Guest Column: Zoning should remain; Walter should recuse

11/16/2012 3:30 PM |
Calverton, Riverhead, Splish Splash

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | A lawsuit settlement would pave the way for a mixed-use development on this Route 25 and Manor Road land near Splish Splash in Calverton.

The Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the Greater Calverton Civic Association have taken the position that the Riverhead Town Board should not agree to a proposed settlement with Calverton Manor, LLC that would result in reverting to zoning that contradicts recommendations of Riverhead’s 2003 master plan.

The master plan recommends the adoption of “rural corridor (RLC)” zoning along Route 25 east of Fresh Pond Avenue that would “reduce future expectations of development and market potential for retail and service uses along the [Route 25] corridor.”

RLC zoning that was subsequently adopted by the Riverhead Town Board provides for a “limited range of roadside shops and services that are compatible with the agricultural and rural setting along major arterial roads, such as … Route 25.” The proposed stipulation for settlement with Calverton Manor, LLC provides for reverting to prior Business Center (BC) zoning, which provides for development of much greater density and intensity than what is recommended in the town’s master plan.

The proposed settlement would allow for a footprint of up to 100,000 square feet for buildings and up to 40 “dwellings units.”

The North Fork Environmental Council supports the position taken by the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the Calverton Civic Association. It is the opinion of the NFEC that an agreement by the Riverhead Town Board to the proposed stipulation would significantly alter the rural character of the Route 25 corridor in Calverton and would undermine the integrity of the town’s master plan and the zoning that was subsequently adopted to conform with the master plan.

It is the position of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter that the current RLC zoning is too restrictive and that the type of development proposed by Calverton Manor, LLC will increase the town’s tax base.

Mr. Walter is also of the opinion that if the town does not agree to the proposed settlement that the entire comprehensive master plan could be in jeopardy and may require a complete update. The North Fork Environmental Council disagrees.

Increasing the tax base in this manner also brings a great deal of cost in terms of supporting infrastructure and services — police, fire, etc. Such development in the name of increasing the tax base has been proved to increase property owners’ tax burdens, not decrease them, in every town to the west. In addition, such a change in zoning goes against both the word and the spirit of the master plan. It’s not perfect but its protections have well served the people of Riverhead. Any significant changes should not be undertaken without exhaustive research and discussion among all parties.

Because Mr. Walter has accepted significant amounts of campaign contributions from the principals of the Calverton Manor proposal, the NFEC recommends that, in order for the Riverhead Town Board to reach an objective and unbiased decision with respect to this matter, Mr. Walter should remove himself from any further deliberation or decision of the proposed settlement. Furthermore, the Riverhead Town Board should request from the town attorney’s office relevant case law that would help them reach a fair and deliberate decision.

Mr. Toedter is president of the North Fork Environmental Council, a Mattituck-based environmental advocacy group.

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