there today. “The North Fork feels like one small town today, and people seem to think, this may not be in my backyard today, but it could be in the future.”
For more information on how you can get involved, visit www.PeconicLandTrust.org/DHC.