A pair of Riverhead golf courses are being considered for acquisition as open space by Suffolk County.
The county legislature will take up a resolution next week to authorize an appraisal of The Links at Cherry Creek and The Woods at Cherry Creek golf courses, both on Reeves Avenue in Riverhead. Together the courses comprise 296 acres.
The golf course property has been on the market for sale for several years, said Councilman Frank Beyrodt, whose wife and father-in-law are partners in the companies that own the golf courses.
“This was all news to us,” Beyrodt said. His family has not had any discussion with the county at all.
Beyrodt’s father-in-law, Vinny Sasso, said today he and his partners would be willing to discuss a sale to the county.
The taxes on the properties are like $360,000 a year, Sasso said. (Town tax rolls show the tax bills for last year — 2018-2019 — totaled $354,990.)
“It’s very tough,” Sasso said. “And golf is very seasonal. This year you’re getting some play, but normally in the winter you’re closed for like five months. If the taxes were reasonable we wouldn’t even think about selling.”
Sasso, 80, said he and his partner, who he said is 97, are getting to an age when they’re thinking about divesting the golf courses. Their families are not really interested in running them, he said.
The resolution authorizing an appraisal is the first step in a long process for acquisition by the county. After the appraisal is completed, county officials will have to decide if the county should make an offer to buy the property. Then, if the owner is willing to discuss it, the parties enter into negotiations. If they can’t agree on a sale price, there’s no deal. Only about half of all offers made by the county eventually lead to a purchase, according to the county officials.
If the county purchase takes place, it may be the first time the county buys a golf course for open space, according to county officials. The golf courses would have to be returned to a natural state — with structures, including paved paths, removed by the owner before sale to the county. The funding that would be used to buy the properties cannot be used to purchase golf courses for operation as golf courses, Suffolk County’s director of planning and environment Sarah Lansdale told a legislative committee this morning.
The resolution, offered by the county executive was discharged without recommendation today by the legislature’s Environment, Parks and Agriculture Committee. It will be on the agenda of the legislature’s general meeting on Tuesday, March 3. It was tabled at the committee’s last meeting on Feb. 3.
The properties together scored only 18 out of a possible 100 points on the county’s ranking system for possible open space purchases. Usually 20-25 points is the minimum threshold for consideration, Lansdale said.
Nevertheless, Legislator Al Krupski said various environmental groups have come out in support of the purchase. Most of the farmland to the west and north are preserved, Krupski noted. “It’s important to preserve this parcel,” he said.
Lansdale said she and Krupski met this morning with Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar to discuss whether the town would partner with the county by providing any required maintenance.
“The town has committed to partner with the county to manage the site,” Krupski said.
Aguiar said she is supportive of the county acquisition and believes the town board, which she canvassed Friday to gather feedback, will support the partnership idea. Maintenance for the site would be “minimal,” she said. However, the town can’t commit to the partnership without further discussion by the town board, Aguiar said.
Legislators discussed the possibility of the county using one or both of the clubhouses for some purpose — perhaps as rental halls or perhaps to lease to a restaurant. The clubhouse at the Woods at Cherry Creek has a full-service restaurant, Stonewall’s. The Cherry Creek clubhouse has dining and catering facilities but does not operate a restaurant. The current zoning of the property does not allow for stand-alone restaurant uses.
The properties are in the Agricultural Protection Zone and have their development rights intact, according to a listing by real estate broker Brown Harris Stevens. In addition to various agricultural uses, including commercial horse-boarding facilities, the APZ zone allows, as of right, the development of single-family dwellings — one unit per two acres — a riding academy, corral or facilities for the training of horses, and greenhouses. Certain other uses, such as bed and breakfasts, kennels and professional offices, are allowed by special permit.
The listing states the offering price for the land as $25 million.
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