Manor preservation deal slated to close

Much of Sylvesyer Maor’s 243 acres, viewed from the south toward the north and the manor house on Gardiners Creek. It organic farming parcel, where the manor’s windmill stands, is in foreground.

Shelter Island and Suffolk County expect to close later this month on the second and final phase of their Sylvester Manor preservation effort.

This deal to buy the development rights to  55 more acres of farmland to protect them from development,  was announced at Friday’s Town Board meeting by Supervisor Jim Dougherty.

The supervior said the closing is “pretty much definitely set” for November 28.

The town and county closed on their first manor preservation deal last August, buying the development rights to about 26 acres of farmland for $2.39 million, with the county and federal governments paying more than 70 percent of the bill. The pending $4.8 million deal won’t include a federal farm grant; the county will pay a full 70 percent and the town a full 30 percent, again using revenues from its 2-percent open space preservation tax on real estate transactions.
The balance in the town’s Community Preservation Fund, which is supported by the tax, currently stands at about $925,000. The rest of the town’s $1.4 million share of the price will be funded through a one-year bond anticipation note on which the town will pay only 1.25 percent interest to Chase bank, Supervisor Dougherty has announced. It will be paid back with future Community Preservation Fund revenues.

Sylvester Manor, the 243-acre remnant of a 17th century plantation that has been in the same family’s hands since it was founded, is owned by Sylvester heir Eben Ostby, who is seeking to preserve it as an educational farm that practices and celebrates pre-industrial agriculture. It is operates by the Sylvester Manor Education Farm Inc., a non-profit that is using the $7.2 million in proceeds from both development-rights deals to fund its endowment. Mr. Ostby is also making a matching donation of $1 million for all gifts received through fundraising.