03/01/13 3:55pm
03/01/2013 3:55 PM
NFAWL at Town  HSelter

TIM GANNON PHOTO | NFAWL staffers (from left) kennel attendant Tammy Henderson, executive director Gillian Wood Pultz, animal control officer Alisha Posteraro, and (kneeling) kennel attendant Ariel Reichel with Sonja.

The North Fork Animal Welfare League formally took over operations of Riverhead Town’s animal shelter Friday morning.

The nonprofit organization has been running Southold Town’s shelter since 1980, and Riverhead officials and animal lovers had been trying to get the group to take over Riverhead’s troubled shelter for years.

The town signed a three-year contract with NFAWL in December for $223,135 for the first year, with 2 percent bumps for each of the next two years.

“I am excited about the new venture,” said the group’s executive director, Gillian Wood Pultz, during an interview Friday morning at the shelter. “There’s a lot of places we can go here and lot of improvements we can make. Southold is almost done. We have the new shelter, we have all our programs set up. It’s like starting anew here.”

NFAWL not only will take over the operation of the town shelter, it also will take over the animal control function from the town, as it does in Southold Town.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter welcomed NFAWL aboard at Thursday’s public Town Board work session, saying, “We’re going to do what we can to help you. I’m sure it will go seamlessly.”

In Riverhead, NFAWL has Ms. Pultz, who is an animal control officer herself, along with three other staff members: animal control officer Alisha Posteraro, kennel attendant Tammy Henderson and kennel attendant Ariel Reichel, who will be certified as an animal control officer soon.

Ms. Reichel had worked for the town as a kennel attendant and is now employed by NFAWL.

The two full-time employees that had been working for the town at the shelter are being moved to other positions, officials said.

Riverhead Town’s shelter has had a rocky relationship with animal lovers and volunteers over the years.

Many volunteers have claimed the town was restricting them from helping at the shelter, and the town largest non-police employee union, the Civil Service Employees Association, had even challenged some volunteer efforts in years past on the grounds that the volunteers were taking union jobs.

The CSEA had filed a grievance over the town’s contract with NFAWL, too, but Mr. Walter said this week the issue has been resolved, as those worker will still work for the town in other capacities.

The NFAWL employees are not in the union, and Ms. Pultz says she welcomes volunteers.

“I have a whole file ‘this big’ of blank volunteer applications,” Ms. Pultz. “Anyone can come in to fill out an application and they are going to be considered just like everybody else.

If it’s determined the town had a good reason for not letting someone volunteer, that person might not be allowed to volunteer for NFAWL either.

But, Ms. Pultz added, “We’re starting over with a clean slate.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

02/28/13 10:00am
02/28/2013 10:00 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The Henry Pfeiffer building on Grumman Boulevard goes mostly unused.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The Henry Pfeifer building on Grumman Boulevard goes mostly unused.

Riverhead Town’s sparsely-used Henry Pfeifer Community Center on Grumman Boulevard in Calverton may have a new purpose, as the town’s new animal shelter.

A group called Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter, headed by Denise Lucas, has been holding fundraisers for more than a year trying to raise money to build a new animal shelter for the town. The current shelter, on Youngs Avenue, is considered to be too small, and in a bad location, with a recycling facility surrounding it and the town landfill across the street.

While the RMTAS group had been considering building a new building, the idea of the using the Pfeifer Center was suggested last week by Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten, and was discussed at Thursday’s Town Board work session.

(See what else happened at Thursday’s work session by clicking below.)

That idea has met with support from Ms. Lucas’s group, from the majority of the Town Board and from the nonprofit North Fork Animal Welfare League, which takes over the operation of the town shelter on Friday morning.

Mr. Wooten said he originally thought a new animal shelter should be built behind the new dog park RMTAS built at EPCAL. But the cost of building a new building, along with the cost of extending the town’s sewer lines to the building, would be in the millions, officials said.

The cost of retrofitting the Pfeifer Center into a dog shelter could be done much quicker and with much less cost, officials said.

“I think I could get it done in a matter of months,” Ms. Lucas said in an interview, adding that the timing would be up to the town, since they are raising money to give to the town for a new shelter.

Meanwhile NFAWL has received a $300,000 bequest to build a new animal shelter and they have been planning to use it on a new cat shelter and spay/neuter clinic which they had proposed to locate on land leased from Rex and Connie Farr on Youngs Avenue.

But that proposal has met with widespread community opposition, and if NFAWL can build that facility on the town-owned land by the Pfeifer building, that controversy would go away. The bequest money cannot be used on a town-owned building, but the town could sign a long-term lease to allow NFAWL to situate the building at the Pfeifer property, officials said.

The proposed cat shelter was on the agenda at Thursday night’s Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, where the hearing was held over for 30 days, but which time, officials said, they believe a decision on the Pfeifer site might be finalized, and the Youngs Avenue proposal might be withdrawn.

To read News-Review reporter Tim Gannon’s blog on else happened at Thursday’s work session, click here:

 

 

February 28, 2013 – Agenda by rnews_review

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Suffolk County FEMA official Jeff Simons (center) at Thursday morning’s town work session.

12/21/12 1:00pm
12/21/2012 1:00 PM

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Rex Farr looks over the land he plans to lease to the North Fork Animal Welfare League in Calverton. He and his wife run an animal rescue operation on his farm.

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-0 Thursday night to reopen a public hearing on the North Fork Animal Welfare League’s plan to build a 1,638-square-foot cat shelter on four acres on Youngs Avenue in Calverton.

The hearing was then adjourned until the Thursday, Jan. 24 ZBA meeting, when it will resume.

The ZBA had held a hearing on the proposal Nov. 8 and there were no speakers in opposition. At the time, ZBA members said they saw no problem with the plan and would approve it at their Dec. 13 meeting, which was later moved to Dec. 20.

The hearing was then closed for further comments.

But neighbors, who read about the hearing in the News-Review — along with a headline saying there was no opposition— said they were not properly notified about the hearing, and that they were, in fact, opposed to the idea.

Neighbors also said the hearing came just eight days after superstorm Sandy, and that many people still were without power on Nov. 8, or waiting on gas lines.

“It’s obvious that the intent of town law is to afford all interested parties a right to their voice being heard,” said David Moran, an attorney representing the neighbors, in a letter to the ZBA.

At least 30 people from the neighboring areas attended the hearing, but only Mr. Moran also addressed the ZBA Thursday night.

“I’m not sure that I agree with many of the points raised,” Scott DeSimone, the ZBA’s attorney, responded, but he acknowledged that there was a defect in the mailing of notices of the Nov. 8 hearing, in that two properties that should have received notices did not.

Because of this, he urged the ZBA to reopen the hearing.

Afterwards, Mr. Moran spoke to neighbors in the hallway outside the ZBA meeting.

“What you were just able to witness, if you’ve never seen it before, is I like to call political cover,” Mr. Moran told the neighbors. “They’re never going to admit that they were wrong. They are going to admit that they fixed the problem.”

A number of neighbors spoke at a Dec. 4 Town Board meeting, saying the notices they were given were not clear as to what was being proposed.

The residents said there is a dangerous “s” curve on that section of street already, and that they objected to having a commercial operation in a residential area. They also said that the hearing took place shortly after Sandy, and many people still didn’t have their power back.

Supervisor Sean Walter told the group he would ask the ZBA to reopen the hearing.

Neighbors subsequently submitted 114 form letters in opposition to the cat shelter, saying they feared it would “change the character” of their community.

Peter Danowski, the North Fork Animal Welfare League’s attorney, said at Thursday’s meeting, “I might take issue with some of the comments,” made by Mr. Moran, although he did not get specific. Mr. Danowski pointed out that the proposal is not for a town animal shelter.

“This is housing for cats,” he said.

The Welfare League is planning to lease four acres of vacant land from Rex and Connie Farr for a dollar a year for 99 years and build a 1,638-square-foot cat shelter, which would only occupy about an acre, according to its executive director Gillian Wood Pultz.

Welfare League officials plan to catch stray cats, spay and neuter them, and either release them or put them up for adoption, Ms. Pultz said in an interview last month.

“The cat population in Riverhead is out of control,” she said.

The Southold-based nonprofit, which has run the Southold shelter since 1980, did agree this week to run Riverhead’s dog shelter — which does not house cats — under contract.

The cat shelter would not be run under contract with the town.

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/18/12 6:45pm
12/18/2012 6:45 PM

The Riverhead Town Board on Tuesday night voted to settle the eight-year Field Day lawsuit, and unanimously approved the hiring of former congressman George Hochbrueckner as  a consultant on EPCAL issues.

The board also unanimously approved a deal with the North Fork Animal Welfare League to have the nonprofit group run the town animal shelter.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon reported live from the meeting, which started at 7 p.m.

Click below to see what happened.

 

 

Riverhead Town Board agenda 12-18-2012

11/30/12 8:00am
11/30/2012 8:00 AM

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Farmer Rex Farr looks over the land he plans to lease to the North Fork Animal Welfare League in Calverton. He and his wife already run an animal rescue operation.

Weeks after a public hearing on a plan to build a cat spay and neuter clinic in Calverton went off with little fanfare, some neighbors to the proposed shelter are now speaking out.

The neighbors are raising concerns that the North Fork Animal Welfare League’s planned clinic would lower property values and increase traffic in the area.

The proposed clinic would be located on four acres on the south side of Youngs Avenue, just down the road from the town’s animal shelter, which would be leased out by resident Rex Farr who also runs an animal rescue operation on his land.

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals hearing, held on Nov. 8, was on the issue of whether or not an animal shelter was a permitted use in the agricultural protection zone in which the property is located.

The town code doesn’t specifically list that use.

Peter Danowski, the attorney on the application, and 10 supporters attended the meeting. Mr. Danowski was the only one to speak, and said the character of Youngs Avenue wouldn’t be altered by the spay and neuter clinic because there’s already a dog shelter there and a landfill.

At the time, board members expressed support for the plan. But in the past few weeks, neighbors around the property have sent letters complaining of the plan to Town Hall, urging the ZBA not to grant the application.

Matt Governali, who lives a few hundred feet away from the proposed clinic, said he and his neighbors don’t oppose the idea of an animal shelter.

What they oppose is the location.

“A cat shelter’s not a bad thing, it just doesn’t belong on that end of the street,” Mr. Governali said. “It becomes Kent [Animal Shelter]. Kent’s a great place, but there’s a lot of traffic that goes in and out of there.”

Mr. Governali said that while there is the town dog shelter, the town’s landfill and Crowne Sanitation operations just down the road, the garbage trucks are not allowed to travel down the residential side of Youngs Avenue.

He said he was not notified of the public hearing, and neither were many of his neighbors.

“A good amount of the residents had no idea what was going on,” he said.

Town code states that for ZBA hearings, all landowners whose properties are adjacent to, or across the street from an applicant’s land must be notified by certified letter about the hearing.

Mr. Governali lives across the street from the property adjacent to the proposed clinic, so he was not notified by the town.

His wife, Adrienne, said she was shocked to read News-Review reports about the public hearing, having not heard it was going to happen.

“None of us knew,” she said. “There goes our property value in our neighborhood. It’s going to affect my property value. It’s ridiculous.”

Eric Reichenbach, who lives adjacent to the proposed clinic, said he got the letter, but said the letter was not clear about what the hearing concerned. He did not attend the meeting.

“In hindsight, we all should have been going [to the hearing],” he said.

Now the group of neighbors is sending letters to try to reopen the written comment section of the hearing, which has since closed, so they can have their concerns on the record.

“We’ve sent letters to everybody, to zoning board to the town clerk detailing our concerns and it seems like that’s fallen by the wayside,” Mr. Reichenbach said.

The neighbors even talked about filing a motion of injunction to block the approval, he said.

“I don’t know how much good it’ll do, but we have to fight it,” he said. “I don’t know what else to do, but all I know is that if this facility opens the property values all around are going to drop.”

Rex Farr, the owner of the property and The Farrm farm, said he had heard several complaints from his neighbors in the past about animals he keeps on his property and dismissed their concerns.

“These people were bitching about my roosters, they’re bitching about this … I don’t care,” he said.

psquire@timesreview.com

Read more in the Dec. 6 News-Review newspaper.

11/10/12 12:00pm
11/10/2012 12:00 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Rex Farr stands by the portion of his Youngs Avenue, Calverton property on which the North Fork Animal Welfare League plans to build a cat shelter.

The North Fork Animal Welfare League’s plan to build a cat shelter on four acres in Calverton met with no opposition at a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on Thursday and will likely be approved at the ZBA’s next meeting, officials said.

The ZBA hearing was on the issue of whether or not an animal shelter was a permitted use in the agricultural protection zone in which the property is located. The town code doesn’t specifically list that use.

Peter Danowski, the attorney on the application, said the character of Youngs Avenue wouldn’t be altered by the cat shelter because there’s already a dog shelter there and a landfill there. He said that livestock and animals are also common in the APZ zoning.

About 10 supporters of the plan were present Thursday, but only Mr. Danowski spoke.

“I see no problem with this application, we’re in favor of it,” said ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin, who indicated a formal vote would take place at the Dec.13 ZBA meeting.

Once the ZBA approves the use, NFAWL must go before the town planning board for site plan approval.

The non-profit NFAWL has run Southold Town’s animal shelter since 1980 under contract with that town. Southold’s shelter handles dogs and cats, according to Gillian Wood Pultz, the executive director of NFAWL.

Riverhead Town’s animal shelter handles dogs, but not cats, and is right down the street from NFAWL’s proposed cat shelter on Youngs Avenue in Calverton.

The group is planning to lease four acres of vacant land from Rex and Connie Farr for a dollar a year for 99 years and build a 1,638-square-foot cat shelter, which would only occupy about an acre.

NFAWL plans to catch stray cats, spay and neuter them, and either release them or put them up for adoption, Ms. Pultz said in an interview.

“The cat population in Riverhead is out of control,” she said. NFAWL would not operate the cat shelter under contract with the town, she said.

The group received a $300,000 bequest from Patricia Toner Troxel of Mattituck for use in building an animal shelter and some of that money will be used on the cat shelter, Ms. Pultz said.

The Farrs, who own an organic farm on Youngs Avenue, have been active in animal rescue efforts themselves for many years, caring for everything from cats to birds to runaway cows to dogs that were slated to be euthanized.

tgannon@timesreview.com