Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter let the world know what he thinks of the town’s master plan during a Town Hall discussion last Thursday about assisted living projects.
“I personally don’t like the master plan; I think it’s a load of crap,” Mr. Walter said at a public Town Board work session.
He blamed the master plan’s recommendations for the slew of commercial projects currently proposed along Route 25A in
Wading River, which he said will be turned into “Route 58″ under the plan’s recommendations.
“When you see this master plan is calling for intense development in Wading River, and then you go to Aquebogue and Jamesport and it’s calling for antique zoning, I have no faith in this master plan,” the supervisor said.
The town’s comprehensive plan was adopted in 2003. It attempts to chart the build-out of Riverhead Town by specifying where higher density development is preferred and where historic and natural preservation methods should be used.
Rival Riverhead Democrats have repeatedly accused Mr. Walter and the current all-Republican Town Board of “dismantling the master plan” by allowing development that doesn’t comply with zoning and the plan.
In reaction to Mr. Walter’s remarks, former Supervisor Phil Cardinale, whom Mr. Walter defeated in November 2009, noted that the plan was adopted during the administration of former Supervisor Bob Kozakiewicz, who is now town attorney under Mr. Walter. And Mr. Walter served as a deputy town attorney under Mr. Kozakiewicz.
“If it’s a piece of crap, [Mr. Walter] played a part in producing that piece of crap,” Mr. Cardinale said.
He said the Democratic ticket led by former supervisor Vinny Villella, on which Mr. Cardinale was elected as a councilman in 1997, and former councilman Chris Kent made updating the master plan a major part of its campaign, which saw the three Democrats win a Town Board majority. The master plan wasn’t adopted until the tail end of Mr. Kozakiewicz’ administration in 2003, and the zoning recommended by that master plan was adopted during Mr. Cardinale’s first two years as supervisor in 2004 and 2005.
Mr. Cardinale, of Jamesport, said the entire town participated in developing the master plan, as there were numerous public meetings, and that if the current board wanted to make changes, it would have to undertake a comprehensive study of the entire town to do so, and not just change individual areas. Mr. Cardinale said it’s been only five years since the master plan zoning was enacted and that typically, master plans aren’t changed within five years.
“You can’t just call the master plan names,” Mr. Cardinale said. “If you want to accomplish anything of substance, you have to do a study to amend it. You can’t just do it by executive fiat.”
Mr. Walter made his comments after Councilman John Dunleavy made a proposal to add zoning for assisted living communities.
Mr. Dunleavy, who has been working on changing the zoning code to allow for assisted living, said there is a large senior citizen population in the town and the nearest assisted living facility is in Greenport, with most of the others in places like Holbrook and Smithtown.
“We want to put one in Riverhead, so that if someone has to go in one, their friends can visit them,” Mr. Dunleavy said, noting that many seniors don’t want to drive long distances.
Currently, assisted living facilities are not allowed anywhere in town under its zoning code. Officials have tried to change that, as there have been at least three proposals seeking assisted living facilities in town. Officials say 24 percent of the town’s population is over the age of 62.
A draft version of a code amendment from deputy town attorney Ann Marie Prudenti recommended allowing assisted living facilities in the residence retirement community zone, which is located north of Middle Road, and in areas close to downtown and to hamlet areas. Ms. Prudenti said this was a recommendation of the town’s 2003 master plan update.
That was when Mr. Walter made known his displeasure with the plan.
The supervisor also said he wouldn’t want to see assisted living facilities in Wading River or other hamlets, believing they should be restricted to areas served by a commercial sewer district, such as downtown Riverhead or Route 58.
The town has received several informal proposals for assisted living facilities, for parcels including the land north of The Home Depot on Mill Road, the land on the northwest corner of Route 25 and Manor Road in Calverton and the west side of Roanoke Avenue, where Peconic Bay Medical Center has expressed interest in building on its parking lot across the street.
The draft version of the code amendment calls for a minimum lot size of 15 acres.
Assisted living facilities allow seniors to live independently in a residential community where a variety of services and assistance are available on site.