Environmentalists throw out an SOS for Sound Avenue

04/20/2011 4:32 PM |
 The North Fork Environmental Council is holding an event titled “SOS Ave” on Friday, May 13 at Martha Clara Vineyards, at which public officials will describe the development pressures along the roadway.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The North Fork Environmental Council is holding an event titled “SOS Ave” on Friday, May 13 at Martha Clara Vineyards, at which public officials will describe the development pressures along the roadway.

All may appear quiet to drivers who sojourn down the bucolic stretch of Sound Avenue from Mattituck to Wading River, but as development along nearby Route 58 in Riverhead approaches maximum build-out, developers are now eyeing that country road.

For years, Reeves Park residents in Riverhead have been fighting two development proposals, including a 28,000-square-foot shopping center, at the entrance to their community. That and other potential projects have the North Fork Environmental Council ready to fight to keep it a rural road.

The North Fork Environmental Council is holding an event titled “SOS Ave” on Friday, May 13 at Martha Clara Vineyards, at which public officials will describe the development pressures along the roadway. The environmental group is also arranging a bus tour of Sound Ave. with local historian Richard Wines as the guide on June 18.

“Our main objective is to raise awareness and understanding of the issues,” said NFEC President Bill Toedter this week. “In talking to businesses on Sound Ave. and residents, it’s very clear that some people may understand what’s going on, but very few really have a grasp of it.”

Admission to each of the events will be $40. The environmental council is planning to use some of the money to fund a survey of Riverhead residents and businesses on their ideas for protecting the rural and historic character of Sound Ave.

“We’re hoping to work with an area college or school, to bring another generation in to understand the issues in their own community,” said Mr. Toedter of the survey.

“I think there’s a mis-comprehension that if I’m a business on Sound Ave., I’m not against commercial development, but no one wants to see over-commercialization,” he said. He added that the small businesses now along the corridor — from farm stands to vineyards to a small grocery store — rely on the rural nature of the road as part of their customer appeal.

“We’re hoping this will help to bring together residents with business owners to understand they’re on the same page,” he said.
State Senator Ken LaValle will speak at the May 13 event about his successful effort in the 1970s to have the roadway designated a state historic corridor. He and County Legislator Ed Romaine will discuss issues facing the corridor today. Representatives of the Concerned Citizens for the Preservation of Sound Avenue and the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition will also speak.

Those who go on the June 18 bus tour will meet at the Hallockville Museum Farm on Sound Ave. in Northville, then take the bus east to the beginning of Sound. Ave. in Mattituck, where the tour will work its way back westward. The NFEC is planning to put together a brochure with historical photographs of the corridor that attendees can use to compare the current state of development along the roadway to the road’s past appearance.

Mr. Wines provided the historic photos to the NFEC as part of the environmental group’s “Photo What’s Left” project to document the changing land use on the North Fork throughout history.

“We’re hoping to show areas in history and today, what’s changed and how we don’t want it to change any more,” said Mr. Toedter. “People have to understand that this is not just a Riverhead issue. These are the same issues we’re going to see eastward on Route 48 and 25. If you talk to farmers and vineyards up and down all these roads, they have the same concerns. We’re really one geographic area. There may be two towns, but the issues we face are the same.”

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48 Comment

  • This is long over due issues so many people have been concerned about for some time, and it’s good that the disparate developments and issues are now gathered under one umbrella now, as should have always been the case. As regards the headline for this article, glad as I am to see it, about environmentalists gathered to object, while any person or business might be glad to bee seen included under this header – and one hopes many of us see ourselves as environmentalists – unfortunately this tag tends to prompt reactionary responses as (unfortunately) it’s regarded by many as another name for left-wing often viewed as dirty word. A far more accurate header should surely say enviromentalists INCLUDING or AND many concerned citizens and businesses, as the article makes clear is the case. That this is not about the small businesses that are part of this rural character and customer appeal, both year-round residents and visitors, and those from south fork who make special trips to north folk for produce, as my family have done for many yars.

  • Some of the farms along Sound Ave. are owned by families who have lived there for centuries. The designation of the Sound Avenue Historic Corridor years ago, for many of the reasons expressed today, unfortunately didn’t provide any muscle for regulation.

    The “Sound Ave. farmers” in Northville were long known as a breed apart by many Riverheaders. The Grange building, the church and its graveyard remain visible symbols of the long history, when Riverhead was an agricultural town, the proud County Seat.

    Northville once incorporated as a village, then unincorporated when farmers found road maintenance too expensive. It had its own post office, named “Success” to prevent confusion with another Northville upstate.

    Used to be, you were a “newcomer” in Northville if you weren’t descended from many generations of one or another of the old families.

    Today, the pumpkin, corn maze, winery, and farmstand crowds motor right on along Sound Ave. with little thought of the history-the history of the East End and North Fork- whose remnants are still visible.
    They appreciate the beautiful rural character which survive, and add important contributions to our economy.

    Let’s not let that character fade away, or turn into “Olde Farm Estates” and such.

    And while we’re at it, let’s nail down the purchase of the North Fork Preserve, which along with Hallockville State Park will add vital acres to help maintain the nature of the area for posterity.

  • Can anyone tell me the ratio of preserved land (in acreage) to tax payers? More specifically, how much land has actually been preserved over the years and how much more do you all want t0 preserve in the future? Logic would suggest that the more land we preserve, the higher an individuals taxes will increase. I am all for preserving land in an effort to help the environment but there has to be some middle ground. You can’t expect your taxes to decrease if the town and county continue to preserve land. Simple math. Less taxable land being used = less tax money. Less tax money available equals a greater burden on the remaining businesses and individual residents.