07/05/12 6:00am
07/05/2012 6:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Maryann Wowak Heilbrunn at her desk in Riverhead Town Hall.

WADING RIVER

Why even run?

I read with some concern the News-Review article “Tax receiver retires; Wooten eyes job”. What I would like to know is when tax receiver Maryann Wowak Heilbrunn knew she was going to retire? She was just elected to a four-year term of office and now we have to have a special election to fill her slot. Special elections are expensive.

Councilman James Wooten, who was just elected to a four-year term on the Riverhead Town Council, now wants Ms. Wowak Heilbrunn’s job. When I ran for assessor last year, Mr. Wooten wanted to run for town supervisor but was pressured by Sean Walter and Republican Party officials to run for a council seat.

Mr. Wooten should make up his mind, as he is not doing the public a favor in having another special election for his council seat. In a time of a poor economy, high unemployment and higher taxes, Riverhead can ill afford special elections. The public be damned.

Robert Svoboda

WADING RIVER

Singing the blues

After reading a letter to the editor about the Blues Festival in last week’s newspaper, I felt compelled to give my opinion as to why the attendance was down this year, as well as give my reason for not attending myself.

People didn’t show up mostly because they were not allowed to BYOB (bring your own beer). Part of the unique charm of the Blues Festival was to bring your own beverages and food, set up your area, hang out and listen to good music, meet up with friends and just kick back and relax all day. This year, however, between the admission and having to buy beer on-site, it made it too expensive to attend — especially all day, like my group has always done — therefore it was not worth our while.

It’s a real shame because my friends and I — a group of about 25 — looked forward to the Blues Festival every year. None of us went.

It’s also a real loss for the town. Riverhead blew it once again.

Janice Seus

LAKE PANAMOKA

Stop them!

Say what? The Riverhead Town Board is poised to approve a land use plan and rezoning for Route 25A in Wading River, but the non-elected Planning Board thinks otherwise?

That’s what it seems like when a premature and incomplete plan for a 53,000-square-foot shopping center is proposed for the very area the Town Board has targeted for balanced growth. The Planning Board has taken a preliminary look at plans for the North Shore Country Plaza — proposed for the property next to the Condzella Farm in Wading River — and seems ready to fast-track the project before Town Board members can act on what they think is good for Wading River.

Referring to the Town Board plan, project lawyer Peter Danowski suggested that “to change the plan now in the middle of someone’s application, I think, is actionable.” That means subject to a lawsuit. He said, “It’s unfair to have a pending application that is not acted upon and then change the zoning.”

Is he kidding? It’s just the opposite. The 25A Corridor Study was begun in July 2011. The development project was not proposed until December. At that time, it was said that the development plan was some kind of effort to protect development rights in the face of the land use study. So it’s not the case that the Town Board is contemplating rezoning in the face of the shopping center plan; it’s the shopping center plan that’s trying to pre-empt the rezoning. The rezoning plan came first!

I think that the shopping center backer, Mr. Danowski and the Planning Board are quite literally trying to “pull a fast one” and try to railroad this undesirable project through the unelected Planning Board in record time, before the elected Town Board can enact the 25A plan. Neither the Town Board nor the Planning Board should let that happen.

Richard Amper

Editor’s note: Mr. Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, wrote this letter as a concerned citizen and not as a representative of the Pine Barrens organization.

Jamesport

A day at the races

Three cheers for Riverhead! The Cardboard Boat Race has turned into a real downtown showcase event. Judging by the large increase in boats that raced this year and the ever-increasing crowds, we have a lot to be proud of.

I would like to thank all the volunteers, town police, town recreation, town sanitation, building and grounds, the BID and the highway department for their efforts.

I would like to also offer a special thanks to my colleagues on the Cardboard Boat Race committee, Ed Densieski, Kristina Gabrielsen and Ken Zaneski. The boat race committee founded this race in 2010. For three seasons we have worked endless hours to make this event such a success. We are already planning next year’s race to make it even bigger and better. Another event that is positively Riverhead!

George Gabrielsen

councilman, Riverhead Town

04/23/12 11:00am
04/23/2012 11:00 AM

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

Riverhead Town is getting closer to winding up its Route 25A Corridor Study in Wading River. Officials plan to discuss it once more at Thursday’s work session before scheduling hearings on adopting some of its recommendations.

The study was called for by civic and environmental groups after several large commercial projects were proposed along the Route 25A Corridor in Wading River.

Among the commercial applications filed in Wading River were Kenney Barra’s 37,000-square-foot Knightland project at the corner of Route 25A and Sound Avenue; John Zoumas’ 52,000-square-foot Central Square on the south side of Route 25A, just east of the CVS; Joseph Vento’s 42,000-square-foot Venezia Square on the south side of Route 25A, west of Wading River Manor Road; a 6,500-square-foot expansion of the Great Rock golf clubhouse, just north of Sound Avenue; and the Condzella/Partridge family’s 45,000-square-foot North Country Plaza on the north side of Route 25A, just east of the vacant ice cream store.

The Town Board declined to call a moratorium while the study was under way, and the Knightland project was approved by the town Planning Board before the study results were issued. The next day, that approval was challenged in a lawsuit filed by the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition.

The study, done by BFJ Planning of Manhattan, does not address the Knightland property because of the litigation. The Great Rock project also was outside the scope of the study.

Originally, BFJ recommended rezoning the Zoumas and Condzella/Partridge properties from Business CR, which permits retail development, to Multifamily Residential/Professional Office zoning, which would allow one-family townhouses or multi-family units for people over 55 years old, as well as professional offices and agriculture.

The draft currently also is representing three other parcels on the north side of Route 25A from Business CR to MRP. These include the two properties just east of the Condzella/Partridge lot, one of which is a farm owned by John Condzella, and another which is vacant land owned by Mr. Barra, who had been approved to build a country inn there several years ago.

The other Business CR parcel slated for rezoning to MRP is a small triangular parcel just west of the gas station on Route 25A and Sound Avenue.

In addition to the proposed rezoning, the draft study also recommends that the parcels on the south side of Route 25A that are still zoned Business CR — including the Central Square and Venezia Square properties — also have an overlay district giving them the option of building one-family townhouses or multi-family units for people over age 55, instead of retail.

At Thursday’s work session, Councilman George Gabrielsen suggested not rezoning the Condzella/Partridge parcel because an application is already pending on that property. That proposal didn’t gain support from the other board members.

Frank Fish of BFJ Planning said the proposed zoning uses generate significantly less traffic than current zoning uses, and would need significantly less parking than the current zoning. He also believes the proposed zoning will have no impact on the number of schoolchildren in the area. BFJ thinks the development of the MRP zoning will be 74 percent housing and 25 percent offices.

The market analysis accompanying the study indicates that Wading River residents spend $88 million on retail and restaurants outside Wading River, and that Wading River can accommodate an additional 88,000 square feet of retail development. The zoning they propose shows a development potential of 200,000 square feet in additional retail, which accounts for future growth.

“Our conclusion at the end of this report is that there a balancing act here that moves the town in the right direction,” Mr. Fish said. “We are containing commercial development. There’s a debate as to whether we contain it enough, but we clearly contain it.”

Peter Danowski, an attorney who represents Mr. Barra, Mr. Zoumas and the North Country Plaza project, opposes the proposed zone changes.

“The housing will not get built because there is no profit incentive,” Mr. Danowski said. “It doesn’t matter what the zoning says because the health department controls the density in this area, and if it doesn’t have public sewer nothing will get built. And who would want to live on the Main Road anyway?”
He said Mr. Barra’s expertise is restaurants and that’s what he wants to build on the vacant parcel across from CVS, but he won’t be able to under the proposed zone change.

Mr. Danowski said retail development will generate more taxes than residential development as well.
Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, said he doesn’t understand Mr. Gabrielsen’s rationale for not wanting to rezone the Condzella/Partridge parcel. He said the overlay proposal was an “interesting idea” and thinks the MRP zoning will still generate tax revenue.

The Town Board plans to discuss the study again Thursday before moving forward with public hearings and other steps needed to adopt the proposed changes the study recommends.

tgannon@timesreview.com