Suffolk County has sued the owners of an Eastport farm for which it recently acquired development rights, accusing it of running an illegal junkyard.
In June, the county closed on a $1.69 million deal under its farmland protection program for development rights to the Ringhoff Family Farm. Terms prohibit use of the 141-acre site for dumping solid waste, vehicle storage and excavating on the grounds — all of which county officials allege have taken place in recent months.
“Suffolk County taxpayers did not purchase the Ringhoff Farm’s development rights in order for it to be used as a junkyard,” County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement, calling the use a “blatant abuse” of the farmland protection program. “This program is part of our commitment to preserve open space and ensure the continued agricultural use.”
The county said it has obtained a temporary order from state Supreme Court barring farm owners from committing new violations as it seeks damages and removal of debris.
A Ringhoff attorney was not listed on the lawsuit’s online record yesterday Monday. A woman who answered the phone at the home of William Ringhoff — previously identified by the county as a family representative — declined to comment.
Upon announcing their efforts to acquire development rights, county officials said the deal would allow the Ringhoff family to continue operating a fresh produce stand at county roads 51 and 55, which they said offered “some of Suffolk’s finest peaches, potatoes, tomatoes and ears of corn to passersby.”
William Ringhoff said at the time that “joining the farmland development rights program ... will enable the family to purchase much-needed upgrades and additions to our farm equipment, and provide some financial security as we move forward. The proceeds will go a long way in enabling us to continue farming.”
Above: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone