Editorial: Stories to watch in 2016

01/15/2016 12:00 PM |

We saw hints of it at the Town Board’s first meeting of this year and, based on the pushback witnessed in Town Hall at the end of 2015, commercial development proposals will certainly be something to keep an eye on in 2016. 

They’re nothing new in Riverhead Town, but civic leaders are on guard once again. Fears that a proposed 7-Eleven in Aquebogue would stoke crime are overstated, to say the least, but one Jamesport retail center could nearly triple in size — which could have a significant impact on the community’s character. And in Wading River, four development proposals are on file in Town Hall.

To be fair, the Wading River proposals arose after the town had already reviewed and rezoned several of the parcels to allow less development than before. Supervisor Sean Walter has pitched a similar review of the Main Road corridor in Jamesport and Aquebogue. We’ll see.

• Authorities broke up an alleged prescription pill ring in early November that netted a reported $1.8 million in street sales. Three weeks later, a Southampton Town councilman was arrested for — and immediately pleaded guilty to — being a co-conspirator in the ring, though he claimed to have no knowledge of a larger operation.

Both men arrested in relation to the operation remain out on bail. In fact, Michael Troyan, the alleged ringleader who wrote the false prescriptions, has even been encouraged by a judge to continue practicing medicine while he can. And former councilman Brad Bender won’t even appear in court until April. Authorities said from the start that at least 20 people were involved in the resale of controlled substances — opiates that can be readily abused and can eventually lead to heroin addiction.

But two months after Mr. Troyan’s arrest, no other people involved in the operation have been named. Beyond bringing those responsible to justice, this year will hopefully see an effective response from our elected leaders to what has become a heroin epidemic.

• Also deserving of ongoing scrutiny in the new year are two more items to keep an eye on that can be looped into one topic of conversation: Riverside and the Enterprise Park at Calverton. Most readers know what we mean just by mentioning these two places together.

For years, promises have been made and repeated that EPCAL, land gifted to the town by the federal government in the 1990s, would bring economic growth in the form of tax dollars and jobs — but that has yet to occur.

In Riverside, progress toward development has been made in recent years. Even last month, the Southampton Town Board approved optional zoning for parts of the beleaguered hamlet. However, the feasibility of using that zoning depends largely on the installation of a sewer treatment system to handle increased density — a responsibility that will fall to the town and the county.

On a similar note, Flanders residents have taken to Town Hall themselves in recent months, calling for more services for the entire northwestern part of town.

Will 2016 be the year these areas begin to turn the corner and finally deliver on their potential?

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