Last week, three “ultra-modern” speculative homes on Parsonage Lane in Sagaponack, currently in the excavation phase, were packaged together as a “compound” and listed for $60 million—the most expensive in the village’s history, according to Paul Brennan, a native of Sagaponack who has been selling homes in the area for more than 30 years.The three-home compound will be created on one of the largest remaining open farm fields in Sagaponack, part of an agricultural reserve, and remove it from crop production, converting more than 10 acres of active farmland into green space for the homes.
The nature of that green space remains in question.
Jay Bialsky, a developer who specializes in super-high-end development in south-of-the-highway hotspots, bought the three lots on Parsonage Lane—1.6 to 2 acres each—in May, as well as the 10.5-acre agricultural reserve adjacent to the property, for a total of $25 million. A separately owned 35-acre agricultural reserve abuts the 10.5 acres, and the entire field was farmed by the Foster family, in a rotation of rye, oats, corn and potatoes.
The reserve on Parsonage, which Mr. Bialsky purchased for $4 million, will be converted into a “meadow, pasture-type situation,” according to Dean Foster, who instead of farming the field is now overseeing its conversion for Mr. Bialsky. Though there are no plans for any agricultural use at the moment, the tentative idea is to prepare the field for an equestrian use, he said.
Mr. Foster, 45, has been running operations for his family’s Sagaponack farming business for more than a decade. “It was great farmland,” said Mr. Foster of the reserve. “I’m sorry to see it go. I know a lot of people in Sagaponack are upset about what’s happening to the land, but they have to realize that this is what people in my situation have to do to survive. We have to become flexible.”
Neighbors and village officials say underground irrigation has been installed in the agricultural reserve—a step that suggests a lawn, not a meadow or equestrian facility. The installation of underground irrigation essentially would represent the end of the reserve’s life as a producer of agricultural goods, said John v.H. Halsey, president of the Peconic Land Trust.
Last week, Mr. Bialsky would not say whether underground irrigation was part of the project, insisting that all the work being done was in accordance with town and village regulations. Still, Mr. Foster admitted that “the field is very dry,” and that “nothing will grow on it without it.”
On Monday, John Woudsma, the building inspector for Sagaponack Village, confirmed that underground irrigation had been installed last week at the site.
Many may be left wondering how Mr. Bialsky is able to prepare even an agricultural reserve for pasture under the easement, which was put in place by the Town of Southampton in 2002, before Sagaponack Village was incorporated, as part of a clustered subdivision plan. The easement states that all work to be done on the field must be “designated and intended” to promote “agricultural production”—a guideline that includes equestrian uses, Mr. Foster said.
“It’s not always clear who has jurisdiction over these easements,” said Mr. Halsey. “The village doesn’t have any authority that I’m aware of to enforce restrictions put in place by the town ... When many of these easements were written, they were foreseeing a time when agriculture would no longer be a viable option.”
Mr. Bialsky has developed more than 35 homes on the East End and is currently building speculative, more traditional homes on three parcels that were once part of the Wooldon Manor estate on Gin Lane in Southampton. Brothers Zachary and Cody Vichinsky of Bespoke Real Estate are selling the compound on Parsonage Lane, as well several other Bialsky projects. Each home is also marketed individually for $20 million, $23 million and $26 million.
The contemporary style of his Sagaponack homes, which Bespoke markets as “J. Bialsky lifestyle estates,” is closely tied to the sense of “modern luxury” that the upstart Bespoke firm tries to embody. The modern home is also becoming more prevalent in the Sagaponack farmland, characterized by the designs of architecture firms such as Blaze Makoid, Grade, James Merrell, and Bates Masi.
The ambitiousness of the price alone reveals what developers expect from a Sagaponack address, even for a non-existent house with field views, 1.5 miles from the beach. The “compound” listing has become common in the area as developers try to present a truly private “kingdom” to break into the higher price ranges that they know the market will allow.
For a property to be listed as a compound, however, it must come with a good chunk of land to be held as open space for additional structures or, if not privately owned, at least a vast, unobstructed view. Therefore, agricultural reserves that protect open spaces become a crucial factor in marketing developments, serving to add value simply by their openness.
Mr. Brennan happens to live right across the street from the new developments and is skeptical that the developers will achieve the $60 million asking price.
In August, Mr. Brennan listed a compound on Bridge Lane for $25 million. The 5.9-acre property had two building lots and frontage on Sagg Pond, presenting a ripe opportunity to tear down the existing homes and build a personalized assortment of auxiliary structures on the amply sized lot. The view from the main house is across Sagg Pond onto more than 80 acres of land preserved for farming, protected through the Peconic Land Trust. At an open house, Mr. Brennan could say with certainty that those views would always remain that way.
Across Sagg Pond, Gary DePersia is listing a home, pinched between the pond and the beach, for $35 million. Also listed with “compound” potential, the sale is for 7 acres of oceanfront and an additional 23-acre agricultural reserve, with the reserve also being listed separately for $6 million.
On Daniels Lane, Marc Goldman is seeking permission to build an 8,600-square-foot house on 43 acres of farmland protected by an agricultural easement. His application elects to build the house on the road as opposed to the ocean. Many Sagaponack residents oppose the plan, feeling that the house will obstruct the view of the field.
Grade, a New York City-based architecture firm, designed every gesture of the three homes on Parsonage in relation to the adjacent reserve, treating the orientation of the houses to the reserve as if it were oceanfront. “Too many of these big projects are fenced in behind hedges,” said architect Thomas Hickey, a partner at Grade. “They are imprisoned by their privets.”
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