A Suffolk legislative committee has approved funding to buy a...

A Suffolk legislative committee has approved funding to buy a portion of property owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph, in Brentwood. Credit: EmPower Solar

The Suffolk Legislature’s environment committee has approved $2.295 million to buy development rights for 26.5 of the 208 acres owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood to keep the land in agricultural use.

The resolutions, if approved by the full legislature next Tuesday, would make the tract one of a handful in western Suffolk for which the county has bought farmland rights.

The committee also voted to authorize $3.9 million to buy development rights for 63.6 acres in Mattituck that is used for sod farming, and $1.7 million for 8.3 acres near the Hauppauge County Center to protect the headwaters of the Nissequogue River

All three resolutions are expected to have bipartisan support.

Kimberly Quarty, senior project manager for Peconic Land Trust, said the proposed sale of building rights is part of the Sisters of St. Joseph order’s effort to preserve as much land as possible while helping support the remaining sisters, who have an average age of 85.

The property has been leased to farmers who grow vegetables and have a honey operation.

The preserved farmland consists of two parcels — 8.5 acres at the southwest corner of the property bordering on Brentwood Road, and an L-shaped, 18-acre parcel at the northeast corner, south of Third Avenue.

The pending acquisition will more than double the acreage of preserved farmland in Islip Town, which has two parcels in the program totaling 16 acres. Suffolk’s four western towns have six parcels of preserved farmland, totaling 146.3 acres.

The remaining 10,692 acres to which the county has bought development rights are located on the East End.

Preserved acreage countywide is about a third of the 35,975 acres that were in agricultural use as of 2012, according to county records.

“The important thing is there’s only a few pieces of preserved farmland in the west end of the county and saving it will benefit the whole county,” said Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore), minority caucus leader.

Planning officials said the site received a rating of 10.25 out of a maximum of 25. A rating of 10 is necessary to qualify for purchase of development rights.

Official said a minimal rating is not unusual for properties in western Suffolk because they cannot get points for being near other farm properties or in an agricultural district.

Backers say the acquisition of the 8.3 acre Hauppauge tract will prevent construction of as many as nine homes with septic systems that would leach nitrogen into the head waters of the Nissequogue.

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