East Hampton Town and the Peconic Land Trust are joining forces to purchase the development rights and preserve Stony Hill Stables in Amagansett, a popular 10-acre horse farm and riding center.
The East Hampton Town Board approved a resolution last Thursday authorizing a 50-50 purchase of the rights with the Peconic Land Trust, a nonprofit group that will help Stony Hill Stables raise private funds for the preservation. The total purchase price is $978,500, not including closing costs, according to the board’s resolution. The Peconic Land Trust is aiming to meet its $489,250 share by the end of 2014, according to Sara Gordon, the project manager. The town will use its Community Preservation Fund to pay for its share.
Stony Hill Stables on Town Lane has been operated by the Hotchkiss family for more than five decades, according to Maureen Bluedorn, the president of the Stony Hill Stables Foundation. The main purpose of the foundation is to run a scholarship program that essentially awards local children a pony for the summer—an expense that not all local families can afford, she said. The scholarship program, established last year, pays for things like five lessons a week for four months and the opportunity to attend horse shows. A total of six scholarships have been awarded since the program was created, and the scholarships can run up to $20,000 apiece.
“I grew up with horses and they meant the world to me and helped shape my life as a child,” Ms. Bluedorn said, expressing appreciation for the purchase at a Town Board public hearing last Thursday. “What I’ve seen at Stony Hill Stables is this family and this community and whether it be the people that work there, of which there are 28 people, whether it be the 300 students that come through each year taking lessons, whether it be just friends and family who are coming and visiting and spending a day, it’s a very unique environment, and I would invite any of you to come visit us at any time.”
Purchasing the development rights will help ensure that the Hotchkiss family, which has run the stables for more than five decades, does not shut down the business. It will also dissuade the family from completing a three-lot subdivision and selling two of the lots to meet estate planning obligations for the family, said Ms. Bluedorn.
More than 230 students take riding lessons each year at the stables, which house 30 horses, Ms. Bluedorn said.
This week, Ms. Gordon said the Peconic Land Trust was interested helping purchase the development rights because Stony Hill has a “unique” relationship with the surrounding community.
“They have a nonprofit foundation that’s specifically established to provide scholarships to local residents, and they work closely with the schools,” Ms. Gordon said. “And the loss of it would be deeply felt. If the family were compelled to go through with the subdivision, the riding academy use would expire. And that would be a tremendous loss to local families who’ve had generations of riders learn, multiple generations of riders learn, from this family.”
Children and local families in town have relied on the scholarship program. Marc Lowlicht, father of 11-year-old Lara Lowlicht, said the program had a meaningful impact on his family. He read a letter from his daughter into the record at last Thursday’s public hearing, in which she describes what Stony Hill Stables has done for her. She began her letter by saying it’s a “hard question” to answer. “How do you put ‘they make my dreams come true every day’ into words without making it sound like less than it really is?” she wrote.
Mr. Lowlicht also praised the program personally. He said it’s a boon in a community where it’s hard to find outlets to keep kids busy.
“I have to say, to be able to drop your child off somewhere and feel they’re going to be safe, well taken care of and treated like family, I haven’t been able to find in 15 years in this town,” Mr. Lowlicht said. “And Stony Hill Stables has given that to me, and I don’t even know what to say to them. Every day I go there, and I don’t even know what to say.”