Town Looks to Acquire Bridgehampton Farmland Asking $70M

Bridgehampton farmland
The properties at 181 and 305 Halsey Lane, Bridgehampton were listed with Bespoke Real Estate for $69.995 million in March 2023.
Courtesy of Bespoke

Southampton Town will hold a hearing next week on acquiring a large tract of Bridgehampton farmland that is currently on the market for nearly $70 million.

The proposal begins with the Peconic Land Trust, a non-profit organization, purchasing the 27.3-acre property at 181 and 305 Halsey Lane for $48 million. The town would then purchase the enhanced development rights from the Peconic Land Trust for $30 million, using money from the Community Preservation Fund. Another $18 million, being raised through private donations, would be made to the land trust to bring the total to $48 million.

“These are big numbers, but we have to compete with the private development,” outgoing Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman told Behind The Hedges on Tuesday.

To his recollection, this is the biggest amount either proposed or that will be used from the CPF to preserve land in Southampton Town.

What is known as Topping Farm, which Bespoke Real Estate brought to the market in April, has been billed as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity for development.” Listed at $69.995 million, it is the most expensive piece of vacant property on the South Fork.

The owners, Schneiderman said, were entertaining “a pretty good offer” contingent on a subdivision approval. Conceptual plans carve out a northern parcel of 11.2 acres and a southern parcel of 16.1 acres, equaling seven to eight single and separate lots.

“There was a serious chance this farm was going to disappear,” the supervisor said, adding that John v.Halsey, president of Peconic Land Trust, put together the plan to save the farmland and the $18 million in private donations “enticed” the town to put up the other $30 million. Halsey could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Peconic Land Trust will try to sell the property to a farmer, but the acquisition of enhanced development rights will include several restrictions, such as farming it for consumable food only. A Christmas tree farm, a horse farm and a winery are among agricultural uses that will not be permitted. Other restrictions dictate where farm-related buildings can be placed and what would happen if the property was sold down the line, but there will always be a perpetual obligation, Schneiderman said, to farm it.

“It’s a beautiful scenic vista,” Schneiderman said at the board meeting last week. “Obviously one  of the main goals is preservation of farmland.”

“It’s unfortunate that these properties are so expensive, but it’s really fortunate that we have the Community Preservation Funds to enable us to step in and compete with the development interest on a property like this,” he added.

There is currently approximately $200 million in the town’s Community Preservation Fund, which grew significantly during the COVID-19 real estate boom. The money is generated through a 2% tax on property sold throughout the town.

“Some people would say, ‘Is it a lot of money to save a farm?’ The CPF has a lot of money because of all the land transfers in areas like this,” he told Hedges. “A $10 million house brings in a couple of hundred thousand in CPF funds. These areas are generating millions of dollars in CPF. It’s only fair we use the CPF in these communities to preserve rural character.

Bridgehampton farmland
The properties at 181 and 305 Halsey Lane, Bridgehampton could yield multiple estates.Courtesy of Bespoke

Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni pointed out that the property is comprised of Bridgehampton loam, which he described as “some of the best agricultural dirt in the country.”

“It is a productive agricultural piece,” said Schiavoni. “Even though it’s incredibly expensive, it’s a good acquisition in my opinion,” he said, adding, “This is a piece that farmers really want to farm — they want to work this.”

Once the purchase is complete, a Request for Proposals will go out so that the property will be farmed. Restrictions the town will place on it will not allow for the property to be used as a horse farm or a tree farm.

“Certainly, our agricultural roots are something I think we cherish,” said Schneiderman.

Located on the east side of Halsey Lane, close to Bridgehampton’s downtown, the property is between Water Mill and Sagaponack, in the heart of Bridgehampton horse country. The properties are about 1.1 miles from Bridgehampton‘s Main Street and three much-loved beaches — Sagg Main Beach, Ocean Road and Mecox Beach — just under 2.7 miles away.

If developed, the lots would range from 1.66 to 2.76 acres, which, according to Bespoke, “could yield a large estate home with full program,” including a large main residence, an oversized pool, a tennis court and an accessory structure.

The houses would be “perfectly positioned to showcase sweeping farm views and breathtaking sunsets across the adjacent preserved land,” the description says.

The property has been owned by a pair of limited liability companies since 2009. Previously, records show it belonged to Raymond H. Topping. Raymond H. Topping Sr. died in 2013, but he also had a son, Raymond H. Topping Jr., who lives on a nearby parcel of land.

The public hearing is slated for the town board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 21, starting at 1 p.m.

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