Plan formed to preserve east end of Long Island Hamptons farmland brings $200,000 an acre

March 14, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

QUOGUE, N.Y. - A conservationist and a land developer who set aside their differences to help preserve the Long Island Pine Barrens have announced plans for a similar effort to preserve open space on the island's East End.

They warned that the bull market on Wall Street was feeding a real estate frenzy in the Hamptons, where undeveloped farmland, they said, was selling for as much as $200,000 an acre.

Richard L. Amper Jr., who helped negotiate the Pine Barrens Protection Act, and Edwin M. Schwenk, who represented the Long Island Builders Institute, will co-direct an organization called East End Forever, which will try to duplicate their success on the North and South Forks and Shelter Island.

Amper said the idea began to take form in November after East End residents voted to approve local open-space purchases, the Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Act and the state's Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act.

"The stars seemed aligned for a comprehensive approach to preservation," Amper said at a joint announcement with Schwenk at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge.

He said the approach would include land acquisition, the purchase of development rights and other land preservation techniques that were employed in the 100,000-acre Pine Barrens Preservation initiative.

Schwenk, who has spent most of his life on the East End, added: "We think the next few years represent our last chance to keep this place from ending up looking like just anyplace. We must not allow it to happen."

He added: "Building out here right now is going on at an unbelievable rate. The recent success on Wall Street has fired up the whole area, and many new substantial homes are going up."

He said that a 60-acre farm in Sagaponack was recently sold to a developer for $12 million.

"It's tough to compete with prices like that," Schwenk said, "but we've got to act now, or in two years it will be too late. The developers will have come and gone somewhere else and open farmland like that will be lost forever."

The goal of the new nonprofit advocacy group is to identify open space and to develop strategies to protect the landscape, the community character and the rural nature of the five eastern towns on Long Island: Riverhead, East Hampton, Southampton, Southold and Shelter Island.

Amper said the first step would be the creation of a map to identify the open areas, wetlands and beachfront property that would be included in the preservation effort. He said that no total acreage or cost had been determined.

Suffolk County has bought more than 26,000 acres on the East End over the last decade under various land preservation projects, said Tim Ryan, a spokesman for County Executive Robert Gaffney.

"Additional help at any level is most welcome," Ryan said.

Pub Date: 3/14/97

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