Hilton Garden Inn - Stony Brook

Smoke Run Farm in Stony Brook preserved?

September 20, 2006 | 05:29 AM
Smoke Run Farm, the equestrian facility in Stony Brook, will be preserved if the county Legislature approves a resolution next week to purchase development rights on the horse farm this fall, according to Suffolk's director of environmental affairs, Michael Deering, and Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher (D-Setauket).

The county, in partnership with Brookhaven Town, is in contract with co-owner Ralph A. Johnson Jr. to purchase development rights on the land for $2,013,296, according to Deering. Viloria-Fisher's bill, which was approved this week by the Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee and is going before the full legislature Tuesday, would allow the county to share the cost of the development rights with Brookhaven Town in a 70-30 percent split. The price tag for the county would total $1,409,307, and for the town, $603,988. The county share would come from the Save Open Space (SOS) program.

"This is an important property that builds upon the assemblages of other public land," Deering said. "It abuts Forsythe Meadows. The acquisition meets the needs of the seller and provides tremendous benefits to the public."

"We are very happy that we are able to save Smoke Run Farm," Viloria-Fisher said. "It is a place where my children used to visit and go to pet the horses when they were little. There was a white horse named Santa, and my daughter always wanted to go there to feed him. We made a day out of it, and it was idyllic."

Located on Hollow Road, the farm is owned by Ralph, Mike and Ken Johnson, heirs of the late Joan Johnson, and is managed by lifelong friend George Lukemire. Joan Johnson came to Stony Brook in 1964 to work with the instructors of the Thomas School of Horsemanship in Huntington and The Knox School in St. James. At that time Johnson became interested in forming her own riding school and chose Stony Brook. Ward Melville sold her the six acres of property where her equestrian program and summer camp flourished. Over the years, Lukemire taught many of the riding classes and hosted riders from Dowling College, Stony Brook University and other team members at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association events.

In 2004, Smoke Run Farm was listed in North Shore Homes at an asking price of $6 million. In August 2004, a resolution was drafted by Viloria-Fisher to acquire the property under the Suffolk County Parklands Acquisition Program. At the time, Brookhaven was also considering turning the site into active parkland for equine use and recreation, with a portion of it to be used for parking and access to the Forsythe Meadows property. Under that legislation, the county would have entered into an agreement with the town to manage the property and its recreational use. The town, however, soon announced that it was not willing to manage an equine facility.

In February 2005, Viloria-Fisher resubmitted a resolution for the acquisition of farmland development rights of Smoke Run Farm under SOS, with the hope that the town would be able to participate in a joint purchase. Viloria-Fisher admitted that the acquisition has been a long time coming, but said the results of hard work and persistence have paid off. The contract and approval of the resolution are subject to a final survey of the property, she added.

Town Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld (D-Setauket) said he was "tickled pink" about the acquisition of development rights. "I expect the Town Board to follow through," Fiore-Rosenfeld said.

Neither Lukemire nor Johnson was available for comment. Deering said he expects someone will operate the property as a horse farm.

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