Suffolk County officials said they have closed on one of the largest land preservation deals in a decade, spending $8.3 million for a 93-acre waterfront parcel in Riverhead.
Officials hailed the purchase of 4518 Sound Ave. as historic, noting the property is among the last undeveloped waterfront parcels along the Long Island Sound in the area. Its zoning would have allowed for up to 46 houses to be constructed on it.
The land will be turned into a public preserve that likely will include a hiking trail and access to bluffs, a beach and wildlife sightings, officials said.
"We were thrilled," said Suffolk Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), who represents the North Fork. "If you go to a parcel like this and walk on it, you'll understand why it's important."
Bill Carman, whose grandparents purchased the property in 1964, said it has been the site of annual Thanksgivings and several family weddings. But as the family grew and people moved away, it was time to part with it, and they approached the county about preserving it.
"It's a wonderful place," said Carman, an attorney at the family practice Carman Callahan & Ingham. "We're happy it's going to be preserved as open space and available to everyone."
The property with three houses includes tidal wetlands, 20 acres of farmland and 900 feet of beachfront, officials said. Visitors are greeted by foxes, owls, hawks and wild turkeys.
With its natural bluffs and wetlands, the parcel can help safeguard the area from floods and protect water quality, officials said.
"While the environmental benefits are at the forefront, we cannot overlook the economic and social benefits this acquisition offers to residents not just in Riverhead, but across the county," County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement.
With this purchase, the county will have preserved 790 acres of open space in eight years, officials said. Since 1959, the county has spent $1.27 billion to purchase more than 60,000 acres of open space.
This is the largest open-space purchase made solely by the county since 2011, when it spent $17 million to acquire 300 acres of the North Fork Preserve, records show.
The county split larger purchases with towns in recent years, including a 169-acre parcel in Yaphank in 2015 and a 139-acre property in East Quogue in 2012.
The Sound Avenue property was purchased through the county’s drinking water protection program, which is generated from a 0.25% sales tax.
The deal, which had been in the works for nearly two years, was closed as the county faces a large coronavirus-related deficit that prompted Bellone to cut services in his 2021 budget if more federal aid does not arrive.
Krupski, who co-sponsored resolutions to acquire the property, said the best time to preserve land is "when you can."
The sale price was based on two appraisals by outside agencies, officials said. The county legislature approved the purchase.
The property was sold by the estates of Gregory Carman, a former congressman and federal judge, and Willis Carman Jr., the former Farmingdale mayor, as well as their nephew Michael Ingham, an attorney who has represented water districts on Long Island, and niece Linda Holly Seligman.
The deal was signed off on by estate beneficiaries, including Gregory Carman Jr., the Oyster Bay Town deputy supervisor, and John F. Carman, a well-known criminal defense lawyer whose clients have included Linda Mangano, the wife of former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.
County officials said the land purchase process is stringent, overseen by multiple committees, and political connections played no role.