Major Hurdles Cleared For Park in North Haven

North Haven Village Trustee Claas Abraham; Deputy Mayor E. Dianne Skilbred; Mayor Jeffrey Sander; Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni; and village trustees Chris Fiore and Terie Diate at the former Lovelady Powell property on Sunset Beach road in North Haven. DANA SHAW

After a year of lobbying and negotiation, a closing is expected later this fall on the $2.7 million purchase of the 4.1-acre former Lovelady Powell property at 19 Sunset Beach Road in North Haven by the Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund (CPF) for preservation and recreational use.

The parcel of gently rolling grounds around a modest 19th-century farmhouse, small outbuildings and a pool contains scenic freshwater wetlands and is adjacent to existing land preserves totaling about 30 acres, including a 6-acre CPF preserve that contains Sebastian’s Pond.

No closing date has been set, according to Lisa Kombrink, manager of the CPF. The deal is contingent on a village pledge to demolish or remove the structures on the property, including the farmhouse. It is legendary among local rock fans of a certain age as the 1968 winter retreat from the pressures of Los Angeles for John Sebastian and his band, the Lovin’ Spoonful. His guests there included Judy Collins and the members of the band Crosby, Stills, and Nash, whom Mr. Sebastian set up in a nearby rental.

The Southampton Town Board approved the purchase in a unanimous vote on August 24, two weeks after a public hearing at which no members of the public spoke. At that time, Assistant Town Attorney Kelly Doyle gave the purchase price as $2 million. The Town Board’s resolution approving the purchase, sponsored by Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, put the price at “a cost not to exceed” $2.7 million.

The property went on the market for more than $3 million soon after Ms. Powell, the former theater and film actress, model and later proprietor of Glad Hand Antiques on Madison Street in Sag Harbor, died at age 89 on February 2, 2020. She left no children.

For the past year, North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander has spoken frequently at monthly Village Board sessions of public interest in seeing the property saved from development and of efforts behind the scenes to convince the CPF to back its acquisition. The fund is supported by a 2-percent tax on real estate transfers that is charged to the buyers.

The existence of the structures gave the CPF advisory committee pause; it routinely avoids recommending purchases that would require support for the maintenance of structures. To address that issue, Mayor Sander, working with North Haven resident and Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, promised that the village would be responsible for demolishing or moving the structures, and announced at a board session that he had launched a campaign to raise pledges to pay the bills. This week he said he had collected promises for more than $100,000 from “a couple of dozen” people.

The CPF purchase is contingent on the village fulfilling its pledge within a year, a condition that will be formalized in an intermunicipal agreement that must be approved by both the Town Board and the Village Board in the coming weeks — as a condition of closing on the property.

Mayor Sander said in an interview this week that a committee has been set up by Village Trustee Chris Fiore to help plan for future uses of the Powell parcel and the adjacent property as a park; he is also spearheading the creation of a not-for-profit entity to be known as the North Haven Parks and Trails Association to receive tax-free donations to support the park project, a process that Mayor Sander said was nearly complete.

In a press release issued by the village, the mayor said “we are thrilled” by the Town Board’s decision, and he thanked Mr. Schiavoni and the entire Town Board for its support.

Mr. Schiavoni is quoted as saying “this was a very collaborative effort by the Town of Southampton, the mayor and trustees of North Haven, as well as the sellers of the property,” who were not identified except as The Lovelady Powell Revocable Trust. “North Haven is a very special place and I’m really pleased we can preserve this land for all to enjoy.”

Over the months, a number of ideas have been aired for future uses of the farmhouse, from affordable housing to a place for Bay Street’s visiting actors to stay, but no option has emerged as viable.

“If someone is interested in buying” the house and moving it, “okay — but I think it’s highly unlikely,” the mayor said. “Very few of the large contributors” to his pledge drive “had any interest in maintaining the house,” he added.

The village says in its press release that “planning and public input” for the future park “will begin as soon as the closing takes place in October.”