Town Hall Notes: Some questions on North Fork Preserve purchase

An earlier proposal to purchase land at the North Fork Preserve was met with virtually no opposition here in November, but some residents expressed reservations on an updated plan at a public hearing at Riverhead Town Hall Tuesday.

The latest proposed acquisition of the 307-acre North Fork Preserve property in Northville allows more land to be used for active recreation, which could include camp sites or sports fields, than under the previous plan.

Tracy Smith of Northville, whose land abuts the preserve, said he was concerned increased active recreation would effect his quality of life.

“I was told that was going to be a hunting preserve forever,” he said. “Now they’re changing the rules on a parcel of land that was originally bought to preserve farmland?”

Riverhead school board member Amelia Lantz took the podium at the public hearing, which was during Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, to inquire about payments in lieu of taxes for the property which, if preserved, would be taken off the tax rolls.

“The Riverhead School District needs to be kept whole,” she said.

Town Board members said they were investigating the possibility for the county to make PILOTs to the town.

The land is made of two parcels, 133 acres owned by North Fork Preserve Co. and a 173-acre site owned by North Fork Preserve Inc.

The new plan sets aside 2.6 acres of the 133-acre parcel for active recreation and states that the county and town will pay, respectively, 90 percent and 10 percent of the cost of that piece. It also states that the county will pay acquisition costs for the parcel’s remaining 130.4 acres. For the 173-acre parcel, the new proposal states that the county will pay 95 percent of the acquisition cost and the town 5 percent, and that all 173 acres will be used for active recreation.

The town has said it will not pay more than $500,000 for its share of the property.

Riverhead defaults on developer

Riverhead Town is calling on a developer to complete site improvements in a Wading River community — or pay the town to finish the job for him.

The Town Board passed a resolution at its Tuesday meeting allowing the town to pursue a claim against Villas on the Horizon developer David Marom seeking money through a performance bond he secured in 2001. The bond, which is like an insurance policy for the work the developer promised to complete in exchange for site plan approval, was for $94,166.77.

Michael Cohen, a Smithtown-based lawyer speaking on behalf of the residents, said the roads in that neighborhood need only about $37,000 worth of repairs.

“One year ago we got together with the assistant town attorney and the developer asked for time to correct the defects,” Mr. Cohen said. “Since that time the developer has done nothing.”

The Town Board voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, which declares Mr. Marom’s company Wading Woods Association LLC in default.

“We have to step up to the plate and do something,” said Council John Dunleavy. “If not, we’re letting our residents down.”

Parking Problems

A group of downtown Riverhead residents told the Town Board Tuesday that parking for the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center visitors has been a problem in the area for years.

The residents, who live on Corwin Street located off Fishel Avenue near the aquarium, said cars frequently park on both sides of their narrow street and in the aquarium’s unpaved lot at the intersection with Ostrander Avenue.

“I don’t know how they were able to build the building without a parking lot,” said one resident, John Harrison.

Another resident, Dorothy Haberman, said that she cannot hang her laundry because it gets soiled by the dirt kicked up by cars in the unpaved lot.

“[Aquarium owners] should be made to black top them,” she said.

Supervisor Sean Walter said parking could perhaps be limited to one side of the street — as it is on Ostrander Avenue — or maybe space could be made available at the former Second Street, which the town owns.

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