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.”