Editorial: Corridor study is the way to go for Main Road

03/24/2016 9:00 AM |

Jamesport

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter’s proposal to study a stretch of Main Road in Jamesport and Aquebogue comes largely in response to protests from community leaders who have called for an update of the town’s master plan — notably, Democrats who have run against him in the past .

“We will revisit and update the town’s master plan, which hasn’t been touched in more than a decade,” Anthony Coates, the 2015 Democratic candidate for supervisor, declared last fall while announcing the party’s 11-point platform. Democratic Town Board candidate Laura Jens-Smith had also said last fall the master plan should be reviewed.

But now that Mr. Walter has said he wants to begin that process by studying a part of town where multiple commercial developments have been proposed, Democrats suddenly disagree with him.

Two of the supervisor’s fiercest critics, who often have good reason for their outrage, are civic leader Angela DeVito, a former Democratic supervisor candidate, and Larry Simms, founder of Save Main Road. Since January, both have argued that a master plan update would take too long and be too cumbersome to stop a handful of projects that are already in the works. Instead, they’ve suggested that the town take a closer look at the handful of specific properties for which development plans have been put forward.

Could these pending projects permanently change the landscape of the North Fork? Of course. The recent razing of a historic house in Aquebogue recently changed the landscape there, but it was within the owner’s right to do so. The mission of Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals — which recently denied a variance for a commercial expansion that could have really changed the Jamesport area — is to work with landowners and the public within the allowances of town code. They’re supposed to find a middle ground between what is and isn’t permitted while keeping in mind priorities residents have already agreed to.

Those priorities were last set forth in the extensive Comprehensive Plan completed in 2003. But as Democrats contended during the last election, the plan needs to be updated. And just as the town studied Wading River three years ago, making changes that reflected the community’s needs and concerns, it should do the same along Main Road.

Selecting a handful of properties is a questionable tactic that at the very least would be unfair to the owners and, at worst, could land the town in court — which already happened after the Wading River study. Instead, town and civic leaders should support a corridor study that takes a comprehensive look at the entire stretch of road, with the goal of ensuring that it remains a local treasure.

As the presidential primary season drags on, we’ve seen enough political bickering at the national level. Local civic groups and government, Republicans and Democrats (not to mention Republicans and Republicans) need to stop wasting time and start working together to move forward on a plan that will save Main Road from becoming overdeveloped.

A corridor study is the best answer.

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