Stanhope Stables in West Hills on Nov. 14.

Stanhope Stables in West Hills on Nov. 14. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Two appraisals aimed at either preserving a West Hills property as an equestrian facility or environmental open space are moving forward after a vote by the Suffolk County Legislature.

The county voted 17-0 on Dec. 5 to fund an appraisal of the 13.7-acre Stanhope Stables property on Downs Road if the county were to purchase the development rights. Last month the county Farmland Committee had recommended the appraisal to purchase the land development rights as part of the county’s farmland preservation program.

Legis. Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport), sponsor of the resolution, said if a purchase is eventually made it will be a win-win for residents.

“Not only are we protecting and preserving open space and our fragile environment, but we are also enabling the equestrian community to continue enjoying the tranquil and serene woods of West Hills,” she said.

Last month Bontempi also sponsored a resolution to appraise the parcel to purchase it as environmental open space under the county's drinking water protection program. It was approved 16-1. Legis. Tom Donnelly (D-Deer Park) was not present for the vote.

Either option could potentially keep the property from being developed for housing.

In March Jericho-based B2K at West Hills LLC applied to the town for a change of zone from 2-acre to cluster zoning to build 59 units of housing.

In August the application was withdrawn by the developer following pushback from residents.

Huntington Town Supervisor Ed Smyth said last month that the town is exploring partnering with the county in the purchase of development rights.

Property owner Nancy Henderson said she prefers the county buying the development rights, rather than preserving it as open space, because the land would retain its current use as a horse farm. Under that plan, the property could be leased back to Henderson.

“It’s what I have been trying to do for 13 years,” Henderson said referring to selling the property’s development rights.

Suffolk County spokesperson Marykate Guilfoyle said in an email that requests for proposals for the appraisals will be submitted to the county’s approved-vendor list.

The cost of the appraisals is to be determined, county officials said.

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