David Weinstein looked up into the thick, steeply sloped forest behind his Cold Spring Harbor home with concern.
"These are areas that haven't been touched since the Indians," Weinstein said of the neighboring DeForest-Williams estate.
Representatives of the 42-acre property, which consists of mostly pristine wooded areas, a historic home and a barn, submitted plans in 2009 to the Town of Huntington to subdivide the property, creating 12 new homes on the land.
Those plans are pending before the town planning board. In an effort to stop any subdivision, a group of neighbors and preservationists are hoping to team up with the town and Suffolk County to create a public-private partnership to purchase 31 acres of the estate and preserve it as parkland.
"It's an extraordinary piece of property," said Lisa Ott, president of the North Shore Land Alliance in Old Westbury -- a nonprofit land trust that would be one of the members of the partnership. "It's one of the last ones left in that particular community. It's pretty much untouched."
Ott said building on the steeply sloped property would likely cause soil erosion, which could harm the waters of Cold Spring Harbor.
"It's most definitely one of the most important properties for protecting the integrity of that harbor," she said.
If the public-private partnership works, the land alliance and town would each pay 25 percent of the property's selling price -- as yet undetermined -- while Suffolk County would pay the remaining half. About 31 undeveloped acres of the land would then be designated as passive parkland, Ott said. While it raises funds, the alliance would secure a loan to fund its contribution.
Ott said conversations with the representatives of the estate so far have been positive.
"They've always wanted to see it preserved," she said. "That's always been their number-one choice."
An attorney for the estate did not respond to a request for comment.
Margo Myles, the town's senior environmental analyst and coordinator of open-space conservation, said the town's open-space committee has been interested in the estate for years. The town and county unsuccessfully explored purchasing the estate several years ago.
"We're bringing three entities together with community support to protect an important site," Myles said of the new effort. "You can't do much better than that if we're successful."
A public hearing on the possible purchase will be held at the town board's Nov. 9 meeting.
Suffolk County Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) authored a resolution that would authorize the county to begin the process of acquiring the estate, using money from the county's Drinking Water Protection Program.
That legislation is scheduled to be heard by the environment, planning and agriculture committee on Nov. 14.