Town not interested in Paard Hill deal

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The town board showed no interest in taking on the 28.5 acres of the Paard Hill horse farm as open space.

Why pay for something you can’t use?

That’s the consensus of the Town Board on the issue of taking over 28.5 acres of the Paard Hill Horse farm, which by agreement must be offered to the town or the Peconic Land Trust for a sale of the complete property — about 37 acres — to be finalized.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty said at Tuesday’s Town board work session that a new contract states that no public access would be allowed if the deal goes down on the so-called “open area” of Paard Hill. Mr. Dougherty noted that insurance costs plus maintenance would have to be met by the town on the preserved open space but no access for the public was a deal breaker.

A sale for the property is in the works with an interested buyer ready to sign for less than the original asking price of $8 million. The remaining 7.65-acres of the Paard Hill property has a single-family house.

The supervisor added it was his understanding that the PLT is not interested in taking on the open area of Paard Hill for the same reasons as the town. He said John Halsey, president of the PLT was “going in the same direction we are.”

A  PLT spokeswoman said  Tuesday afternoon that “we are currently in the review process.”

Councilman Paul Shepherd said at the Town Board’s meeting that it didn’t make sense to take on the property. “No matter who gets it, no one gets to use it,” Mr. Shepherd said.

Last week Mr. Dougherty said he had seen an agreement for the sale that a new buyer can use the “open area” for private “equestrian or pedestrian purposes.”

Paard Hill has been described as a four-star hotel for horses, with padded floors and water fountains in many of the 23 stalls with water views.

A  2012 declaration imposes a covenant on the property requiring the open section to be donated to either the Town of Shelter Island or the PLT after the deaths of the two owners, Pieter Ruig and Ellen Lear, or if they subdivide and sell the property’s residential component. The declaration prohibits any future use of the equine facility as a commercial operation.

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

Run originally as an equestrian business, Paard Hill hasn’t been a commercial venture for some time.