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Land Trust plans to help finance Pond property

JULIE LANE PHOTO Peconic Land Trust Director of Conservation Planning Melanie Cirillo told the Town Board Tuesday how her organization plans to raise money to assist in the purchase of property on Fresh Pond.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Peconic Land Trust Director of Conservation Planning Melanie Cirillo told the Town Board Tuesday how her organization plans to raise money to assist in the purchase of property on Fresh Pond.

There’s no formal agreement yet, but the Town Board is poised to purchase Vincent Novak’s .54-acre property on the shores of Fresh Pond. A deal is in the works that the sale would be partially financed by the Peconic Land Trust (PLT) — a nonprofit environmental organization — through fundraising to offset the total cost.

PLT Director of Conservation Planning Melanie Cirillo has been meeting with members of the Fresh Pond Neighbors Association, a group that has put money into an effort to improve the water quality of the pond and pushed to make the site a public park.

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Ms. Cirillo explained that beginning with a $100,000 commitment from members of the Neighbor’s Association, she’s confident that the PLT can raise $250,000 toward the purchase of the site, saying it’s a “significant fresh water body” that is important to protecting runoff of subpar quality water into surrounding bay waters.

Because the Neighbors Association is willing to make the area where Mr. Novak’s house is currently located open to the public, Ms. Cirillo believes there are other town residents who would contribute to the fundraising effort.

If the deal outlined Tuesday goes ahead, money for the land purchase at its appraised value would come from the Community Preservation Fund, Supervisor Gary Gerth said after the meeting.

PLT’s plan would be to get pledges that could be paid over a three-year period.

Ms. Cirillo estimated the PLT would cover its costs of between $5,000 and $10,000 from the money raised, but would retain no ownership position in the acquisition.

But that doesn’t mean Mr. Novak would have to wait three years to see the town close on the deal. Co-chairman James Eklund of the Neighbors Association said he believes there are other members who would provide loans, perhaps by the beginning of 2019.

There are details to be worked out, including how to extend tax deductions to contributors, but Ms. Cirillo said she’s confident that can be achieved. Councilwoman Amber Brach-Willians read a section of the IRS tax code she believes would provide for such deductions.

Mr. Novak, told the board that when he had said this summer that he would need to know by Labor Day that a deal was of serious interest to the town. But Tuesday, he said, “I really wasn’t trying to give people an ultimatum.”

The exact price is something that must be worked out after the board gets an independent appraisal of the property. Mr. Novak had an appraisal done that showed the value was more than $800,000.

Plans are to remove the house on the property, but Mr. Eklund noted that must be done by contractors experienced in handling the possibility of the presence of asbestos. He also said there will have to be tests of soil to ensure there are no contaminants on the site.

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