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Jan 17, 2011 2:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Suffolk Water Authority Plans To Sell Surplus Land On East End

Jan 17, 2011 2:43 PM

Recent arrivals at the Suffolk County Water Authority are getting their feet wet in unfamiliar territory: real estate.

Over the last several months, agency officials have compiled a list that includes 31 of their surplus properties—including a few large parcels on the East End—that they are now looking to sell. The estimated 400 acres could conservatively fetch at least $30 million on the open market, according to Tim Motz, the director of efficiency and communication for the Suffolk County Water Authority. But the authority could offer some of the land to local governments and environmental groups so that it can be purchased and preserved.

The effort is being led by both James Gaughran and Jeffrey Szabo, the water authority’s newly appointed chairman and chief executive, respectively. Both took their positions last spring.

In some cases, previous county administrations purchased those properties decades earlier, with the intent of installing pump stations, well fields, elevated tanks and water storage stations, officials said. But, since then, most have sat vacant.

“Most of the parcels are just vacant and not being used at all,” Mr. Gaughran said this week. “They’re just there. We’re not supposed to be buying up land for the purpose of preserving open space. Our power and scope is to provide drinking water.”

On the East End, the water authority’s surplus sites include 90 acres in Quiogue, at 194 South Country Road; 70 acres in Wainscott, at 241 and 261 Town Line Road; and 15 acres on Division Street in Sag Harbor. Also included on the list are nearly 3 acres in Amagansett, at 10 Cozzens Lane; slightly more than 2 acres at 18 South Faber Street and 280 East Lake Drive in Montauk; and nearly an acre between two properties on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach.

The next step toward getting the parcels sold begins on Monday, January 10, Mr. Gaughran said, when Carrie Meek Gallagher, the commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Environment and Energy, starts her first day with the water authority as its chief sustainability officer. Ms. Gallagher will review the list—which also includes properties as far west as Babylon—and pick those that can be sold outright and others that are environmentally sensitive and should be preserved, he said.

“Those obvious ones are the larger parcels in the Hamptons and around Laurel Lake,” Mr. Gaughran said. “We’re not going to turn around, auction off and sell those to developers. We’re going to be good neighbors and not create environmental issues.”

In those cases, the chairman said the water authority is seeking to partner with the state, county, towns and not-for-profit organizations to arrange deals that would result in the preservation of the environmentally sensitive land.

However, it is too early in the process to say if there is any interest in the properties, Mr. Motz said. He added that a couple of developers have expressed interest in some of the land, but not the properties that are located in the Hamptons.

“We’re just getting off the ground,” Mr. Motz said. “The developers want to see the list as a whole, for the most part. Our intention, though, is to obviously trade or sell the land to those with interest in preserving it.”

Mary Wilson, the Community Preservation Fund administrator for Southampton Town, said the town could be interested in discussing a partnership with the water authority, particularly regarding the large acreage in the Quiogue area. “They’re wetland parcels crucial to the watershed in the area and to nearby parcels like the Quogue Wildlife Refuge,” she said. “The money to buy the land would come out of the CPF, if we were garnering it for open space preservation.”

To date, Ms. Wilson said she has not had any discussions with the water authority about its surplus land. She could not say how much the town would be willing to spend on the properties. County officials said they are not yet ready to begin throwing around figures.

As interest is shown, the water authority will begin selectively appraising properties, Mr. Gaughran said. “Appraising costs money, and it’s not the best market to sell property now anyway,” he said. “It may be in our interest to hold on and wait for the real estate market to pick up a little bit.”

The process could take years, or decades, and is being undertaken to correct the mistakes of past county administrations, according to Mr. Gaughran. When asked why the properties were purchased in the first place, the chairman sighed.

“You’d have to ask the people there at the time,” he said. “Probably, these lands shouldn’t have been purchased years ago. They date back to the land and political deals in the ’60s and ’70s—but I can’t necessarily say it was a part of that.”

When the water authority buys land, the properties it acquires are supposed to be able to host wells and infrastructure, like piping and pumps, or administrative buildings. Even if all of the surplus properties are sold, the authority will still have an inventory of some 1,800 acres, Mr. Motz said.

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OK let us be very clear about the lines being drawn here. To quote from the article at the bottom of p. 1:
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"The next step toward getting the parcels sold begins on Monday, January 10, Mr. Gaughran said, when Carrie Meek Gallagher, the commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Environment and Energy, starts her first day with the water authority as its chief sustainability officer. Ms. Gallagher will review the list—which also includes properties as ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jan 4, 11 5:58 PM
"Surplus" land? Give it to the conservancy if it's surplus. The water authority isnt in the business of profiting from land sales. Unless, of course, there's a motive to sell land cheaply to certain buddies.

Mr. Gaughran said this week. “They’re just there. We’re not supposed to be buying up land for the purpose of preserving open space."

You aren't "buying up land," dear. The land was already bought. You're not suffering or losing money, Mr Gaughran. Donate the ...more
By btdt (449), water mill on Jan 16, 11 5:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Maybe the proceeds will be used to pay for the 100 acres in Flanders to create the park there? I don't know...
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jan 17, 11 2:47 PM
What 100 acres are you referring to?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 24, 11 10:25 PM
How about free water for a decade, with the proceeds?
Jan 17, 11 10:10 PM appended by Mr. Z
Or, maybe a seriously kicka$$ de-salinization plant, which produced deuterium for fusion experiments?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 17, 11 10:10 PM
2 members liked this comment
free water for a decade? how about a FREE RIDE like all the employees of the SCWA?
By uncleronk (136), southold on Jan 18, 11 1:51 PM
De-salinization plant is a great idea, California should've built one years ago, the Vegas and the rest of the tards who live in the desert would have plenty of water!
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Jan 21, 11 4:38 PM
Is this Motz related to the crooked ex-mayor of Quogue? How about the town doesn't charge the water authority for right of way for its maintenance crews and they donate the "surplus" to the preservation fund? What a crock this is, clear attempt to benefit some insiders. january announcement date is always good time to steal in east end.
By davidf (325), hampton bays on Jan 18, 11 6:27 PM
Who watches over the Water Authority?
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Jan 22, 11 8:14 AM
Rezone all 400 acres to 1/2 acre residental building lots and build 800 affordable homes for local residents.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jan 24, 11 10:30 AM
Quote:

Mary Wilson, the Community Preservation Fund administrator for Southampton Town, said the town could be interested in discussing a partnership with the water authority, particularly regarding the large acreage in the Quiogue area. “They’re wetland parcels crucial to the watershed in the area and to nearby parcels like the Quogue Wildlife Refuge,” she said. “The money to buy the land would come out of the CPF, if we were garnering it for open space preservation.” ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 24, 11 10:28 PM
This is a joke!!!! It's all about the CASH. the land will neverand most liked because of it's location will never be developed, ie DEC, Town Regs, etc. "why buy the cow when the milks free" same theory. Keep it so, I hope they pay taxes on it, why give that up, then the community ends up losing (as usual) and they pay land taxes, what a rip. Who ever decides to purchase the property shame on them, they don't have the communities best interests at heart..
By The Crow's Nest (65), Red Creek on Jan 27, 11 2:16 PM
@ Crow's Nest...

That was rather jumbled and non-sensical. Are you asking of SCWA pays taxes to the Town? The answer is no, as they are a public utility.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jan 27, 11 10:00 PM