Commack district mulls its options on farm

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The Marion Carll Farm in Commack appeared quiet and pastoral Wednesday morning -- but the future of the 9-acre property is anything but calm.

The Commack School District owns the farm, which is on the National Register of Historic Places as well as this year's list of Long Island's endangered historic sites.

While former owner Marion Carll's will left the property to the school district to be operated as a historical museum and educational farm, the property has remained unused except for a period in the 1990s.

Last year, the school district proposed selling the farm to the Holiday Organization, a developer that built the Hamlet golf course community that surrounds the farm. Holiday had proposed refurbishing the historic buildings and constructing homes on the remainder of the property, but voters rejected that proposal.

The Commack school board plans to issue a request for proposals about what to do with the farm. The request process will be announced at Thursday's meeting, the district's attorney, Eugene Barnosky, said.

"The budgetary situation facing Commack and all other school districts makes it difficult to put money into an asset that is not yielding an educational benefit," he said, especially when "you have layoffs in personnel and cutbacks in programs."

The district estimated that the property cost the district more than $43,000 in insurance, maintenance and other expenses during a six-month period in 2010.

But Bruce Ettenberg, president of the civic group Commack Community Association, said he hopes to see a different future for the farm.

"We're hoping the county will take it over and then lease it to our group to run it as a farm," he said.

Ettenberg said his case was bolstered by the appearance of an anonymous donor in May who has pledged to give $4 million to restore the farm.

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He also pointed to a resolution introduced last month by Suffolk County Legis. John M. Kennedy (R-Nesconset) that proposed using Drinking Water Protection Program funds to buy the development rights to the farm, which sits atop an aquifer.

"The property itself has a tremendous amount of historical significance," Kennedy said. "I'm trying to put into place the mechanism for the acquisition and permanent protection of an important parcel that represents agriculture as it once was on Long Island some four centuries ago."

Facts about the Marion Carll Farm

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  • Farm dates back to 1701. The farmhouse was built in 1860.
  • Commack School District has owned property since Marion Carll's death in 1969. Carll bequeathed the farm to the district in her will on condition it be used as historic museum and educational site.
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  • Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities this year placed the farm on its list of endangered historic sites.
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