03/01/13 3:00pm
03/01/2013 3:00 PM

YMCA OF LONG ISLAND RENDERING | The YMCA released this design of a proposed facility when it was eyeing a site in Aquebogue.

After almost 15 years of trying to build a YMCA facility in Riverhead Town or the Riverhead area and getting nowhere, Peconic YMCA co-founder Joe Van de Wetering said his board — which hasn’t made any firm decisions yet — just might end up calling it quits.

This comes after new leadership at the parent group, YMCA of Long Island, rejected a site at the Enterprise Park at Calverton that the town was willing to offer up for free.

Riverhead Town officials approved the measure last year, and had been hoping to get a lease signed by December or January.

“At some point, you’ve got to say, let’s be realistic and throw in the towel,” Mr. Van de Wetering told the News-Review, acknowledging that ending their effort is one of the options being considered.

Mr. Van de Wetering said that while he’s hopeful something can be worked out, “We’ve got some basic conflicts with the [Long Island] YMCA” group, which must be on board and approve of any Y facility built in the region.

Peconic YMCA publicly announced its plans to bring a YMCA to Riverhead in January 2000, at which time it appeared the group had a site near County Road 105 and Route 25 in Aquebogue. But those plans fell through, and the group has since looked at a number of other properties, some connected with unpopular development proposals, some in locations that met opposition from neighbors and some that the Peconic YMCA board ultimately decided against.

The Calverton proposal, while farther west then the group initially wanted, got further along than any of the others and appeared to be on the verge of being constructed after the Town Board agreed to donate 7.3 acres at EPCAL for the Peconic YMCA and had begun negotiating a deal to lease, and eventually give, the property to the YMCA in exchange for certain services spelled out in the agreement.

But in December, YMCA of Long Island’s president and CEO, Anne Brigis, who replaced longtime president and CEO Michael Famiglietti in July, notified the town that the YMCA was considering a location on Riverhead School District property rather than EPCAL.

The town then directed its outside attorneys to stop work on the EPCAL lease agreement.

“I’m very disappointed in the YMCA of Long Island,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said this week. “They came out here, and we spent a lot of time and energy negotiating on the Calverton site. Members of their board of directors testified at the public hearing as to what a great site it was.”

Mr. Famiglietti, who retired in July, had supported the EPCAL site.

“I’m very disappointed they are not coming to Calverton and I wish them the best of luck,” Mr. Walter said. “But I have a feeling the decisions that they are making are probably going to affect their backers.

“The Long Island Y may have actually killed a Riverhead YMCA project, and that really is unfortunate for the residents of the East End.”

The supervisor said that as far as he’s concerned, the EPCAL deal is dead and the town will probably try to sell that property, which runs along Route 25.

He said he still doesn’t know what brought about the YMCA’s “180-degree turn” on the EPCAL site.

Mr. Van der Wetering said the YMCA of Long Island is waiting for the Peconic YMCA board to decide what it wants to do, adding that YMCA of Long Island is willing to look at other sites — in addition to the school district property — which would involve starting from scratch.

As for the EPCAL site, YMCA of Long Island officials “have basically told us that it is out of the picture,” he said.

Fritz Trinklien, director of strategic planning for YMCA of Long Island, who had worked with Peconic YMCA and visited the area many times — in Town Hall, with potential donors, civic leaders or the News-Review editorial team — has been taken off the project, Mr. Van der Wetering said.

“They have a new regime that’s in charge and they want to see things done differently,” he said.

The Peconic YMCA board initially wanted a site closer to the Riverhead Zip code and felt EPCAL was too far west. But the seven-acre site was essentially being donated by the town and the Peconic YMCA board ultimately decided to go with it, Mr. Van der Wetering said, adding that it’s frustrating to see that plan fall apart again after so many years.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” he said. “It’s always something standing in the way. We just never expected to see this happen.”

Ms. Brigis has not returned calls seeking comment.

A call to Scott Sammis, president of the YMCA of Long Island’s board of directors, also was not returned.

Riverhead School Superintendent Nancy Carney said last week that she has not heard anything new from YMCA of Long Island officials since December.

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08/08/12 8:00am
08/08/2012 8:00 AM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The YMCA facility will be built on land just east of the Grumman Memorial Park along Route 25 in Calverton.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The YMCA facility will be built on land just east of the Grumman Memorial Park along Route 25 in Calverton.

The effort to build a YMCA facility on town land in Calverton took a step forward Tuesday when the Riverhead Town Board unanimously voted to designate YMCA of Long Island a “qualified and eligible sponsor” for the project.

That designation, which is required before the town can deed land it owns in an Urban Development area such as its Enterprise Park at Calverton, basically means the town believes the YMCA has the financial means and ability to complete the proposed project.

The designation is needed before the town can take the next step and deed the 7.3 acres to the YMCA.

A public hearing on the designation last month drew no opposition, although most of the speakers were connected with YMCA in some manner. YMCA of Long Island said it has raised $6.5 million of the $8 million needed for the project.

The town plans to give the land to the YMCA and, in exchange, the Y group is proposing to give $25,000 per year in scholarships to needy Riverhead residents to offset membership costs. The town may initially lease the land to YMCA so the organization can start construction before the town completes its expected subdivision of the EPCAL land, a former Grumman naval weapons site.

The subdivision is needed to transfer ownership of the parcel.

The proposed 40,000 square foot YMCA building will include an Olympic size pool, locker rooms, a strength training center, day care classrooms, a community center, multipurpose rooms and offices.

The subsidiary Peconic YMCA group, headed by Joe Van de Wetering of Baiting Hollow, has been searching for a site in the Riverhead area since 1997, and has seen numerous proposed locations fall by the wayside due to various reasons over the years.

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08/07/12 12:00pm

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to approve an agreement Tuesday allowing the Peconic YMCA group to build a Y facility on town-owned land in Calverton.

The Town Board meeting starts at 2 p.m. in Riverhead Town Hall.

The board is also expected to issue a request for proposals for companies to do billing for the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance.

There are three public hearings schedule.

One hearing would make St. John’s Place a two-way street, the second hearing would ban left turns out of East Avenue onto Northville Turnpike and the third would eliminate the requirement that police have 20 years of service in order to qualify for a retirement incentive program, so long as they are eligible to retire.

That hearing proposes other changes to the retirement incentive program as well, such as a payment of $1,000 per year of service for up to $25,000.

We will be running a live blog from the meeting at riverheadnewsreview.com. See agenda below.

August 7, 2012 – Agenda

04/05/12 11:27am
04/05/2012 11:27 AM

A proposal to locate the Peconic YMCA at Riverhead Town-owned land at the Calverton Enterprise Park will be discussed at a Town Board work session next Thursday, according to Peconic YMCA chairman Joe Van de Wetering.

Supervisor Sean Walter said that date isn’t official yet, and added that he might not be able to attend if the meeting does take place then because of his mother’s illness.

The EPCAL proposal appears to have the support of the Town Board, but the Peconic Y board has not officially signed off on it yet.

Asked if the Y board has made a decision on the EPCAL site, Mr. Van de Wetering said, “They are not ready to say anything yet publicly. We have a meeting with the town at a work session next Thursday and I assume everything will be discussed in the open.”

The new proposed YMCA site is on 7.3 acres in between the Grumman Memorial and the Stony Brook Business Incubator on Route 25 in Calverton. Mr. Van de Wetering said the town is offering to give them that land. The town had offered land to Peconic YMCA further west at EPCAL in the past, but Peconic YMCA ultimately rejected that site because it needed to be connected to water and sewer systems and the town was having difficulty getting county approvals to hook up there. Peconic Y also considered that location too far west, as they hope to serve the Riverhead area. The new proposed site is in Calverton as well, but it’s two miles east of the prior site and closer to Riverhead. Mr. Van de Wetering said they like the new proposed site.

The Town Board also seems to like the site, which was suggested by Supervisor Sean Walter last week.

“According to the supervisor, we have all the votes we need, it’s a matter of whether we are ready to accept it, and of what kind of conditions are attached to it,” Mr. Van de Wetering said. “We haven’t heard any of that yet. He hope to get answers to our questions at the work session or at least acknowledgement that there are issues to be worked on.”

The new proposed site could hook up to a sewer system at the incubator and while it would need a subdivision to be separated from the town land and given to Peconic YMCA, the town has hired a consultant to subdivided the town-owned land at EPCAL and the subdivision is scheduled to be discussed at an April 19 work session.

Peconic YMCA still hasn’t given up on its proposal to build a facility on land it would buy on Main Road in Aquebogue, across from Vineyard Caterers.

However, that site requires a special permit from the Town Board and it also has met with community opposition and may not have support from a majority of Town Board members anymore either.

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03/10/12 9:00am
03/10/2012 9:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The entrance to an Aquebogue farm, just west of the land the YMCA wants to build on.

The latest proposed location for a Peconic YMCA appears to be running into opposition, just as all its predecessors did.

The Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association has scheduled a meeting for Saturday, March 10, to discuss the impacts of the YMCA proposed for Main Road in Aquebogue, as well as the overall zoning in that area. The meeting, set for 10 a.m. at the Jamesport Meetinghouse, was publicized on a new “Save Main Road” website and Facebook.

The meeting is open to the public.

Peconic YMCA last month announced plans to purchase a nine-acre property across from Vineyard Caterers on Route 25 in Aquebogue and build a 40,000-square-foot YMCA facility there.

Peconic YMCA has been looking for a site in the Riverhead area for more than a decade. Several proposed locations, including one on Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue, ran into community opposition. Others, such as county-owned parkland near Stotzky Park, were dropped because of the difficult process needed to alienate parkland.

Peconic YMCA officials themselves didn’t like the idea of building a Y at EPCAL, saying it was too far west. Other proposed locations, such as one on Riverside Drive and another off Manor Road in Calverton, were tied to large development projects that never happened.

Since the latest location was unveiled, the News-Review has received a steady stream of letters both pro and con.

Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, told the Riverhead Town Board Feb. 7 that there was opposition to the proposed Main Road site.

“A 40,000-square-foot building on Main Road is unacceptable,” she said at the time.

Supervisor Sean Walter told Ms. Keller at that meeting that he supports the proposal to build a YMCA and he supports the proposed location.

“I support them 110 percent,” Mr. Walter said.

Other Town Board members had expressed some concern about traffic at the Main Road site, which is on a slight curve, and even Mr. Walter said the state Department of Transportation might require Peconic YMCA to install a traffic signal.

One issue that appears to be key for the YMCA to proceed at that site is whether it conforms with zoning.

The property is zoned RB-80, which basically allows two-acre minimum lot size residential uses. But a use allowed in that zone by special permit is an “educational institution without boarding facilities or dormitories, private.” A special permit requires a Town Board public hearing.

Fritz Trinklein, director of strategic planning for YMCA of Long Island, insists that a YMCA fits that definition.

“I would say a great majority of what we do is educational,” he said Tuesday. “It could be a rumba class or a strength training class or swimming instruction. Educational activities are a mainstay of what the Y does.”

Ms. Keller wasn’t buying that at the Feb. 7 meeting.

“It’s not an educational facility, it’s a recreational facility, therefore it’s outside the code,” she told the Town Board.

Ms. Keller could not be reached for comment this week.

Mr. Trinklein believes some of the residents’ concerns are not warranted.

He said a YMCA will only increase traffic by 2 to 3 percent, based on what’s happened at other YMCAs. And he said the proposed Peconic YMCA would be located toward the back of the Aquebogue property and would be screened by existing trees, which they plan to keep. The building would cover only about 11 percent of the land, he added. The centerpiece of the proposed YMCA is an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, and Mr. Trinklein says surveys have indicated that residents want an indoor pool. A recent survey in Southold Town showed that an indoor swimming pool was the respondents’ number one priority; Peconic YMCA got similar results on a survey it conducted several years ago.

Peconic YMCA still has not purchased the Aquebogue site, and has not submitted any formal applications for the proposed facility.

The Jamesport Meetinghouse (not to be confused with the Jamesport Community Center) is on the northwest corner of Route 25 and Manor Lane in Jamesport.

Mr. Trinklein said he does not plan to attend the meeting.

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03/07/12 11:25am
03/07/2012 11:25 AM

PeconicYMCA, which hopes to close on land in Aquebogue in the near future, released a promotional video Wednesday morning touting the benefits of a new facility in Riverhead Town.

Peconic YMCA released its first promotional video this morning touting the benefits of the new facility they hope to build on Main Road in Aquebogue.

The group, which says it has raised $6.1 million of the $8 million needed to move forward with a new YMCA in Riverhead Town, is hoping to close soon on an 8.9 acre property across from Vineyard Caterers.

The $8 million would include both construction and land acquisition costs, YMCA officials have said. The money raised includes $3 million from the Glen Cove-based YMCA of Long Island.

Watch their new promotional video below:

Peconic YMCA Short Film from Ryan&Heidi on Vimeo.