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May 23, 2011 2:33 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board To Consider Most Expensive CPF Purchase In History

May 25, 2011 8:55 AM

The Southampton Town Board is considering buying the development rights on a large swath of farmland owned by the Foster family in Sagaponack—potentially the most expensive purchase to date utilizing the town’s Community Preservation Fund.

The purchase of the development rights to the farm, totaling approximately 82 acres along Montauk Highway and owned by Lee Foster, a Sagaponack Village trustee, and her husband, Clifford Foster, would top the town’s priciest CPF purchase to date, according to Town CPF Manager Mary Wilson. In 2007, the town spent $16 million to buy 65 acres in Hampton Bays, a wooded camp formerly owned by the Girl Scouts of Nassau County.

The pending purchase of the Foster family farm would differ from the Girl Scout property purchase, because the town is acquiring the farm’s development rights, which would prevent the property from being developed into buildable lots. The ownership would still rest with the Foster family. The acquisition, if approved, would essentially preserve the Foster family land as farmland in perpetuity. The Girl Scout property’s title, on the other hand, was acquired by the town along with the development rights, meaning the town is actually the owner of the land.

Ms. Wilson declined to disclose the negotiated purchase price of the Foster farm rights, noting that it could impair ongoing negotiations, but did say it would exceed the Girl Scout property purchase price. If acquired, the town would pay for the land in installments drawn out over five years, Ms. Wilson said.

The proposed purchase will be the subject of a public hearing at Town Hall on Tuesday, June 14, at 1 p.m.

The Fosters are selling the development rights to the farm under the name Haney Farm LLC. Henry Haney originally owned and farmed the land in the 1900s. Ms. Foster has endorsed the town’s pending acquisition of her family’s land.

“What should be emphasized and not forgotten, so long as these fields prevail, are the long and hard hours not only spent on a tractor but within the confines of Town Hall and around the family tables,” she said. “There, the ideas and perceptions of what it means to preserve productive farmland has taken place.”

The preserved farmland would link previously preserved parcels to the north and south of it, Ms. Wilson said. It would also contribute to the scenic vistas that line Montauk Highway in Sagaponack. This season, the Fosters will be farming potatoes, corn and oats on the land, Ms. Wilson said.

“Anytime we can assemble blocks of farmland, it helps with productivity in the future and its practical ability to be farmed,” Ms. Wilson said.

The Foster family’s farmland is an especially desirable target for the CPF because it is comprised of prime agricultural soil—typical of much of the land in Sagaponack, she said.

The family has considered selling the development rights to the town since 2006, though negotiations to preserve the land began “in earnest” about a year ago, she said.

Members of the community, including local lawmakers and Peconic Land Trust President John v.H. Halsey, lauded the preservation effort.

Although he could not estimate how much the land might be worth, Mr. Halsey noted that the most recent sale in Sagaponack that he’s aware of—which occurred last March—involved the partnership of Suffolk County, Southampton Town and the Trust to acquire the title and development rights of 7.6 acres for a total of $6 million. The development rights alone cost about $4.3 million, he said.

“It’s a considerable value,” he said. “And, of course, in Sagaponack, the real estate is expensive. But this is what we have the CPF for. Exactly this kind of project. It makes terrific sense and is a good thing.”

Sagaponack Village Mayor Don Louchheim also praised the pending preservation, noting that the acquisition would fit in nicely with the surrounding preserved land.

“I’m delighted to hear that the town is going to acquire the development rights on the bulk of the property,” he said. “It’s the largest single tract of unprotected farmland in the village, and it will be a fantastic addition to all the open space that’s already been preserved in Sagaponack. I think it is a testament to the fact that the town does indeed include the villages in its CPF purchases.”

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buy it. it is the only way to save our towns
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on May 23, 11 3:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
Dam, I wanted to see more Michael Davis McMansions, fake ponds, and curvy street subdivisons. After all, "thats what the hamptons is all about" quoth Lizzie Grubman, Judy Guliani, Jodi De la Femina and all the other experts who just showed up in the last decade or so to school those of us who were born here.
By smacw (240), New York on May 23, 11 4:00 PM
4 members liked this comment
enough is enough...the only people this will benifit are the neighbors who surround it. there property value goes from 10 mill to 12 mill and mine stays the same out here west of canal but my taxes go up, how nice.
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on May 23, 11 4:06 PM
Every time we stop a huge tract of land from being developed, it increases ALL property values on the east end. By the way, if their property values increase by 2 mill, their taxes will also increase accordingly. There is no downside to land preservation.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on May 23, 11 4:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
No downside?

A working class familiy buying a $350,000 home (ie, a shack) is forced to contribute $2,000 towards land preservation that will raise property values on the east end, making it even more difficult for the next family to buy a home.

...another idiot liberal who can't see the unintended consequences of just doing what feels good.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on May 23, 11 4:52 PM
I love it when realitylast gets her panties in a bunch!
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on May 24, 11 7:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
Good point golden boy
By smacw (240), New York on May 23, 11 4:07 PM
this is one of the most beautiful vistas on the east end. i believe that it is a wise decision to look into this use of the cpf funds. it is the gateway view to wainscott.
By tito (56), e hampton on May 23, 11 4:51 PM
It would be a shame to take this important property away from private developers and the town tax base. It would be an ideal location for a mall like on Rt. 58 in Riverhead and affordable housing, and luxury closed communities. Stores like Home Depot, Costco, Best Buy and the like could be anchor tenants for such a development. It would be a boom for the tax coffers of the town as opposed to a drain. We are told that we cannot have developments along route 39 further West because of the traffic ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on May 23, 11 6:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
very funny V .. i am sure few will realize the height of your humor

but you forgot to suggest a NEW ART MUSEUM!! might be a nice spot for a 1/4 mile stretch of wall and call it an art museum .. pave paradise and put up an art museum! spend perfect fall days IN THE ART MUSEUM THAT USED TO BE THE MOST PERFECT FIELDS EVER !!!

omg how lost those uber rich people are ..i lOVE LVOE LOVE art, but th thought of all those animals running for their lives as the ART MUSEUM TRACTORS came ...more
By david h (405), southampton on May 24, 11 8:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
Personally, I love sarcasm.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 1, 11 1:14 PM
A more complete job of reporting would have included whether the development rights are intact and the assessment for this property. How much tax revenue stands to be lost is very pertinent to an informed opinion.
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 23, 11 8:18 PM
yes you ARE right. enough said.
By bobba (39), southampton on May 23, 11 8:19 PM
Funny, back in the early 1990's the taxpayers paid for the farm owners development rights for a ten year window. Now the CPF has become the biggest property owner outside the state of New York. How much more property does the town need to take off the tax roles, and put additional tax burden on the community. We are not making parks on these properties. Enough is enough.
By trurepublician (53), hampton bays on May 23, 11 8:26 PM
The only tax I don't hate is the transfer tax. It's the only thing keeping the East End from looking like Riverhead.
By harbor (415), East Hampton on May 23, 11 8:41 PM
or Myrtle BEach
By david h (405), southampton on May 24, 11 8:26 AM
There are a lot of misinformed folks on this particular article. . . allow me to make some points on the side of CPF.

1. Reality First's statement is deceiving because he neglects to mention that first time home buyers are exempt from CPF. So if a working class family that has struggled to finally get enough $$$ to buy a home would not, in fact, be subject to the tax.

2. Golden Boy's complaint about "enough is enough" is a non-sequitor. If you are saying that your taxes go ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 23, 11 8:48 PM
I think you are wrong on #1. first time homeowners are not exempt from the tax. here is the link to the website, and the form. There is NO exemption for first time home buyers.

By marybmary (54), east hampton on May 23, 11 9:14 PM
And I believe you are wrong on #4, the points I raised. If the development rights have been sold there would be a redundancy in this purchase. If the rights are intact, the taxation is based not only on today's agricultural use, but also the land's substantial value for potential future development. There is no direct correlation between development rights and partial subdivision.
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 24, 11 12:13 AM
Marybmary, please see this link: http://www.southamptontownny.gov/filestorage/760/762/810/1074/1589/09ExcemptionBro.pdf

The exemption to the tax for first-time homebuyers was put in place on July 23, 2008. The reason it doesn't appear anywhere on the application you posted is because there is a separate application for Southampton Town. The application you linked to is for all town's in the CPF program - not all of them have first time homebuyer exemptions.

VOS: Your argument ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 24, 11 12:23 AM
I'll agree and disagree. Your first point is correct - I misread the article and assumed the CPF was purchasing the property (as is more often the case) and not just the development rights. It appears the current owners will keep title to the property with its use to be limited to agriculture.

The basis for my claim that taxation is based on future development potential is described in the very first paragraph of the document to which you link:

"In New York State, almost all ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 24, 11 3:12 AM
^ How much less tax revenue will be produced annually after the CPF purchase of development rights?

Zero Dollars, since it is already zoned agricultural. They probably pay +/- $400 per year for the entire property now.

^And while we're at it, does anyone care to speculate on the market value in today's market? Market value probably 38-45 million. The town will offer 20-23 for development right purchase. The farmer is taking a giant haircut to keep the land open and its ...more
By C Law (354), Water Mill on May 24, 11 5:04 AM
Why would you think I was being sarcastic? I have a radically alternative view as to what is being proposed and maybe unrealistic and not entirely feasible but I really don't see a great community benefit here. If I feel a commercial or residential development would be more beneficial in the long run than preserving another farm field to preserve vistas for whom. What about spending that money to develop more beaches?

Every month I look at my electric bill and pay a tax in the name of ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on May 24, 11 11:08 AM
He thought you were being sarcastic because your "idea" is completely off-the-wall! Sell the land to a developer to build a shopping mall and THAT is a community benefit? The east end is over-developed. Period. Preserving land is paramount to protecting future generations and property values.

Why are so many of you so damned determined to turn the East End into one big, suburban strip mall? That is not why most of us came here, especially those of us who have been here a helluva long ...more
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on May 24, 11 11:57 AM
buy it but please lease it back for farming - and TAKE A PERCENTAGE OF THE PROFITS. World food prices are skyrcketing, if we all own the land we should at least get to share some of the upside.
By littleplains (305), olde england on May 23, 11 10:02 PM
The town is looking to by the development rights, not the land.
By C Law (354), Water Mill on May 24, 11 5:06 AM
The land should be preserved for farming, and the Town purchasing development rights ensures that. We need to preserve as much open space as possible, if anyone prefers development, strip malls and big box stores, move back to wherever the hell you came from.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on May 24, 11 6:19 AM
I understand that the geographical size of the land and home values are much bigger east of the canal then the geographic portion of Southampton Town west of the canal. So I assume the CPF revenue that is generated from east of the canal home sales must really outweigh the revenue from west of canal sales. But are the CPF purchases porpotionate to this revenue?

Basically, does Hampton Bays, Quogue, Westhampton, Speonk get their fair share of CPF purchases that preserve land and home ...more
By Ron Paul (2), Hampton Bays on May 24, 11 10:14 AM
VOS: Using part of your quote - "Market value is the price most people would pay for a property in its current condition." - I point out that once again your understanding is flawed.

The "current condition" part of that sentence is key. These parcels are in a current condition of being farmed and have NYS property tax codes for agricultural use. In order to get a residential subdivision, the property owner would have to get approval and would likely be forced to cluster. An assessment ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 24, 11 2:02 PM
3 members liked this comment
Well Nature ..Who made you god? You think you're the owner of the truth? Better than anyone else? Go buy a house and pay local taxes before you wag your dirty little finger at others...You know were that finger has been right?
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on May 24, 11 2:29 PM
Hey, V, why so defensive?
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on May 24, 11 2:48 PM
The current condition is what determines "market value" - what someone is willing to pay - the development value is not decreased by the fact that someone is growing pumpkins there unless that becomes the only permitted use.

The agricultural codes do not negate the higher standard of market value. Market value will be substantially reduced when the development rights are eliminated as will the taxes.

C.Law, above has estimated market value at about half a million per acre ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 25, 11 10:10 PM
I checked the tax roll - the parcel is 90.9 acres, listed as agricultural use, and assessed at $3.243m, less a $1.569m agricultural exemption, for taxable value of $1.935m. Don't know the tax rate so can't compute the taxes.

Also, NY (like most states) has a program whereby land devoted to agricultural use receives a substantial tax exemption for as long as the ag use is maintained. This encourages farming, since most farms would fold and sell to developers if their land was assessed ...more
By CoweeDewey (110), East Quogue on May 26, 11 9:10 AM
Thanks for explaining that better than I have and for getting some of those numbers.

It makes sense that the farmers get the big tax exemptions because for all intents and purposes the services that taxes pay for are not being usedby the owner of that land. The land owner will rarely if ever require: fire, police, library and school services.

Keep in mind that if a farm parcel has a house on it - the tax code is different and it is taxed as a residential parcel with different ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on May 26, 11 9:27 AM
First, thanks to CD for doing what I asked be included in the article by the writer. The figures from the tax roll have a gap of about $250,000 (3.243-1.569=1.674) but I'm surprised that the agricultural exemption is about half the assessment.

Because we don't have the actual market value (but that should be reflected in the assessment figures CD supplies) or the tax rates we cannot determine from this information what the effect on tax revenue will be. I believe a reporter should be ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on May 26, 11 12:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sorry - didn't mean to hit 'like' but meant to hit reply.
Unless I'm misunderstanding your question, I don't think taxes will change. As I understand NY's Ag Assessment law, qualifying farmland is not assessed at its highest and best use fair market value - in other words, this farm is not assessed based on its residential development value. Instead, the ag law sets a per-acre assessed value for different classifications of farmland (apparently classified based on the type of soil present), ...more
By CoweeDewey (110), East Quogue on May 26, 11 12:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
Nature, thank you for offering correct facts, particularly about the property taxes. If the field gets developed, those new lots will generate more tax revenue, but will need services, such as schools. Meanwhile our property values as a whole would go down as we become more up island.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but little plains is so off base as to be offensive to the people who feed him or her. Littleplains clearly knows nothing about farming in any aspect. To suggest we ...more
By windale (2), east hampton on May 24, 11 8:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
The CPF certainly has flaws, but overall I think it improves our area greatly.
By Lady Bonacker (3), Southampton on May 25, 11 11:34 AM
windale indicates if the property is developed they "will need services such as schools" ????? are you kidding? I don't notice too many of the MCMansion owners sending their children to school out here.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on May 25, 11 12:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
well the mcmansions might not, but the 185 condos going in on the 18 acres behind pc ricvhard SURE DO!!!!!

AND: demand larger police force, fire dept, usps, leaf pick up, traffic lights, airport expansion, music festivals, chopper landing pads, and the new mc mansion & condo owners have a problem with driving on the beach, think its ok to litter on thebeach,

his point obviously is that deveplement begets development and only stresses the once sleepy infrastructure

>> ...more
By david h (405), southampton on May 25, 11 3:55 PM
"Call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye."

~ Don Henley
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 1, 11 1:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
I like the fact that the land lies along Montauk Highway. If it's development rights are purchased everyone passing by will benefit visually. I'd rather be able to see open space than another manicured subdivision. Open space doesn't create more traffic either.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on May 31, 11 11:55 PM
No farms, no food.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 1, 11 1:21 PM
"pave paradise put up a parking lot" joni mithcell 1970

Pave Paradise PUT IN AN ART MUSEUM Southampton Brainiacs 2011
By david h (405), southampton on Jun 1, 11 2:23 PM
Save the open space.

McMansions should pass into history, just like the counterpart estates in Rhode Island.

Someday we'll say, "this is how the selfish, grandiose, egotistical idiots of our society USED to live.".
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 3, 11 12:25 AM
Before you condemn them to history, think of all the jobs they've created. There are many local families and businesses that benefit from them financially. Those houses may be obnoxious, but they are the engines that drive our local economy and make countless jobs here possible.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Jun 3, 11 10:56 AM
Again, I will reference the low wages, high prices hamster wheel of life catch22 economics...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 3, 11 11:20 PM