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Madonna's plans to convert horse estate to tree farm raises questions

Madonna performs on Sunday, April 12, 2015, in

Madonna performs on Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Indio, Calif. Credit: Getty Images / Christopher Polk

Suffolk County has approved Madonna's plans to convert her 24-acre Hamptons horse farm into a tree farm, with irrigation and an 8-foot-tall deer fence surrounding it.

Neighbors have complained that she's less interested in supplying trees from the land next to her Bridgehampton home than boosting her privacy, according to published reports.

Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), a farmer, said he doesn't recall much discussion at the November Farmland Committee meeting when the conversion was unanimously approved.

"You have to look past the fact that it's Madonna. That makes it interesting. But the land is being kept open for agriculture. It's staying in agricultural production," he said.

The pop icon in 2010 purchased the land next to her house for $2 million. The county and Southampton Town earlier had purchased development rights to the land for about $10.5 million to prevent future development of the property.

The Long Island Farm Bureau said land where public dollars are used to purchase development rights should be actively farmed, not used as open space or a buffer from neighbors.

"We want to see the land continued to be farmed," Rob Carpenter, administrative director for the farm bureau, said Tuesday. He declined to comment on Madonna's property, saying he was unaware of her farming plans.

In 2013, the county sent Madonna a cease and desist letter for putting an access road on the preserved land, Newsday has reported.

The development prohibition reduced the value of the land and lowered its tax rate, but that was unaffected by the conversion from horse farm to tree nursery, county officials said.

"It's nice to say someone wealthy can't enjoy tax breaks, but if she actually grows trees, there isn't much we can do," said Majority Leader Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue).

A county staff report on the nursery plan allows underground and above ground irrigation and 3,823 feet of metal mesh wire deer fence supported with wooden posts. The existing white fence will remain.

Madonna's attorneys on the project at Sag Harbor-based Burke & Sullivan did not return a call for comment.

Krupski said animal husbandry is a big chore compared to tree farming. "Horses are expensive and they're a lot of work. They take a lot of care. Trees, on the other hand, you don't have to feed and water and care for them 365 days a year," he said.

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