03/25/14 6:00am
03/25/2014 6:00 AM

EPCAL_sign

Wading River Civic Association will hold a meeting Thursday, March 27, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Wading River Congregational Church auditorium.

The guest speaker will be Riverhead Town Councilman George Gabrielsen, who will discuss a proposal for a 90-acre energy park at EPCAL. The meeting is open to the public.

03/05/14 10:00am
03/05/2014 10:00 AM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The state Armory building on Route 58.

The state Armory building on Route 58. (Credit: file photo)

Renovating the former Armory building on Route 58 into a police headquarters and justice court will cost an estimated $11.3 million, according to an engineering report commissioned by Riverhead Town.  (more…)

12/16/13 10:30am
12/16/2013 10:30 AM
JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

JIM COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO

A lottery for Riverhead Town residents and property owners to hunt on town-owned land in Calverton is scheduled for tonight, Monday, in Town Hall.

The annual hunt during the special firearms season, for shotguns and muzzleloaders, runs from Jan. 6 through Jan. 31, on weekdays.

Riverhead officials started opening up lands at Enterprise Park at Calverton a few years ago to thin the herd, though this season, three-day slots that hunters had been given last year will be reduced to two-day openings.

The lottery will take place at 7 p.m. in Town Hall at 210 Howell Avenue. Applicants must be in attendance to participate, and proper ID and hunting license must be presented at the time of the lottery.

Interested hunters can contact Councilman George Gabrielsen at 727-3200, Ext. 223, for more information.

12/12/13 5:42pm
12/12/2013 5:42 PM


CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | The Glass Greenhouse opened its newly built farmers’ market without site plan approval from the Town, Supervisor Sean Walter said.

Riverhead Town officials are considering taking legal action against the owners of the Glass Greenhouse for illegally operating its newly built Farm Market, a 5,000-square foot, two-story building that features a full kitchen, office space, high ceilings with exposed beams, and an elevator.

A resolution discussed at Thursday’s town board work session, expected to be voted on next Tuesday, states that members have determined the property — located at 1350 Main Road in Jamesport — is in violation of various sections of the town and state code.

The Farm Market, which opened in October and held a grand opening two weeks ago, is currently operating with out a valid certificate of occupancy and outside of the town’s regulations for an agriculture operation, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

“As much as some people want to believe it meets the town’s zoning, it doesn’t,” Mr. Walter said. “It doesn’t have site plan approval now and I don’t suspect it will get it, since it is not up to code.”

The Glass Greenhouse, which is owned and operated by Walter and Edith Gabrielsen, previously only sold plants and flowers. Three years ago they decided to expand to include a farmers market to sell a variety of fresh and prepackaged foods, manager Amanda Putnam told the Riverhead News-Review in October.

However, much of the products are shipped in from Vermont, Massachusetts and upstate New York, Ms. Putnam said. Moreover, less than 40 percent of the products are made using ingredients grown on site — a direct violation of town code, Mr. Walter said.

The decision to seek legal action against the Gabrielsens wasn’t done with haste, the supervisor said. Walter Gabrielsen’s brother, Councilman George Gabrielsen, said he has recused himself from the matter.

While the site plan has yet to be approved by the town or planning boards, the market was granted a temporary two-month-long certificate of occupancy on Oct. 4, Mr. Walter said.

Without site plan approval from the town, the market opened its doors after receiving a food-processing license from the state Agriculture & Markets Committee on Oct. 11.

Since, Mr. Walter said he has been attempting to contact both the Agriculture & Markets Committee and Farm Bureau president Joe Gergela to determine the town’s next course of action.

When the town’s temporary certificate of occupancy expired on Dec. 4, Mr. Walter said the town still didn’t have a clear plan on how to address the violations.

“It is really not agricultural production,” Councilman James Wooten said in a phone interview Thursday. “When you walk in there, you open your eyes and it’s like a King Kullen. That doesn’t quite make sense to me.”

This is not the first time the town has taken legal action against a business believed to be operating outside town code.

Similarly, in 2010, Riverhead Town took owners of the former A Taste of Country in Northville to court, claiming that its certificate of occupancy is for a farm stand, and that serving hot and cold food — which the business was doing at the time — was not permitted on the site.

Following a two-year court battle, a state Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of the town, according to an October 2012 Riverhead News-Review article.

To bring their operation into compliance, the owners are hoping to expand their business for a second time within the next six months, Mr. Wooten said Thursday. Discussions with the owners revealed the plan to create about 2,800 additional square feet in order to accommodate and sell more products being processed on site, Mr. Wooten said.

“For the most part we want to work with them,” Mr. Wooten said.  “We want to encourage agritourism, but it has to comply with our town code.”

Walter Gabrielsen declined to comment on the resolution.

“I can’t get involved with that,” he said Thursday.

The Town Board is expected to decide if it will take legal action during its next regular session on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.

11/21/13 2:16pm
11/21/2013 2:16 PM
An artist’s rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center’s recreational and other facilities.

An artist’s rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center’s recreational and other facilities.

The proposed “Community Benefit” overlay zone needed for First Baptist Church’s Family Community Life Center will soon be revised since it doesn’t have the support of a majority of Riverhead Town Board members in its current form.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilmen George Gabrielsen and John Dunleavy said at Thursday’s Town Board work session that they could not support the proposed zoning as currently written.

Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten did support it at Thursday’s work session, where the proposed overlay zone was discussed with representatives of the church, which has proposed building 132 affordable apartment units intended as “work force housing” for the area.

RELATED STORIES

Community Life Center supporters pack Town Hall for hearing — but questions remain

Bellone pledges county support for Family Community Life Center

Mr. Gabrielsen opposed the requirement in the zoning that a project have 800 feet of road frontage on a state or county road in order to qualify for the overlay zone.

First Baptist’s Northville Turnpike property has 807 feet of frontage on a county road.

“That just seems like it was site specific,” Mr. Gabrielsen said.

Check out our live blog coverage

Mr. Walter said the proposal will need to be revised to meet Mr. Gabrielsen’s concerns so that a new public hearing can be held in early January.

Another change Mr. Gabrielsen proposed is a requirement for a 50-foot vegetative buffer between the project and neighboring homes, instead of the 25 feet in the proposed code.

“When you have something this dense and this high, I think neighbors have the right to a 50-foot buffer,” he said.

Ms. Giglio said the proposed 10 units per acre of residential housing is too dense, and she also feels the project should not be exempt from taxes, and should pay either taxes or payments in lieu of taxes.

Mr. Dunleavy agreed with the concerns of his fellow council members.

Mr. Walter, who has consistently supported the project, said he thinks Mr. Gabrielsen’s requests “are reasonable and they are doable,” but the tax issues raised by Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy probably cannot be addressed.

Ms. Giglio also raised the question of what other properties in town would meet the criteria of the proposed zone.

A map produced by town planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree shows about five other properties.

“A couple are owned by the county, and one has an approved site plan on it, so the way I’m looking at this is that there is only one other piece of property in the town that could possibly benefit from this zoning,” Ms. Giglio said.

The proposed overlay zone, which will now be rewritten, would have allowed a community center and workforce housing on land that meets certain criteria, including having 10 or more acres of land with at least 800 feet of frontage on a county or state highway, as well as public water and sewer connections.

The proposed Family Community Life Center would include an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, a 25-seat theater and media center and 24-hour adult and child day care services. The proposal also includes an indoor walking track, gymnasium, fitness center and classroom space.

It would be located on the 12-acre church property on Northville Turnpike. The Rev. Charles Coverdale has said the income from the apartments is needed to subsidize the rest of the project, which would be open to the community.

The allowed number of housing units would be one per acre, but the proposed zone would allow additional units with the purchase or either transferred development rights from farms, or open space development credits from Suffolk County, which are dedicated for use in affordable housing and would be made available to such projects at no charge.

The church is hoping for the latter and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has publicly pledged support for the project.

The Family Community Life Center project, which has been in the works for more than 20 years, received overwhelming support from speakers at a Nov. 6 public hearing.

Reached for comment after the meeting, Mr. Coverdale said, “We have to go through the process. We want things to be right.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/22/13 8:00am
GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue.

GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue.

We would like to clear up some misconceptions about the potential preservation of 15 acres of land on the northwest corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road, near Reeves Park.

We are writing to show our support for Suffolk County’s acquisition of the entire parcel, owned by Ed Broidy, as farmland preservation instead of parkland preservation. We feel this would ensure the property will continue to be farmed forever for future generations as a real working farm.

In a current lawsuit settlement between Mr. Broidy and the Town of Riverhead, the landowner would preserve seven acres along Sound Avenue as farmland and be able to build 15 homes to the north, on the remaining eight acres.

[Related: Don't undermine preservation efforts]

Suffolk County is looking to purchase this property to create a park, which would include recreation trails and parking for the facility. This land has been farmed for 200 years and it is almost unthinkable to take a prime-soil farm out of production and replace it with a Suffolk County park. You only have to wonder what county officials were thinking about to put hiking trails in the middle of an open potato field. We have trails at our 2,000-acre Enterprise Park at Calverton property, 300 acres at the newly purchased North Fork Preserve and many other trails throughout Riverhead Town.

The land proposed to be preserved as park would require taking the entire property out of farming permanently and would require not only use of town Community Preservation Fund monies, which have been depleted in recent years, but also ongoing maintenance of the park with town resources — on behalf of all Suffolk County residents.

The Town currently owes over $76 million in debt in open space purchases and incoming CPF funds can no longer keep up with the annual debt service. CPF proceeds come from a tax on property sales. Unless the economy makes a big recovery, our reserves will be depleted in five years. At that time, our taxpayers will be facing a big increase in their taxes, as we would then have to dip into the general fund to make up for the debt payment shortfalls.

This potential debt would rival our suffocating landfill debt. It would be irresponsible to continue to spend money we don’t have. On the other hand, a farmland purchase of development rights by the county would add nothing to this debt, and is by far the better option to see the entire 15 acres preserved.

We would like to see this farm continue for another 200 years. The overwhelming majority of Reeves Park residents we have spoken to support a farmland purchase over the proposed park. On another note, to the Reeves Park residents, if this county park is built, the once-quiet Reeves Beach will be gone forever.

Step up, Suffolk County officials, and listen to our residents.

We had a conversation with the farmer who has been farming there and he indicated he would like to continue to farm the parcel. In speaking with Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, we are all in agreement that this would be the best benefit to the community.

It seems reasonable that an agreement can be reached among Suffolk County, Riverhead Town, the landowner, and the farmer to make this a reality. A win-win for all. It is much more desirable to preserve this entire parcel as farmland in keeping with our rural character, farm heritage and agritourism focus.

We believe preserving this parcel as farmland would be in keeping with the rural character of Sound Avenue and support the Scenic Rural Historic Corridor.

Ms. Giglio, of Baiting Hollow, and Mr. Gabrielsen, of Jamesport, are both members of the Riverhead Town Board.

06/13/13 6:13pm
06/13/2013 6:13 PM
Broidy in Reeves Park

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The land just west of Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive that nearby Reeves Park residents have wanted to see preserved.

Two Riverhead Town Board members who oppose a plan by Suffolk County to purchase 15 acres of land on Sound Avenue as open space now say they would support  a move by the county to preserve the property as farmland instead.

But county officials say such a move would require the entire potential acquisition process to start again, with no guarantees the county will be making any offers on the land.

Council members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen sent a letter to county Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) Thursday voicing their support for preservation of the land as farmland, rather than open space.

Under the county’s farmland preservation program,  the county would buy what’s called development rights and the land could only be used for agriculture in the future.

“The property being preserved as parkland would require taking the entire property out of farming permanently and would not only require use of town Community Preservation Fund funds, which have been depleted in recent years, but also ongoing maintenance of the park with town resources, on behalf of all Suffolk County residents,” reads the letter, which was also sent to the News-Review.

The councilpeople say it is more desirable to preserve the land as farmland, which would be “in keeping with the rural character of Sound Avenue and would support the Scenic Rural Historic Corridor.”

The land in question is just shy of 15 acres of farmland stretching north from the northwest corner of Park Road (also called Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive) and Sound Avenue.

[See interactive map below]

It is owned by Ed Broidy, a developer whose Boom Development company first proposed a commercial shopping center at the site in 2003, a plan that met with community opposition.

When the town rezoned the property to residential uses in the mid-2000s, Mr. Broidy sued, but later offered a settlement in which he would develop the land residentially, with one seven-acre farm and 16 residential lots on the remainder of the land.

The county later proposed to acquire the land as open space under the “active recreation” section of the voter-approved drinking water protection program, for use as a fitness trail. However, that section of the program requires that a town or private entity act as a partner to manage the recreation use, and submit a plan to do so beforehand.

Riverhead Town officials estimated the cost of creating the fitness trail at about $70,000, and council members Gabrielsen and Giglio opposed doing so, saying at a recent public Town Board work session the town doesn’t have the money.

Without the support of Ms. Giglio or Mr. Gabrielsen, and since Supervisor Sean Walter once represented Mr. Broidy as his attorney and recused himself from the discussion, the Town Board wouldn’t have three votes to support of the acquisition.

That would mean the county could not proceed in purchasing the parcel.

Mr. Krupski, whose district spans the North Fork, said Friday that he plans to speak with Mr. Broidy next week, but he said preserving the land as farmland would require a whole new process be started at the county level.

On the other hand, he said, the alternative could be that the land isn’t preserved at all.

The acquisition of the farmland development rights also would require that the land be farmed, and Mr. Broidy has indicated in the past that he is not interested in doing that.

There currently is no application with the county for the purchase of the farmland development rights on the Broidy parcel, officials say.

Mr. Broidy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Long Island Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper has been critical of the two council member’s opposition to the park purchase.

“It’s properly purchased as open space,” he said Friday. “The county approved the purchase on the basis of its suitability for trails and recreation. The county got it right, Gabrielsen and Giglio have it wrong. Development rights are purchased only with the expectation that the land owner is going to continue to farm the land.

“That’s not going to happen here.”

Mr. Amper said the purchase would be “a gift from the county…why don’t they just say ‘thank you?”

tgannon@timesreview.com


View Larger Map

06/13/13 8:00am
GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue.

GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue, just south of the Reeves Park neighborhood.

Riverhead Town should not dare to scuttle Suffolk County’s plans to purchase 15 acres of farmland along Sound Avenue for preservation.

The property stretches north into the Reeves Park neighborhood, and Reeves Park residents — as well as others across the North Fork and all Suffolk County — have made it clear that developing the state-designated rural corridor is not in the best interest of the neighbors, or the region as a whole.

Yet town council members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen have said they don’t want the town to contribute the $75,000 that would allow the joint purchase to move forward. They argue the town shouldn’t be taking developable land off tax rolls and that Riverhead’s preservation funds are dwindling. But last we checked, housing developments weren’t exactly money-makers. And $75,000 for 15 acres is an excellent deal that won’t break the bank.

The two council members have the power to block the move. Supervisor Sean Walter has recused himself from a vote because he used to represent property owner Ed Broidy as a lawyer. If Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen do kill the measure, they would not be acting as fiscal conservatives, as they might believe. They would instead be acting penny wise and pound foolish, as Councilman James Wooten has said.

Too much money and effort have been invested over decades into preserving Sound Avenue as a treasure for all Long Islanders, starting in earnest with the two-lane highway’s designation by the state as a historic rural corridor. There have been years of litigation between the town and Mr. Broidy since the town’s master plan rezoned the land (and other parcels on Sound Avenue). In the meantime, former county legislator Ed Romaine lobbied hard to get support for Suffolk County’s purchase of the Broidy property, with area civic leaders and other residents showing up in Hauppauge to support preservation efforts. This newspaper took the unusual step of running an opinion-based photo spread of rural Sound Avenue on its cover, urging the county to act to protect the corridor. Residents later displayed those photos to county lawmakers in Hauppauge to help win support for the cause.

Throw into the mix developer Kenn Barra, who has recently sold a 4.1-acre property on the east side of Park Road, also fronting Sound Avenue, to the county for parkland. That done, one might have thought preservation of the Broidy land was also nearing the finish line.

But now it seems the deal might be dead — and over a measly $75,000?

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski should step in and pressure Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen to vote with their constituents. There may be no better example in this town of open space that should be preserved. It’s been 10 years since Mr. Broidy proposed a 22,000-square-foot shopping center for the site, causing great dismay among preservationists and everyday citizens. It’s now time to put this all behind us.