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April 26, 2013
Looking back and to the future of a historic piece of land
- This old irrigation pump and diesel engine was once used to irrigate crops on the Tedford property.
The Reporter continues with its “Open Space” series this week with the Tedford open space property.
WHERE IS IT?
The Tedford open space property is 14.5 acres on the northwest corner of Cobbetts Lane and Manhanset Road and is jointly owned by the town and Suffolk County. The property extends about 1,350 feet west of Manhanset Road and from Cobbetts Lane to Our Lady of the Isle Cemetery to the north.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Before the purchase, the land was described in an appraisal summary report dated March 26, 2004 as being “mostly cleared with gently rolling topography.” But plants have been allowed to grow freely over the years and much of the property has since become a tangle of vines and branches. The very thick vegetation that covers sections of the property makes it difficult to explore. “That area is full of invasives,” Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty explained. “If we get the invasives out, it could be much more user-friendly.”
WHAT’S ITS HISTORY?
But the invasive species and unchecked natural growth hasn’t consumed all the remnants of the property’s past. There are corridors of more lightly vegetated land that used to separate the plots of growing areas when the property held Shelter Island Nursery’s stock and from when the land was used as a farm before that. In the 1950s and 60s, the farm was used primarily to cultivate lima beans under the ownership of Sylvester Prime.
An old abandoned diesel engine and irrigation pump that was once used to irrigate crops sits, wrapped in vines, on the southeastern edge of the property.
In 1999, Alastair Tedford purchased the 20.5 acres at auction and in 2003 offered the town development rights in order to prevent any further building — he at one point hoped to run a horse farm on the property. He at first agreed to sell the development rights for $700,000 — the town would pay $210,000 and Suffolk County would supply $490,000.
That deal fell through, however, when the Planning Board insisted on imposing strict guidelines for the use of pesticides on a parcel, even though the legality of that move was called into question. After designating 6 acres for his own subdivision, Mr. Tedford later presented the town with an offer to sell the remaining 14.5 acres outright for $1.8 million in the spring of 2004, though he required that the deal be completed by the end of the year.
Suffolk County agreed to join the town in making an offer of around $1,766,000, with each paying half. The remaining approximately $34,000 needed was supplied through private donations.
However, as Mr. Dougherty explained, the “county is very cumbersome” in officially approving land deals, “and it became clear they couldn’t meet the end of the year deadline, so the Peconic Land Trust agreed to be an interim buyer with the town.” The property was split into two 7.25-acre parcels; the town purchased the easterly section and the trust purchased the westerly parcel. The county then bought the land from the trust by the following April.
HOW WILL IT BE USED?
Mr. Dougherty thought that removing the invasives should be a part of the property’s management plan. “That’s on the list, and … at this point when we don’t seem to be doing deals anymore, we might as well spend the two percent money on stewardship and clean them up. I’m delighted that we saved it when we did, but [the stewardship] is overdue.”
Though removing the invasives is a consideration, Mr. Dougherty added, “The main purpose of these open space deals, I think, is to preserve Shelter Island’s character, preserve the aquifer and moderate development pressure a little bit.”