The Suffolk Legislature has taken the first step toward acquiring the 27-acre Cold Spring Harbor tract known as the Deforest Williams property. The Environmental and Planning Committee Monday unanimously approved a resolution to undertake new appraisals to buy the parcel.

The committee approved the resolution after a half dozen civic leaders and advocates lobbied for the purchase.

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"People are amazed by the land when they walk it," said Clayton Prugh, an attorney representing the Cold Spring Harbor residents and merchants.

Backers touted the acquisition as a way to protect the groundwater, a freshwater pond near the edge of the property, and the waters of Cold Spring Harbor from development of as many as a dozen houses proposed for the site.

"Spectacular is the only way to describe it," said Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor), the resolution's sponsor. "The land's been untouched since the time of the pilgrims. It's truly pristine property with birds and wildflowers and wildlife."

The nonprofit North Shore Land Alliance and Huntington Town have agreed to each pay 25 percent of the still-undetermined purchase cost, matching the county's 50 percent share.

Beth Baldwin, the alliance's associate director, said the group has negotiated a bridge loan and 1,400 residents have supported the purchase. The alliance has started fundraising, and backers estimate their share may be as much as $2 million.

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The estate of property owners Priscilla DeForest Williams and her husband Douglas Williams has filed an application to subdivide the property.

A vote on new appraisal will go before the full county legislature next Tuesday in Hauppauge.