A multiplex movie theater in the former Walmart is a possibility in 2016, as is the possibility of First Baptist Church’s long-planned Family Community Life Center on Northville Turnpike moving forward.
Those were some of the highlights in Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter’s State of the Town speech Wednesday night at the Birchwood in Polish Town.
The speech is given annually before the Riverhead Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis Clubs and this year’s speech was sponsored by the Lions Club.
Below are some of the highlights, as well as Mr. Walter’s speech in its entirety.
“Route 58 must remain alive and profitable, and to that end, working with Councilwoman Jodi Giglio I am happy to say that we are extremely close to landing our first multi-screen movie theater in the former Walmart building on the east side of Route 58,” Mr. Walter said in his speech. “This has been a long, arduous process. I think we are within a year of having a groundbreaking that would bring Riverhead its first movie theater in a long, long time. I cannot wait until we see a movie marque here in Riverhead again.”
• Family Community Life Center
Describing it as a project that “is about to change Riverhead for decades to come,” Mr. Walter expressed hope that First Baptist Church’s long-planned Family Community Life Center on Northville Turnpike finally has enough votes to get Town Board approval this year.
“First Baptist Church has had a longstanding dream to build a Community Life Center, which, as I’ve said many times, is a YMCA on steroids … In achieving their goal, First Baptist is willing to dedicate 12 acres of their land for free … to build a recreational facility that will not only take care of our youth, but our elderly and everyone in between,” he said.
“I look forward to helping First Baptist to make the Community Life Center a reality. I look forward to adopting the zoning and moving them forward in the process to get this much-needed center of vitality built for all our people. I look forward to cutting the ribbon on the Community Life Center for the betterment of all Riverhead residents,” Mr. Walter said.
• A balanced budget?
“I’m very pleased to announce that the town’s general fund budget is finally balanced,” Mr. Walter said. “Which means that in 2016, for the first time in an awfully long time, the revenues coming in are equal to the revenues going out. I am also optimistic that a 2017 balanced budget is with in our reach.”
He said in 2017, about $500,000 worth of debt service will be coming off the “backs of taxpayers,” which will allow the town to have a zero percent tax increase. Mr. Walter said that in the seven budgets he has presided over, the average increase is about one percent.
• Term limits
Mr. Walter expressed support for his plan to have a 12-year term limit on the supervisor and council positions, and to change the supervisor’s term from a two-year term to a four-year term.
“I have long been a strong supporter of term limits,” he said. “I believe limiting the time officials serve in office brings with it, new perspectives and new ideas … I believe term limits will make Town Hall more responsive and eliminate the lethargy that can sometimes affect a local government.”
As for the four-year supervisor term, which requires a public referendum, the supervisor said all other elected positions in Riverhead are four-year terms.
“Having served as your Supervisor for six years now, I can say that it is not smart policy to have the Town’s Chief Officer constantly on the campaign trail,” Mr. Walter said.
He added, “The Town’s chief fiscal officer is weakened when the political reality is that every other elected official in Town Hall has a longer term in office and a safe seat to afford them the opportunity to make town government a constant political campaign.”
• Downtown projects
Mr. Walter said he’s “confident that developer David Gallo’s transformative vision of East Main Street will finally add the finishing touches to the revitalization,” referring to the developer seeking to convert the former Sears building into stores and apartments.
Mr. Walter also complimented Peconic Crossing’s proposed 46-unit affordable apartments geared toward artists on West Main; Joe Petrocelli’s proposed renovation of a historic building on East Main into a restaurant with a new hotel behind it, and Georgia Malone’s plans to convert the old Allied Optical building into 16 commercial office units.
“As I have said many times, the single most important item that the Town of Riverhead has been working on in the past five years has been the subdivision and redevelopment of the former Grumman facility,” Mr. Walter said.
While he hoped it would be done by now, he said the delay may have been a good thing, because the town in March began discussions with Luminati Aerospace, which bought property at the Enterprise Park at Calverton and seeks to build unmanned aerial vehicles for a Fortune 500 client they are not at liberty to disclose.
Mr. Walter said the subdivision the town had been working on might not have worked for Luminati, and might has “tied the hands of this exciting new venture.”
“In an odd way, Riverhead was fortunate that the subdivision was not complete, so that we could make adjustments to the impact statement that will allow Luminati Aerospace to operate and thrive at EPCAL for years to come,” Mr. Walter said.
He said the final environmental impact study for the town’s EPCAL plans is now complete.
“Today, we are in a position to finish the subdivision with an amazing anchor tenant, the kind we have been dreaming about for the past 20 years,” Mr. Walter said.
Read Mr. Walter’s speech in its entirety by clicking below