Riverhead Town’s Anti-Bias Task Force is back — and it’s looking for members. (more…)
Riverhead Town’s Anti-Bias Task Force is back — and it’s looking for members. (more…)
Riverhead Town Board members again debated the issue of political caucuses at Tuesday’s board meeting, when two council members thought the board was in agreement on three personnel moves — only to see them fall flat in a 2-2 vote.
Councilman George Gabrielsen was absent from Tuesday’s board meeting, and following the personnel votes, Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten said that the change came as a result of a closed door political caucus, something board members argued about earlier this year.
Mr. Walter said he stopped attending the meetings in January.
“I don’t know what transpired between executive session on Thursday and today, unless it was something I wasn’t at,” Mr. Wooten said on Tuesday. “You see, Jim, you and I did not attend (GOP chairman) Mason Haas’ caucus,” Mr. Walter said.
“It was not a caucus,” Ms. Giglio said. “There were only two board members there. And I was always a ‘no’ on this.”
Mr. Walter suggested that “Somebody politically is going to get a job” as a result of the votes.
But Councilman John Dunleavy had a change of heart on Wednesday.
Mr. Dunleavy said on Wednesday that he has since changed his vote, after discussing it after Tuesdays’s meeting, and now plans to vote in favor of the three personnel moves, which he now believes will save the town money.
The Town Board will be holding a special town board meeting on Thursday to “take up time sensitive employee resolutions.”
Ms. Giglio said on Tuesday that she first heard about the personnel moves at Thursday’s work session and wanted more information. The resolutions included a transfer of a highway employee to a janitor position in the senior center, a transfer of a cook in the senior center to a highway position and the hiring of a temporary cook in the senior center.
She said the main reason for the caucus was an unrelated issue: to discuss Mr. Walter’s refusal to sign a contract for a new building department software program that the rest of the board voted to authorize him to sign. Mr. Walter said that he believes this contract required a competitive bid.
Mr. Dunleavy said after Tuesday’s meeting that he voted no because by transferring a cook in the senior center to the highway department, the town would be short one cook.
Give me a moment, I’ll tell you a funny story.
Two weeks ago, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio went on WRIV radio to announce Riverhead can’t actually enforce town code at the Gershow facility because Riverhead doesn’t own a noise meter. You remember Gershow — they were approved by our Town Board to run a benign junk yard on Hubbard Avenue. Now they noisily “shred” cars there. The story gets better.
A few days after the councilwoman’s pronouncement, Supervisor Sean Walter stepped in to say it’s not true, the town does indeed own not one, but two decibel meters; they just happen to be located at police headquarters. Perhaps that’s why the Town Board might not think we have any. (more…)
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.
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.
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.”
Riverhead Town Democratic Committee nominee Angela DeVito beat challenger Ann Cotten-DeGrasse by 501 to 229 votes in the primary race for the Democrats’ supervisor nod Tuesday.
In the at-large Republican race for two Town Council nominations, Jodi Gilgio was the top vote-getter with 912, followed by John Dunleavy with 878 and Anthony Coates with 484, according to the county Board of Elections.
And in the Independence Party primary for Town Council, Ms. Giglio led the three-candidate pack with 68 votes, followed by Democratic nominee Bill Bianchi with 65 and Mr. Dunleaby with 37. That was also an at-large race.
The News-Review had reporters at all the candidates’ camps and reported live from 8:30 p.m. The polls closed at 9 p.m.
Click below for the live reports, including quotes, photos and reactions from the candidates and supporters.
While Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy has been able to avoid most of the controversy in the three-way primary for two Republican council nominations this fall, that hasn’t been the case in the past week, where he’s managed to anger some of his Foxwood Village neighbors regarding answers to questions at a recent candidate debate.
Those neighbors say Mr. Dunleavy was the president of the Foxwood Village Homeowners Association for two years while The Shops at Riverhead application was pending with the town, and that he should have taken a more active role in monitoring the development of the proposed shopping center next to their homes.
The Shops at Riverhead, which will feature a Costco as its anchor store, was first proposed in 2007. The developer recently cleared the trees up to the Foxwood Village property line, angering residents there.
“He was the president [of the HOA] at the time the scoping meeting was held on this development and he knew everything was coming down the pike and never told us,” said Marylee Feldman, the current Foxwood Village HOA president told the News-Review. “He didn’t protect us.”
“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Mr. Dunleavy responded.
Mr. Dunleavy said the HOA at Foxwood Village deals only with providing recreation for the residents of the community there, and the president also may relay concerns some residents have to the retirement community’s owners.
“The homeowners association is only a recreation association,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “It has nothing to do with the running of Foxwood Village.”
Not so, Ms. Feldman said.
“All things representing the homeowners are taken up with that group,” Ms. Feldman said.
Paul Spina, another Foxwood Village resident, said in an interview that current bylaws of the Homeowners Association state that the obligation of the HOA “is to safeguard the interests of the members.”
He added, “Apparently Mr. Dunleavy did not take his obligation too seriously if he only considered himself a recreation committee member.”
Mr. Dunleavy’s wife, Marie, said Mr. Dunleavy was asked by the HOA three years ago to talk to the group about town issues and he has done so.
“When they liked what he was saying, it was fine,” Ms. Dunleavy said. “Now, they don’t like what he’s saying, so it’s not fine.”
She said the couple has lived in Foxwood Village retirement community for 13 years and “until this month, there’s never been a political atmosphere here or a problem here.”
She said the residents of Foxwood Village knew all about the Costco development and the pending land clearing.
At the Sept. 16 “Riverhead at a Crossroads” candidate debate at the Suffolk Theatre, Mr. Dunleavy and fellow incumbent Republican council candidate Jodi Giglio were asked if they understood what they were voting for on April 2 when the Town Board voted to approve a clearing permit for the Shops at Riverhead, which abuts Foxwood Village.
The candidates were also asked if they understood the developer had planned to clear 11 or more acres on which there are currently no plans to build anything.
Mr. Dunleavy and Ms. Giglio are in a three-way race with challenger Anthony Coates for the two Republican council nominations, and most of the campaigning thus far had involved Mr. Coates and Ms. Giglio trading barbs.
“The problem I had was this,” Mr. Dunleavy said at the debate. “I belonged to a recreation committee at Foxwoods and they picked a fellow resident to represent the residents of Foxwood. He didn’t really know what was going on. He didn’t ask me any questions. I didn’t want to force his hand. He went to every planning board meeting.”
Mr. Dunleavy, who didn’t identify the resident by name, said the owners of Foxwood Village should have represented the community at Planning Board meetings about the Shops at Riverhead.
“The recreation committee didn’t want to talk to me at that time because they had this representative going to every meeting,” Mr. Dunleavy continued. “First they wanted an expressway wall, then they wanted a berm, then they wanted a fence.
“They really didn’t know what they wanted.”
Those comments angered Robert Hall, the Foxwood Village resident who’s been attending meetings concerning the Shops at Riverhead development for the past four years.
Mr. Hall was the person Mr. Dunleavy was referring to, Mr. Hall later wrote in a letter to the News-Review.
“He threw Bob Hall under the bus,” Ms. Feldman said Wednesday.
Mr. Hall wrote in his letter to the editor that he wasn’t picked by a committee, he volunteered.
He also said he did seek to contact Mr. Dunleavy in July 2007 and got no response.
Mr. Spina and Ms. Feldman both said the recreation committee that Mr. Dunleavy referred to is not the homeowners association, and only deals with providing recreation for the community and has nothing to do with monitoring planning board meetings.
Republican council candidates Jodi Giglio and Anthony Coates both called into question each other’s backgrounds during Monday night’s Riverhead Town primary debates at the Suffolk Theater.
This while Councilman John Dunleavy sat in between the two bitter rivals.
At one point, Mr. Dunleavy expressed gratitude that he didn’t have to get involved in the dispute, providing a moment of levity for a crowd of more than 200 people.
Mr. Dunleavy did, however, criticize some of his neighbors and management at the Foxwood Village community, while explaining his vote to allow the developer of a Costco-anchored shopping center to clear trees right up the property line of the retirement community where he lives.
The debate, entitled “Riverhead at the Crossroads,” was sponsored and moderated by the local media outlets Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com.
In the Republican primary, incumbent party designees Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy are facing a challenge from Mr. Coates for two available seats in an at-large election.
Mr. Coates, who has been a political adviser to incumbent Republican supervisor Sean Walter, said he “is running to bring a new voice” to the board. Mr. Coates has endorsed Mr. Dunleavy’s candidacy, and has been critical of Ms. Giglio.
Ms. Giglio has claimed — and said again at Monday night’s debate — that Mr. Coates, who changed his registration from Democrat to Republican last year, turned against her only after she voted against appointing him to a “legislative secretary” position proposed by Mr. Walter in March 2012.
Mr. Coates would have gotten paid $65,000 for one year to help lobby the state on issues at town land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL). In her closing statements, she called Mr. Coates “obsessed” and said his campaign blog mentions her 15 times while rarely mentioning important issues like jobs, taxes and public safety.
Mr. Coates said he did the EPCAL job voluntarily even after he wasn’t hired, making trips to Albany with Ms. Walter to lobby state officials on proposed, EPCAL-related legislation
Ms. Giglio claimed it wasn’t until the town hired former congressman George Hochbrueckner to lobby on EPCAL issues that “results started to happen.”
Ms. Giglio was asked about her permit expediter business, and whether she’d be willing to disclose her clients.
“Absolutely,” Ms. Giglio responded. The town requires officials to file a disclosure statement in March and that lists “all of my business affiliations,” she said. Ms. Giglio said she has recused herself on any vote involving a former client, and that she is not doing any expeditor business in Riverhead Town.
“That’s just not accurate,” Mr. Coates said. “Your disclosure statement is a piece of swiss cheese. It says nothing.”
He said Ms. Giglio has voted for proposals involving Ray Dickhoff and Martin Sendlewski, who are her partners in the Summerwind Square county-subsidized affordable apartments and retail project on Peconic Avenue.
He also criticized her for having time to oversee the Summerwind project but not getting proper permits for construction work at her Baiting Hollow home, as has been reported.
Mr. Coates said he’s seen Ms. Giglio in Brookhaven Town Hall working with a team of engineers on a proposal there, and then “hours later, you’re the councilwoman in Riverhead, with that same team of engineers that you called co-workers in Brookhaven.”
Ms. Giglio said that’s “simply not true…It’s just another bullying tactic and a character assassination.”
She said Summerwind Square was approved before she was on the board.
“I’m just glad I don’t have to get in on this conversation,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “I don’t represent anyone but the taxpayers of the Town of Riverhead.”
“John is a retired police officer,” Ms. Giglio responded. “I am a young working person.”
The candidates also were asked about the controversial land clearing on the north side of Route 58 for The Shops at Riverhead project, which will feature a Costco Wholesale as its anchor store.
The trees were cleared up to the property line at Foxwood Village.
Mr. Dunleavy, who lives in Foxwood Village, explained that a committee at Foxwoods picked a resident there to represent the neighborhood at Planning Board meetings, saying the unnamed rep “didn’t know what was going on.”
He said the owners of the property should have represented Foxwood Village at Planning Board meetings, as was the case with the Glenwood Village development, where the owner negotiated with the Planning Board as a developer was planning an adjacent shopping center. In that case, the property owner convinced the developers to build a sound wall and to leave 30 feet of trees as a buffer.
Mr. Dunleavy said he voted for the clearing permit for the Costco project because it met the town code.
Ms. Giglio said the site plan for the Costco project was approved by the Planning Board “long before we approved the clearing permit.”
She said the Planning Board allowed the developer to clear the property and that the Town Board “is not happy” with that decision.
Mr. Coates said that if he’s elected, “I will communicate to those agencies before a crisis happens” to ensure decisions represent the will of the Town Board.
Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy both said they didn’t feel the Town Board should be imposing its will on the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals. Ms. Giglio said the Town Board’s job is to make the town code works, and that the board is proposing land-clearing legislation to ensure that the type of clearing that happened with the Costco project doesn’t happen again.
Mr. Coates also was asked about his background and what he does for as living.
As has been reported, Mr. Coates worked for John McNamara, the former Port Jefferson businessman who was convicted of defrauding General Motors out of millions of dollars in the 1980s. Mr. Coates, who ran businesses for Mr. McNamara and acted as publisher of The Record newspapers, was never charged with any wrongdoing in that case. He said he’s proud of the work he did during that time.
He said that since 2003, he’s worked as an independent investment adviser and that people can look up his qualifications with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
However, Mr. Coates is not listed on FINRA’s online broker check, which only includes licenses from the past 10 years. He has said in interviews that his current work doesn’t require a license from FINRA.
On the subject of EPCAL, Ms. Giglio said she supports the current efforts to subdivide the land into 50 small lots while Mr. Coates said the town still needs to figure out how to pay for sewer and infrastructure improvements there, which will cost more than $30 million.
Mr. Dunleavy said he and former supervisor Phil Cardinale negotiated a contract with Riverhead Resorts, the company that had proposed a “snow mountain” at EPCAL, that earned the town $7.5 million in deposits, even though the sale never occurred.
He said “everybody laughed at ski mountain,” but that the town is still using that money.
Mr. Coates said the town has been working on some issues for 10 years with no solution and “has been run by the same cast of characters for the last 50 years.”
The event raised $1,045 for the Brendan House, a Sound Avenue facility that will provide 24-hour care for people with brain injuries.
Monday night’s debate also featured Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito.
The first of two town political debates sponsored by local media took place at the historic Suffolk Theater Monday night.
Monday’s first debate featured Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito, followed by Republican town council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.
The debates were moderated by News-Review executive editor Grant Parpan, RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.
The Democratic candidates debated first, for about 45 minutes, followed by the Republican candidates.
The debate can be rewatched at the link below. The Democrats start at the 7-minute mark; Republicans begin one hour, 20 minutes in.