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County deal to preserve farmland in Smithtown expires after no response from owners

B.B. and G.G. Farm is on North County

B.B. and G.G. Farm is on North County Road in St. James.  Credit: Barry Sloan

A Suffolk County effort to preserve B.B. and G.G. Farm in Head of the Harbor Village stalled as the county’s offer to buy development rights expired with no response from the four brothers who own the North Country Road land.

"Accordingly, the offer… is hereby withdrawn," Janet M. Longo, acquisition supervisor for the county’s real estate division, wrote in Feb. 25 letters to Glenn, Gary, William and Robert Borella. There can be no further consideration of county preservation of the land for the next year, Longo wrote. The county made its offer after Smithtown officials nominated the farm for the county farmland preservation program to ensure continued agricultural use. County officials made the offer in November and extended it once at the Borellas' request, she wrote.

The Borella family land is one of the last significant active agricultural parcels in Smithtown, and the surrounding Mills Pond National Historic District off Route 25A is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Some residents in the village and surrounding St. James hamlet fear the proposed subdivision of the nearby 75-acre Gyrodyne property for uses that could include a hotel, assisted living facility and offices will add to congestion in what is already the town’s second densest hamlet.

Suffolk County, along with local governments and nonprofits, have preserved more than 20,000 acres of farmland since 1974, but most of that land is on the East End.

The Borellas did not respond to interview requests. Deputy County Executive Peter Scully and Joseph Bollhofer, a St. James lawyer representing William Borella, declined to disclose the Borellas’ asking price or the results of a county appraisal of the land last year.

The county offer covered two lots owned jointly by the brothers comprising 40 acres but did not cover an adjacent 10-acre lot owned by William Borella that holds greenhouses and barns. Bollhofer said William Borella hopes to see the farm preserved, but "there’s been no realistic offer."

Avalon Nature Preserve, the private Head of the Harbor sanctuary backed by the family of East Setauket hedge fund billionaire James Simons, "is interested" in buying the farm outright but has made no "formal offer," Bollhofer said, declining to discuss details. His client would consider a deal for both development rights and outright ownership.

The family's asking price for both development rights and the land exceeds appraisals conducted by the county and Avalon, a source familiar with ongoing discussions said, but would not say by how much.

Scully said in an interview that "It is unfortunate that this offer does not work for the family ... We’ll look forward to reaching an agreement in the future."

At least three generations of Borellas have farmed Long Island, starting with the brothers’ grandfather, John, who farmed in Hicksville before moving to St. James around 1945. B.B. and G.G. began in the 1960s with a box of produce set for sale next to the road and grew into a Smithtown institution known for hay rides and perennials, as well as its corn and tomatoes.

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