Legal declaration ends Paard Hill commercial horse farm option

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Paard Hill horse farm on Ram Island Road.

A legal document filed in January with the Suffolk County Clerk’s Office prohibits a commercial horse farm at Paard Hill if owners Peter Ruig and Ellen Lear sell the property or die.

Titled only “Declaration,” it fulfills a pledge they made to the town Appeals Board more than 12 years ago that — once all litigation over their property was settled and all pending permits for the horse farm and its structures had been granted — they would draft a legal document restricting it to residential-only use after their ownership.

The Lear-Ruig application to open a commercial horse farm in a residential zone touched off a storm of protest. The board granted a special exception use permit to allow it in August 2000.

The 2012 declaration imposes a covenant on the property requiring the 36-acre horse farm to be donated to either the Town of Shelter Island or the Peconic Land Trust after the deaths of both Mr. Ruig and Ms. Lear, or — if they subdivide and sell the property’s 8-acre residential component, which they reserve the right to do — prohibiting any future use of the 28.5-acre equine facility as a commercial operation.

Earlier this week, Supervisor Jim Dougherty announced at a Town Board work session that there was a potential buyer for the property who wanted to operate the horse farm. He and Town Attorney Laury Dowd commented that, in the event of any sale, the horse farm had to be offered to the town or the Peconic Land Trust if a new owner did not want to operate the horse farm.

The supervisor later said the right that Lear-Ruig Partners had won to operate the commercial horse farm “runs with the land” and would not be extinguished if they sold it.

The “Declaration” was filed as part of a settlement involving a lawsuit filed 12 years ago by several neighbors.