A week after the Democratic candidates for Riverhead Town Board held a press conference criticizing the incumbent Republican board members on downtown issues, they held a press conference criticizing the Republicans over Route 58 issues.
Democrats Angela DeVito, Millie Thomas and Bill Bianchi called development on Route 58 “an economic, environmental and quality-of-life disaster,” and said the road should be renamed Sean Walter Way, after the incumbent supervisor, who is being challenged by Ms. DeVito.
The press conference was held outside Millbrook Community, a manufactured home park off Mill Road that abuts the Shops at Riverhead development, which will have a Costco Wholesale as its anchor store. The Shops at Riverhead developers were allowed by the town to clear-cut 41 acres right up to the property lines of the neighboring Millbook and Foxwood Village communities.
“Riverhead is the poorest town on the East End, with the highest debt and the taxes that just keep going up year after year,” Ms. DeVito said. “With this amount of commercial development, you’d think there would be a sufficient tax base to prevent the huge tax hike Walter now threatens. Mismanagement has become Walter’s ‘way of doing business.”
“Didn’t they already have this press conference?” Mr. Walter later responded in an interview, noting the Democratic candidates protested the Shops at Riverhead development just three weeks ago, joining neighoring residents for a rally.
Mr. Walter pointed out that just last week the Town Board adopted a code amendment that will fix the problems at The Shops at Riverhead by requiring a 50-foot natural buffer be planted between the development and neighboring homes. And, he said, the town’s budget problems were caused by the previous Democratic administration, during which a landfill reclamation project failed. The town is still paying more than $4 million per year in debt service from that project.
The Shops at Riverhead site plan, which called for the clear cutting of all vegetation, was approved by the town Planning Board last year, but the actual clearing permit was issued by the Town Board.
“I think the majority of the residents are going to be happy with the size and the scope of the berm,” Mr. Walter said. “The issue is over.”
In addition to Mr. Walter, the Republicans are running incumbents Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy for council.
Mr. Walter said “there’s obviously things that happened that the town has had to correct,” concerning the clear cutting. “We saw the problem, we corrected the problem, and now it’s time to move forward. It appears to me that Ms. DeVito really has nothing to say, and now she just keeps saying the same thing over and over.”
Ms. DeVito said she believes there’s “clear evidence that Riverhead residents are fed up with Sean Walter and his cronies. Last year he lost his bid for election to the Suffolk County Legislature [to Al Krupski] by a two-to-one margin.
“He didn’t even win his home district of Wading River.”