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Suffolk lawmakers approve measure to make horse farm an agricultural district

Lisa Gatti, center, executive director of Pal-O-Mine, and

Lisa Gatti, center, executive director of Pal-O-Mine, and her students at a rally at the equestrian center on Old Nicholls Road in Islandia on Wednesday. Credit: James Carbone

The Suffolk County Legislature has approved a measure adding a section of an Islandia horse farm to a county agricultural district.

Lawmakers voted 13-1 on Tuesday to reaffirm a 2019 vote taken by the legislature to add the 1.7-acre section of Pal-O-Mine Equestrian to the district. The nonprofit farm, which totals 13 acres on Old Nichols Road, is home to horses, sheep and donkeys, and provides educational and therapy services to students, military veterans and disabled adults and children.

Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) voted against the measure, and four members abstained.

The Village of Islandia had challenged the 2019 vote in court and argued against the designation in testimony before the legislature.

A state Supreme Court justice last year threw out the 2019 vote, saying a county environmental review had been done improperly. County officials said this week's vote was valid because a new environmental review was conducted.

Pal-O-Mine executive director Lisa Gatti said in an interview with Newsday that she was "grateful and thankful" for the legislature's vote. She said 150 to 200 students and supporters rallied at the farm on Wednesday to celebrate the decision.

"I’m more excited about what this means to us, which is to get back that agricultural designation that we already had," she said. "Maybe one day we’ll be able to work with our village. … I think [Tuesday] night shows how the legislature feels about the overall mission of Pal-O-Mine."

In an email, Islandia spokesman John Zaher said the parcel was zoned for residences and should not have been designated for the agriculture district. "The village is reviewing its options with regard to the residential property that the county voted on," he said.

Islandia officials last year cited the farm for five village code violations, including illegal storage and illegally renting residences on the property. The farm has pleaded not guilty.

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