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Nov 18, 2008 11:21 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Alternative energy farm is greeted with suspicion from neighbors

Nov 18, 2008 11:21 AM

Ocean Road in Bridgehampton has become a nearly end-to-end stretch of residential estates, and while an innovative alternative energy-powered farm has been proposed for a 13-acre agricultural reserve among the hedgerows, those who live nearby are squeamish at the idea of change in their neighborhood.

The agricultural reserve is part of a subdivision that includes six house lots, all of which are owned by a limited liability company known as FD HFZ, LLC. One of the principals in the company is New York City real estate developer Zeil Feldman.

Westhampton Beach developer Rocco Lettieri designed the project for Mr. Feldman, and it includes an orchard, an array of solar panels on the ground that are designed to look like reflecting pools, circular rings of flower beds, and a 188-square-foot windmill that is based on a historical design but still creates energy. Fields of sawgrass are also planned.

Mr. Lettieri plans to produce all the electricity to be used on the farm on the site. Vehicles that are driven on the property will run on compressed air.

The plan includes a 3,000-square-foot barn, a 2,268-square-foot greenhouse, and an 814-square-foot mechanical building.

According to Mr. Lettieri’s planning consultant, Kyle Collins, the developers will be able to produce as much as 110 percent of the electricity used on the property, though they plan to still tie the electrical system in to the LIPA grid. The developers don’t plan to sell any of the fruit or flowers grown on the site at the site, but do plan to market them locally.

New York’s Department of Agriculture and Markets permits such electricity production on agricultural reserves, but neighbors and the town’s Agricultural Advisory Committee have reservations about the unusual nature of the projects. According to a note from that committee in the Planning Board’s file on the project, the plans need “careful scrutiny. It’s a very farmable property.” The note adds that this project will “turn the property into an amusement park.”

Helene Mahoney, a neighbor of the property, told the Planning Board at a public hearing on the project on November 13 that she doesn’t “know whether to be pleased or frightened.”

She and other neighbors made repeated reference to what they called “The Penitentiary,” an organic farm nearby on Ocean Road that was recently enclosed in a deer fence to protect the crops.

Mr. Lettieri plans to put any fences surrounding the project into drainage ditches. He said that such fences, known as ha-ha fences, serve a dual purpose of deterring deer while being invisible and providing necessary drainage.

Ms. Mahoney said that she is also concerned about noise pollution, a loading dock and a Dumpster that will be near her house. “I’m sure the owner is just as concerned with property values as the rest of us are,” she said.

Georgia Rose, who owns a historic house near the proposed farm said that “a modern use next to it would be a shock.” “What are they going to do with all of these flowers?” she asked. “It would look great at Westbury Gardens or the White House. It doesn’t seem to fit with the way we all live.

She also said that the windmill on the plan looked like a Dutch windmill, not a Long Island windmill, though Mr. Lettieri said that the windmill was designed after one that had been built on Long Island.

“It is based on a Bridgehampton windmill,” he said. “The Dutch settle New York and came to the Hamptons.”

Highland Terrace homeowner Ruth Foley said that she is concerned that trucks would be idling on the property, and said that her family lost a $5 million real estate deal because of the deer fence surrounding the other nearby farm. “I think it would be very pretty,” she said of the project. “You might as well call it the common gardens.”

Planning Board member Jacqui Lofaro told the developers that they do need to be considerate of the neighbors. “We don’t want someone not to buy because it looks like an agricultural barracks over there,” she said.

Mr. Collins said that the controversy is a “schizophrenic issue” in which residents are always fast to want to preserve agricultural soils, but don’t want to preserve farming along with the soils. “The town has the right to farm here,” he said, referring to a law that gives farmers the power to use their property for valid agricultural purposes.

“It was kind of nonsense,” Mr. Lettieri said later of the neighbors’ comments. “It’s a working farm. People fight over the most ridiculous things.”

Mr. Lettieri said that he wants to ensure that the farm doesn’t disturb the neighborhood, precisely because he is selling six “$20 million homes” surrounding the farm. He said that if the planned fences are not adequate to keep the deer out, he may consider running cattle grating around the sensitive areas to keep the deer from crossing onto the farm.

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C.A.V.E. sums it up Citizens Against Virtually Everything ! fitting that is should be in Bridgehampton seems they are taking cue from Watermill
By typical (63), southampton on Nov 20, 08 7:27 PM