A wooded tract in Middle Island that had been eyed by a developer for up to seven houses will remain the home of deer, fox, owls and other wildlife.
The 9.9-acre property in a residential neighborhood on Church Lane has been jointly purchased by Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town to be preserved as open space, officials announced. The $450,000 price tag included $135,000 paid by the town and $315,000 from the county, Brookhaven officials said.
Preserving the land — known as Pine Lake after a nearby pond — will protect it from developers, officials and residents said. And they hope it also will guard it from all-terrain vehicle users who sometimes ride on the property.
"It’s a very sweet property," said Gail Lynch-Bailey, president of the Middle Island Civic Association, which backed the purchase. "Now that it’s owned by all of the people, it will be easier to enforce that prohibition of ATVs and things like that."
The parcel will not be developed into a park with ballfields or playgrounds, town and county officials said. Hiking trails could be added later, but there are no current plans for them.
Acquiring the property — located in the compatible growth area of the pine barrens, where development is strictly limited — became a priority for officials several years ago when Middle Island developer Kogel Brothers Llc showed an interest in building as many as seven houses there.
Town and county officials were concerned about the impact of houses near the lake. And residents wanted to block development.
"People said to me they were adamantly against it," Town Councilman Michael Loguercio said. "It was wonderful to not only preserve land, but also to continue to provide habitat for wildlife."
Suffolk and Brookhaven have worked together in the past to buy properties in Mount Sinai and Selden. A plan for a joint purchase of a former shopping center property on Middle Country Road in Middle Island has been unsuccessful.
Preserving the Church Lane property also should help protect Pine Lake, where local residents enjoy fishing and sitting nearby for picnic lunches, Loguercio said.
"Pine Lake itself is a hidden gem," he said. "It’s a beautiful little hidden pond."
County Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said the purchase was "a good addition to the county's open space portfolio." The purchase also was backed by the Peconic Land Trust.
"In addition to having open space for the residents of Middle Island, it will hopefully protect Pine Lake," Anker said. "It’s beautiful. It’s a really, really pretty piece of property."
The process of buying the land was sometimes frustrating as county officials authorized land appraisals to establish the market value of the parcel, followed by protracted negotiations as Suffolk exchanged figures with Kogel Brothers.
Lynch-Bailey said residents were relieved when the developer agreed to sell the land. Brookhaven and Suffolk closed on the purchase on Sept. 10.
"Good things are worth waiting for," Lynch-Bailey said. "We definitely would have wanted that preserved. Not every empty patch of woods has to be housing."
Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town have a history of jointly buying properties to block development or create new parks.
Selden: 16-acre property on Boyle Road in 2014 from Middle Country school district for $1.264 million. The site is now a town park with ballfields, a track and basketball and tennis courts.
Mount Sinai: 17-acre pumpkin farm in 2000 where developers had planned to build a Home Depot store. Now Heritage Park, it features ballfields, a walking path, a community garden and an outdoor amphitheater. Brookhaven manages the athletic fields, and a community group operates the rest of the park.