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Suffolk lawmakers to vote on new designation for controversial Islandia horse farm

The Pal-O-Mine Equestrian horse farm in Islandia on

The Pal-O-Mine Equestrian horse farm in Islandia on Monday. Credit: Chris Ware

Suffolk County lawmakers on Tuesday are expected to vote on adding an Islandia horse farm to the county agricultural district after a previous approval was thrown out by a state Supreme Court justice.

Pal-O-Mine Equestrian on Old Nichols Road has sought the designation for a section of the farm that it purchased several years ago. The nonprofit farm, founded 27 years ago in Nassau County and moved to Islandia in 2007, provides therapy and educational and vocational programs for 400 weekly clients. They include disabled adults and children, military veterans, public school students and survivors of trauma and abuse, executive director Lisa Gatti said.

But Islandia Village officials have raised objections to the county plan in court and before the legislature, citing a state justice's ruling last year that the Suffolk County Legislature in 2019 had improperly approved the farm's inclusion in the district.

Gatti said Pal-O-Mine, which includes an organic farm, should receive the same agricultural classification as other farms. The 13-acre farm is home to 25 horses, as well as sheep, miniature horses, miniature donkeys, chickens and a cat, she said.

"We do everything that commercial equine facilities do," she said in an interview Monday. "We want to be treated fairly … so that we are not treated unreasonably."

Separately, the village last year cited Pal-O-Mine for violations for, among other things, illegally renting homes on the site; Pal-O-Mine has pleaded not guilty to the village violations, which are pending in Islandia Village Court.

Islandia spokesman John Zaher said Monday in an email that state judges have repeatedly ruled that state and county approvals of the farm were illegal.

"Rather than try to seek the proper permits and legalize its ongoing expansion to residential properties, Pal-O-Mine has continued to ignore three New York State Supreme Court determinations …," Zaher said.

The Suffolk legislature had voted in 2019 to add a 1.7-acre section of Pal-O-Mine and about 19 unrelated properties to the county agricultural district.

Albany State Supreme Court Justice Peter A. Lynch ruled last year that the approval was made in error because the county's environmental review was done improperly. Village officials also said the 1.7-acre section was not contiguous with the rest of the farm.

The county legislature is scheduled to vote on Tuesday to "reaffirm" the 2019 vote, presiding officer Rob Calarco said in an interview. He said new environmental reviews on Pal-O-Mine and other properties were completed that should resolve the county's legal issues with the village.

He said he hopes the village and Pal-O-Mine also can resolve their disputes.

"We would all rather not have this issue come before us again," Calarco (D-Patchogue) said. "I really just wish they would come to some sort of resolution that would allow them [Pal-O-Mine] to operate in some sort of capacity."

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