Owners of Long Island's Tall Grass Golf Course Say It Could Become a Nature Preserve

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The highly rated Tall Grass Golf Course in Shoreham, Long Island, could be turned into a nature preserve if regulators do not allow its owners to include it as part of planned development, the developer said. The owners intend to move forward with their plans for the multi-use Tall Grass Village Center project, golf course or not.

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Tall Grass Golf Club, one of Long Island's most highly rated courses, may be turned into a nature preserve if the Central Pine Barrens Joint Policy and Planning Commission does not permit its inclusion in the recently approved development, the developer said.

The Pine Barrens Commission will hold a hearing Jan. 16 on the application of the Tall Grass Village Center for a waiver to retain the golf course as part of the multi-use project approved by the Brookhaven Town Board in October.

"We intend to move forward with the development, with or without the golf course," said Bruce Barnet, of Barnet Holdings, one of the developers.

If the golf course is turned into a nature preserve, Tall Grass will conform to the Pine Barrens standards and guidelines for a development of regional significance in the Pine Barrens compatible growth area.

Tall Grass, with the golf course, meets most of the standards of the Pine Barrens. If the golf course stays, the only standards it doesn't meet are:

  • the amount of cleared vegetation at the site (even though the entire site is already completely cleared)
  • the use of fertilizer-dependent vegetation (even though the entire sod farm is completely fertilized)
  • unfragmented open space (even though the golf course already is approved as unfragmented open space).

"These are technical issues. The sod farm is far worse from an environmental point of view than the Tall Grass proposal," said Alec Ornstein, another of the developers.

The Brookhaven Town Board required the developers to seek relief from the three standards to keep the golf course.

"The golf course is the only issue before the commission," said Lawrence Feldman, a partner with Farrell Fritz, P.C., the developers' lawyer. "The Tall Grass Village Center is approved. The Jan. 16 hearing is only about whether the golf course is retained or turned into a nature preserve."

Besides providing the Shoreham community with a recreational resource and scenic benefit, the golf course provides substantial economic benefits -- $200,000 annually in property taxes, mostly paid to the financially pressed Shoreham Wading River School District. These taxes would be lost if the golf course ceased to exist.

Tall Grass is not located in the core of the Long Island Pine Barrens, but is in the compatible growth area, which is where development is supposed to occur within the district.

This par-71, Scottish-style links Tall Grass Golf Course designed by Gil Hanse and opened in 2000, is considered a challenging course. The 6,587-yards-long course was rated among the top 10 in New York State by Golf Week and rated among the top 5 on Long Island by Newsday, The course's No. 11 hole was rated by Newsday readers for inclusion in their dream course. Both the Metropolitan Golf Association and the Long Island Golf Association have used Tall Grass as qualifying site for championships and the course recently hosted the Adelphi University Fall Invitational.

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