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Islandia horse farm under contract to purchase property slated for seizure

The horse therapy facility plans to close on the Old Nichols Road property that the village wanted to take by eminent domain to build a public works yard.

Lisa Gatti, owner of Pal-O-Mine Equestrian in Islandia,

Lisa Gatti, owner of Pal-O-Mine Equestrian in Islandia, with Honey, a minature horse, on the property she is planning to purchase next door to her current location on Old Nichols Road. Photo Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

A nonprofit horse therapy farm is moving ahead with buying a neighboring property to expand services, even as Islandia Village officials are considering seizing the site by eminent domain, the chief executive said.

Pal-O-Mine Equestrian plans to close on the deal to purchase the Old Nichols Road property, which would be used to expand a vocational program for people with disabilities, those impacted by domestic violence and veterans, founder Lisa Gatti said.

The nonprofit does not have enough information about the village’s proposal to halt its own plans, Gatti said.

“For us, there is no alternative,” Gatti said. “We need to expand.”

Islandia Village officials had set a public hearing on a plan to condemn the 1.7-acre property and convert it into a public works yard — a proposal the current homeowners said they did not know about until Newsday called them for comment. Officials later postponed the Aug. 7 public hearing indefinitely and said they are reviewing other options.

The property has been under contract since October 2017, and closing was extended until after the school year because it was used as a day care center, Gatti said.

Islandia Mayor Allan Dorman said officials did not know the property was under contract until after the public hearing notice went out. He said officials became interested in the property because of its size after seeing a garage sale outside. They began looking into eminent domain because eminent domain appraisals give a “realistic value on the property” and prevents “arguing about money,” he said.

The property sits between the horse farm and another Pal-O-Mine property that houses its Job Security Through Equine Partnership program, which teaches organic farming and independent life skills, Gatti said.

The new site would open up services to 100 more people a week, on top of its current 500 weekly clients, Gatti said. It would also provide a safer path for clients to walk between the equine center, which provides therapeutic horseback riding, and a greenhouse.

Village officials and Pal-O-Mine have been at odds before. In 2014, the village issued zoning violations for using an agricultural site for medical purposes — charges that were later dropped, Gatti said. Village officials also spoke out against the nonprofit’s efforts to get a Suffolk agricultural designation at two county legislature meetings that year, records show.

Residents at a recent village board meeting questioned why the village could not expand its existing public works yard behind Village Hall into vacant land surrounding it.

Dorman said eight acres of the 13.5-acre property is “sump,” which prevents flooding. He said he also wanted a site north of the Long Island Expressway to provide better services. 

“Two-and-a-half miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but in a snowstorm, it’s forever,” Dorman said of the need to expand the public works yard.

Tom Hayes, who moved next door to the property with his wife, Elizabeth, in October, said he is concerned about added traffic and noise from a public works yard — and a possible domino effect.

“Ultimately, as a homeowner, now I have to worry that my home — while I’m deployed in Afghanistan — is going to be taken over by eminent domain,” said the Marine, 30, who will deploy this fall.

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