01/20/12 9:30am
01/20/2012 9:30 AM

Representatives of several civic associations in Riverhead Town told the Town Board Wednesday that the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition does in fact represent their organizations, and that they’d like the town to put the acrimony between some officials and RNPC behind them for the new year.

Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Associaiton, read a letter to the Town Board at the Wednesday Town Board meeting, and asked representatives of other civic associations present at the meeting to stand up and confirm that RNPC speaks for their interests.

In recent months, Supervisor Sean Walter has criticized RNPC as being a “special interest group” that doesn’t represent as many people as they claim. The supervisor also accused RNPC of being involved with a Democratic campaign mailer criticizing him in November, a charge RNPC denies.

RNPC is a group that tries to link the efforts of various civic organizations in town.

“I just really feel it’s time for us to clear the slate and move forward with the spirit of a new year,” Ms. Keller said. She then asked Linda Nemeth and Bill Ceberek of the Greater Calverton Civic Association, Eric Biegler of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association, Sid Bail of the Wading River Civic Association, and Angela DeVito of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association to stand up and confirm that they support the letter she was about to read.

The letter is also signed by the presidents of those civic groups.

Ms. Keller said RNPC acts as an “umbrella” for the civic associations, and has provided an “invaluable service” to them, because they are able to have representatives at town meetings that can provide reports back to the various civic groups.

The letter, in its entirety, read as follows:

“The Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition is a unified group of civic associations and individual residents in the Town of Riverhead.

“The RNPC was established for the purpose of giving voice to our neighbors who wish to preserve the rural character, environmental quality and agricultural lifestyle of the town. We believe that from many years our local government has consistently enabled development and land uses that do not conform with good planning or reasonable readings of town codes and property restrictions.

“The RNPC fosters and supports sound land-use planning, environmental protection, and cultural preservation and code enforcement.

“Although there have been signed for town officials understand that this is a point of view worthy of serious consideration, town wall needs to be more attentive to the express needs and opinions of residence and civic associations with respect to these matters.

“Furthermore, recent inaccurate statements about the RNPC concerning its legitimacy, membership, and objectives as well as recent statements characterizing civic groups as special interest groups, cannot go unanswered.

“We, the undersigned civic associations of the town of Riverhead, wish to affirm that we not only represents residents in our own respective communities and maintain our own identities as civic and homeowners associations, but that we are also joined together as members of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and support its goals and objectives.

“We do not appreciate mischaracterization of our coalition. We look forward to continuing to work with the town board, planning board, zoning board of appeals, industrial development agency, and town departments to meet the needs of present and future residents, and businesses and farms of this town, by faithfully adhering to the intent of our approved land-use plan, to reasonable readings of our town code, to state environmental and municipal laws and to sound land-use practices.”

It was signed by Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association; Rex Farr, the president of the Greater Calverton Civic Association; Eric Biegel, president of Sound Park Heights Civic Association; Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, and  RNPC co-founders Phil Barbato and Dominique Mendez.

“It’s time for a clean slate and for cooler heads to prevail,” Ms. Keller said after reading the letter.

“I agree,” Mr. Walter said.

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08/03/11 11:34am
08/03/2011 11:34 AM

When it came to opposing a proposed shopping center on the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue, members of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park stood side by side with members of townwide environmental and civic groups like the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the North Fork Environmental Council.

But on the subject of whether Rich Vlacci’s R&K Precision Autoworks on Sound Avenue should be granted a special permit to double the size of that business, they broke ranks during a Town Board public hearing Tuesday.

Residents Mike Foley and Dorothy O’Haire, both vocal opponents of developer Kenn Barra’s proposed shopping center, both of whom said they were founding members of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association, urged the Town Board to grant a special permit to R&K.

Mr. Foley, who is also an RNPC member, said he’s gone to R&K about a dozen times for car repairs over the years.

“Each time, I’ve gotten an honest and fair price and excellent work,” he said. “Everyone in Reeves Park will tell you, he’s always there for the community.”

He said Mr. Vlacci always cleans up his shop area at the end of the day and complies with town codes.

Mr. Foley said that when environmental groups “don’t make exceptions for people who do the right thing, then we lose credibility as groups.”

“If ever there were a site plan that should be approved, it’s this one,” Ms. O’Haire said. The proposed expansion looks more residential and fits in better with the area than what’s there now, she said.

Sound Park Heights Civic Association president Eric Biegler said the association supports Mr. Vlacci’s proposed expansion.
Former councilman George Bartunek, who is an NFEC vice president, said R&K is seeking to expand a use that doesn’t comply with its zoning.

“Over the years, nonconforming uses should lapse,” he said. “A 100 percent expansion of a nonconforming use is a terrible precedent.”

Dominique Mendez of RNPC said the fact that Mr. Vlacci does good work and is a nice man “doesn’t change the fact that he’s asking for a 100 percent expansion of a nonconforming use on Sound Avenue.” She said an expansion that big is too big, and that her group seeks to protect Sound Avenue against over-commercialization.

Jim DeLuca, a representative for Mr. Vlacci, said the building has been used commercially since 1954 and has been owned by R&K since 1986.

He said Mr. Vlacci’s reputation for restoring cars is such that the television show “Pawn Stars” on Friday filmed an episode featuring his work.

Mr. Vlacci said he’s “sworn to secrecy” about the content of the show until it airs.

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02/24/11 7:01am
02/24/2011 7:01 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Traffic on Route 25A in Wading River

A civic organization is launching a “major campaign” to convince the Riverhead Town Board to declare a moratorium on new commercial development along Route 25A in Wading River until a comprehensive study of the area is launched and completed.

The Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, which seeks to link environmental and civic organizations throughout the town, says it is refusing to give up on its call for such a study, even though the town Planning Board unanimously rejected Supervisor Sean Walter’s call for one in early January.

There are currently four commercial development projects proposed for Wading River, with three of them on Route 25A and the other at the Great Rock Golf Course. The four projects total 130,000 square feet of new development.

The civic coalition claims in a press release sent Wednesday that this amount of development “would destroy the hamlet economically and in terms of quality of life.”

The coalition is calling its campaign “Save Wading River” and says it will include “community education, a review of legal
options and a concerted effort to make the Town Board more accountable to the people.”

“If these projects are all built, Wading River as we know it will be utterly destroyed,” said the group’s president, Dominique Mendez. “The Town Board must declare a ‘time out’ while the impacts on home values, local businesses, traffic and quality-of-life are cumulatively assessed.”

Ms. Mendez said that since the Planning Board is not an elected board, it is less accountable to the people, which is why they are centering their efforts on influencing the Town Board.

Mr. Walter, himself a Wading River resident, has repeatedly said he is opposed to the amount of new development proposed in Wading River, but that he’s not sure what can be done. He has said he’s worried that if a developer challenges a town decision in court and wins, a judge could simply declare a project approved, as others have done in several recent cases in town.

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