by Katie Blasl Mar 23, 2016, 4:41 pm riverheadlocal.com
A 43 acre property that contains prime farmland and a 3000-year-old
burial ground may be preserved by Suffolk County. File photo.
Acres of undeveloped property on Jamesport’s Main Road that were once slated for 42,000 square feet of commercial development are being considered for acquisition by Suffolk County.
The county legislature voted last night to authorize appraisals of the 43.6 acres in Jamesport owned by Robert DiNoto, a Huntington developer who has had discussions with Riverhead Town about building an assisted living facility part of the site.
If the county moves forward with acquisition of the entire site, which is split into two parcels, the front 9.71 acres would be preserved as parkland, and the remaining acreage would be preserved as farmlamd.
The property, locally known as Sharper’s Hill, is surrounded on three sides by already-preserved farmland and contains prime agricultural soil that has been farmed as recently as 2010.
The property also encompasses an ancient Native American burial ground dating back 3,000 years, one of just a handful that have been found on the East End.
“Preserving Sharper’s Hill is not just about keeping Jamesport rural,” said Richard Wines, chairman of the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission, at the legislature meeting last night. “Sharper’s Hill needs to be celebrated and cherished as an important piece of the island’s history, and we’re really lucky to have a chance today to get it right.”
The property is on the north side of Route 25, just west of
Jamesport’s hamlet center. Google Maps image.
Wines was one of a number of local residents who turned out at the legislature meeting last night to offer their support to preserve the property. Many expressed opposition to the 118-bed assisted living facility planned for the front of the property, arguing that it would not only destroy prime farmland but also jeopardize the historic character of Jamesport’s hamlet center.
“This type of commercial development would ruin the rural quality of the hamlet,” said Laura Jens Smith of Laurel. “To allow the suburban sprawl to migrate further east would be a detriment to our economy and our character.”
Phil Barbatos, who owns farmland adjacent to the property, pointed out that soil tests performed as recently as this month have shown that the farmland still contains soil that is prime for farming.
“If it were to be preserved, it would prevent the overdevelopment of Jamesport and preserve precious historic resources,” Barbatos told the legislature. “If developed, it would create more empty storefronts in our community, of which there are a sufficient number
already, and create an unacceptable increase in traffic on Route 25.”
Traffic was a common point of concern among speakers, who took issue with commercial development on a property with just one point of access on Route 25 alone.
A 2012 proposal to develop the property included 42,000 square feet of commercial space.
Several speakers also urged the legislature to take the site’s historical significance into account and use this as a chance to preserve a known burial ground for the Orient Burial Cult.
“It is the only one left on Long Island,” said Gaynell Stone, executive director of the Suffolk County Archaeological Association. “The new development proposed once again threatens this rare site. The town and county must choose to save this last remaining native site once and for all.”
The county legislature last night authorized appraisals of both parcels.
“Community support is very important,” said a victorious Legislator Al Krupski this morning. “One of the legislators told me that he lives very close to Hauppauge and can’t get even a few people to come for something like this, and a whole busload from the East End came out last night to speak. It’s very important.”
Krupski thanked DiNoto for being open to discussion with the county about acquisition. The legislator noted it is a voluntary program. He also thanked the Town of Riverhead for its willingness to partner with the county on the project; the town would help develop the parkland and maintain it.