In what could be the most expensive purchase in Community Preservation Fund history, Southampton Town could soon acquire the development rights on a Sagaponack parcel rich in prime agricultural soil and pristine vistas.
At a town board meeting last week, residents and elected officials urged the board to move forward with the purchase and keep farming alive for generations.
“This is the single largest parcel in Sagaponack that is not preserved,” Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim said. “It is a key parcel. It’s a lot of money, but it is an investment in keeping a lovely stretch of road fully open.”
Mary Wilson, the director of the town’s Community Preservation Fund, said the parcel comprises 89 acres of farmland south of Montauk Highway.
If purchased, the land would complete a block of 200 preserved acres, including the adjacent . The Foster family, which has owned the land for generations, seek to sell the development rights on 80 acres for $20 million, which would be paid with CPF monies over five years.
Members of the have advocated siting trails on the property.
Louchheim said the village board is interested in seeing a trail created on the farmland that would provide the last link in a trail from the bay to the ocean. “It is an absolutely stunning walk,” he said, adding that could be a trail head. The mayor said if a trail is not negotiated as part of the purchase it will never be created, adding that “a great deal of public money will be spent, so hopefully that amenity will be considered.”
A trail establishing a safe way to get to Montauk Highway would be a plus, Barbara Borenstein of the Trails Preservation Society said. “We do some dangerous road walking and we hope to eliminate that.”
But Lee Foster, representing the Foster family, expressed concerns about a trail. Her family, she said, has an “unwavering resolve to protect and preserve this important agricultural land.”
Foster said the suggested trail easement on 5 acres of the southwest portion of the field would have severe adverse impacts. The area is critical in regard to stormwater runoff and must be integrated into an overall plan for the property, she said. “We are not obligated to consider someone’s idea for a stroll. People come and go but the land remains.”
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said important discussions lie ahead. “We want to keep the integrity of the land intact but we would be using significant public funds, so we need to make a trail easement that works for everyone.”
Foster said the far western boundary of the property would be the best place for a trail but there is currently a catch basin there that would need to be filled.
Councilwoman Nancy Graboski said while the location of the property is key, the rich soils are an invaluable resource. “If you’re coming from a farming family, the viewshed is important secondary to the fact that the soil yields fine crops year after year.” Of the proposed purchase, she said, “This is the last piece of the puzzle.”