Developers are interested in building homes on Owl Hill, an estate near Sunken Meadow State Park that Smithtown officials once hoped to buy and preserve.
Allyson Murray, a town planner, said department staff have fielded questions from several potential buyers in recent months about possible subdivision of the 27.63-acre property on Sunken Meadow Road in Fort Salonga. The estate, one of the town’s largest, is owned by limited liability companies tied to a Manhattan resident Maya Ryan, according to records.
“There’s definitely been recent interest,” Murray said. “We expect that ultimately it will be developed.”
The estate was listed for sale in 2015 with a $6.99 million asking price, according to the real estate website Zillow; after a series of price cuts, the most recent asking price, listed last October, was $3.99 million. Two lots that make up the estate are also for sale individually: a $2.5 million 21.17-acre portion and a $1.75 million 6.46-acre lot with a 6,500-square-foot mansion that is in the town's inventory of historic places. Property taxes on the estate total $68,071. Douglas Elliman broker Kelley Taylor has the listings.
Maya Ryan is listed as a daughter of inventor Michael N. Yardney in his 1975 obituary. He developed a catapult for jets in World War II and founded a company that made batteries that powered equipment for astronauts to walk on the moon, according to the obituary.
The Ryan mansion, now used by the family as a summer home, would stay, but town planners have told prospective developers that with variances, the estate could support roughly 15 additional homes.
Most homes in the neighborhood sit on at least an acre of land, but the town would likely require clustered building on the estate, Murray said. That strategy could put new homes on smaller lots but would leave some of the estate’s land untouched, including environmentally sensitive hilly areas. It would not guarantee public use, such as an extension of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail from Sunken Meadow State Park, as a purchase would have.
Real estate investors, including Town Clerk Vincent Puleo and a St. James-based limited liability company, in 2013 bought development rights for 3.25 acres of Owl Hill land in two separate private transactions.
An effort to buy and preserve at least a portion of the estate with $1 million in town and New York State funds advanced to the appraisal stage but ultimately foundered, Murray said. The Ryan family rejected a town offer based on a 2017 appraisal and the town commissioned a second appraisal in 2018 but did not make another offer, she said. “The town felt that there were other ways of preserving the amount of land that they would have been able to preserve by acquisition,” she said. Murray declined to share the appraisals, citing town policy.
Subdivision of Owl Hill would follow the pattern laid out by many of Long Island’s North Shore estates in the mid-20th century, including some in Smithtown and its villages. Many subdivisions in town now are named for the estates that once held their land.
Frank Capaccio, president of the Fort Salonga Association, a local civic association, said his group’s top priority was to preserve green space and would prefer minimal development of the estate, especially given expected residential development of Indian Hills Country Club, about two miles northwest. But members are sensitive to property rights, he said. “When it’s your house, you don’t want someone telling you you can’t sell it."
Owl Hill mansion facts
- Built in 1908
- Located on top of a wooded hill far removed from other buildings
- Eight rooms with carved mahogany
- All timbers and interior finish woods brought over from West Indies
Source: Smithtown historical survey