Notes from Dec. 21 Town Board meeting

A proposal to operate a school for bomb sniffing dogs in Jamesport was voted down by the Riverhead Town Board Tuesday. Michael Stapleton Associations had sought a special permit to operate the school on six acres of farmland off Aliperti Court in Jamesport, with access from Route 25.

MSA is the largest provider of bomb sniffing dogs in the country, according to John Harvey, the director of its specialized training academy. The company had proposed to renovate an existing barn and hold no more than eight dogs on site at any one time.

When Mr. Harvey first presented the proposal to Town Board members at a work session in September, board members voiced no opposition. But when a public hearing was held on the plan Oct. 19, neighboring residents were strongly in opposition, citing concerns about noise from barking dogs and about the potential for explosives or bomb-making components being kept on site.

At its meeting Tuesday in Riverhead, the Town Board unanimously voted to deny the special permit. The resolution denying the proposal stated, among other things, the applicants had not demonstrated that the bomb-sniffing dog school was compatible with existing land uses permitted on the property’s agricultural protection zone, or with neighboring properties.

“I accept your ruling but I’m disappointed,” Mr. Harvey said after the vote.”

He said board members didn’t voice opposition to the plan until after the public hearing, and that Councilwoman Jodi Giglio had suggested the farm location to him. Ms. Giglio denied this. She said she gave Mr. Harvey a list of industrial properties, and Mr. Harvey picked the agricultural site on his own.

“We will think twice about doing business here in Riverhead again,” Mr. Harvey said.

Town taking DEC to court over regulations

The Town Board also voted to take legal action against the state Department of Environmental Conservation to overturn a set of strict new state regulations regarding protection of endangered and threatened species. The regulations went into effect last month.

“They haven’t had any public hearings, they haven’t had any public input, SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act] wasn’t done on the legislation,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “It’s the most sweeping changes to the endangered species act probably since it was instituted and nobody took a hard look at the legislation.”

Mr. Walter called the proposal “the biggest taking of land” in years, suspecting the regulations were crafted in order for the state to take greater control over locally held properties such as the town’s 2,900 acres at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The lawsuit will try to invalidate the legislation on the basis of not holding hearings or complying with the environmental review process.

Mr. Walter said he hopes to get other towns to join in with Riverhead in filing the lawsuit.

Supervisor aide out, JAB secretary back in

The Town Board on Tuesday formally abolished six full-time positions and seven part-time positions that were cut from the adopted 2011 town budget. But it made one change from the previously announced plan, cutting the position of Dave Cullen, the legislative secretary in the supervisor’s office, and restoring the position of Juvenile Aid Bureau secretary, which was slated to be cut.

Other full-time positions abolished include an animal control officer, a community development program technician, a cultural affairs supervisor in the recreation department, a fire marshal and a site plan reviewer in the planning department.

Board members gave no public explanation for the switch, and the resolution abolishing the positions was left out of the packet given to the media and public before the meeting.

Mr. Cullen, who helped run the supervisor’s 2009 campaign, has an engineering background, worked part-time, but his position was temporarily made full-time earlier in the year in order to help alleviate the flooding that took place in Town Hall and the Jamesport Community Center.

Mr. Cullen held a similar position under former Supervisor Phil Cardinale but his position was abolished there, as well. In that case, he fell out of favor with Democrats after he interviewed with the Republicans for a town council nomination.

Bruno put to sleep

Animal activists are upset with the town’s decision to euthanize a pit bull named Bruno Tuesday, despite requests from Councilman Jim Wooten to delay the euthanization until the dog’s case could be further investigated.

Bruno reportedly bit a young girl in the face and was surrendered at the town animal shelter. But the dog’s owner didn’t tell the town it had bit someone.

The town only found out when the county, which receives all reports of dog bites, was notified by the hospital that treated the girl, and later learned from the dog’s previous owner that he has surrendered the dog in Riveread’s shelter.

It’s not known where that man is from.

Pat Lynch, a volunteer who successfully sued Southampton Town when it banned her from its animal shelter several years ago, said the dog was kept in isolation for three months at the shelter before it was euthanized. She said she has adopted many “problem dogs” that turned out well.

“It’s impossible for the town to adopt out a dog with a bite history,” said Police Chief David Hegermiller, who oversees the animal shelter.

He and Supervisor Sean Walter said the town’s policy on euthanasia was followed. That policy state’s that if the animal control officer and a veterinarian both feel a dog is dangerous, it is euthanized. If they disagree, an animal behaviorist breaks the tie. Ms. Lynch said other town’s don’t have such a policy and send the dog to the animal behaviorist first.

“This dog deserved help, not the needle,” she said.

Mr. Wooten said he’s still looking into the matter. “If we kept the dog in the shelter for three months, I don’t see why it’s suddenly a rush to kill it tomorrow,” he said Monday at a meeting of the town’s Animal Shelter Advisory committee.

Mega Wal-Mart plans approved, again

Headriver LLC’s site plan application to build a 169,547-square-foot mega Wal-Mart on the west end of Route 58, north of Kroemer Avenue, was re-approved by the Town Board Tuesday.

The proposal was first approved in June 2007 but was never built within the three-year life of the approval because it was tied up in litigation.

The owner of the shopping center where the current Riverhead Wal-Mart is located and members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union had filed separate lawsuits challenging the approval, but the courts upheld the approval earlier this year.

Town Attorney Dawn Thomas said it was impossible for the Wal-Mart to be built within the three years due to the lawsuit, so the resolution approved Tuesday merely re-affirmed that the 2007 site plan approval is still effective.

Wal-Mart plans to close the existing Wal-Mart, on the eastern part of Route 58, when the new store opens

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