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May 27, 2008 4:53 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Wainscott family asks town to preserve their multimillion dollar farm

May 27, 2008 4:53 PM

The owners of one of East Hampton’s few remaining farms are appealing to the town to buy it for preservation. Their appeal comes with a $10.5-million price tag.

Douglas and Beatrice Strong and their ancestors have been farming in Wainscott for 12 generations and once owned vast swaths of farmland there. The family is seeking to sell the last remaining piece of working farmland it owns, 12 acres near the intersection of Town Line Road and Wainscott Hollow Road.

The land, which the family subdivided in 1983, is currently farmed by Peter Dankowski through a lease agreement with the Strongs. Through their attorney, Richard Whalen, the Strongs have made an offer to the town, asking it last month to purchase their property.

The Strong farmhouse sits on 1.5 of the 12 acres and is the only portion of the farm not already protected from residential development by an agricultural easement.

According to the offer drafted by Mr. Whalen and sent to local newspapers, the family cannot afford to “forego the value which has built up” in their land but would prefer to see it preserved for farming rather than developed, if the town can pay fair market value.

Mr. Whalen said the family had received several offers from developers who would transform the entire property into a single residential lot, screened with tall privet hedges, which would be legal despite the agricultural easement. Such development would block the view from Town Line Road of the preserved farmland beyond, Mr. Whalen said.

A deal to sell two of the three lots totalling 8.3 acres for $7.2 million 
fell apart last year, Mr. Whalen said, adding the Strongs would consider 
selling those lots to the town for $7 million if it didn’t want to buy the whole farm.

There is currently no timetable for the farm’s sale, according to Mr. Whalen, but if the town does not act fairly quickly, the Strongs may be forced to sell to a private buyer. He said the town has ordered an assessment of the property’s value. Under state law, the town may not pay more than the assessed value of a property if it is to use CPF money for the purchase.

Michael Wright and Alexandra Zendrian

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