Southampton Town is moving forward with a plan to purchase and preserve a 10-acre cluster of parcels in Shinnecock Hills to be used for a marina, restaurant, open space, a sewage treatment plant and possibly for the first fish farm in the town.
The town board voted at its Tuesday meeting in favor of two resolutions, one to acquire a 5.3-acre property and another to purchase the development rights on the adjoining 4.75 acres to keep it in agriculture, or in this case aquaculture, production. The board voted 4-0 on the first proposal and 4-1 on the second.
Councilwoman Julie Lofstad abstained from the first resolution and voted against the second, citing concerns about whether Manna Fish Farms, the aquaculture operation that plans to use the site, would be able to obtain the proper permits. The company plans to be the first open ocean finfish farm in federal waters off the East Coast, according to its website.
Manna will purchase the 4.75-acre parcel and sell the development rights to the town for $3,016,978, town community preservation manager Mary Wilson said during the meeting. The community preservation fund is financed through a tax on real estate transfers in the town, and the money is used for open space preservation and water quality protection.
The town will spend $7,446,093 in community preservation money and $210,000 in general funds for its portion of the $8.5 million deal, and Manna will pay approximately $840,000.
The property, near where Sunrise Highway becomes County Road 39, most recently housed the Lobster Grille Inn restaurant.
A 25-unit condominium complex could be built on the property if it were not acquired by the town, Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said during Tuesday’s meeting.
“I think this has a lot of beneficial uses for the community, both for the environment and the economy,” Schneiderman said. “I’m excited about it.”
Community members spoke overwhelmingly in favor of the fish farm during a public hearing on Tuesday, citing job creation and the ability to produce local food, among other benefits.
“If you love seafood, you’re going to have to love aquaculture,” said Konstantine Rountos, a St. Joseph’s College biology professor and part-time fish farm employee. He noted that the industry will be needed to feed a growing world population.
The operation would raise fish inshore and put them later in offshore ocean cages, said majority owner Donna Lanzetta. She stressed that there would be no nitrogen discharge into the environment and that the byproducts could be used for fertilizer.
One resident expressed concern about whether the facility would emit odors. Lanzetta said no fish processing would be done onsite and that most of the operation would be underwater, so odors would be minimal.