As I follow recent events in Riverhead Town Hall regarding the commercial development of Route 25A in Wading River, I am increasingly disturbed and concerned. In addition to the way Supervisor Sean Walter has dismissed the 2003 Riverhead Comprehensive Plan, the supervisor and the Town Board have now dismissed the idea that residents of Wading River should be involved in the upcoming corridor study. Town officials committed to the corridor study in order to create responsible planning in Wading River and as an amendment to the 2003 plan. They also assured residents they’d have a say.
During this year’s campaign for supervisor, Mr. Walter stated that the residents of Wading River had not been involved with the 2003 master plan development and that the plan wasn’t good for Wading River. I disagree with this statement. I was one of the many Wading River residents that participated in this process. I attended meetings and submitted my concerns and ideas to the Planning Board. Members of the Wading River Civic Association and Chamber of Commerce were called upon to contribute to the process. A simple re-read of the introduction to the comprehensive plan further elaborates on the many ways town residents were involved in the process of putting together a plan for the town’s growth and development.
Mr. Walter does not seem to remember this. He recently stated that he would be amending this plan to better suit the needs of Wading River residents. Although I am strongly against any amendments to the plan, I understand that the intention of the Route 25A corridor study is to re-evaluate what is best for Wading River. Now the town is telling the public that there will not be a public workshop. The workshop is critical because it is residents’ opportunity to see where the planners are heading with their recommendations and to make suggestions to improve them. It was supposed to be in Wading River in the evening; residents were supposed to have roundtables to discuss the preliminary findings; we were supposed to speak directly to the planners; and they were supposed to revise their recommendations based on our comments. I ask, how can this be a “study” without input from local residents? When Brookhaven did its corridor study of Route 25A, (completed by the same consulting firm), it not only included residents but also had two roundtable discussions held in Wading River. These included members of the civic association, as well as representatives from the local schools’ parent organizations.
For Riverhead Town to ignore this important contingent is an arrogant mistake. In my opinion, the town is simply “going through the motions” of hiring a planning consultant to do the study to appease some people, without actually considering what is best for the hamlet of Wading River. It is a waste of taxpayer dollars and of time, and an insult to those of us who are deeply concerned with the future of Wading River. Town of Riverhead, we are paying attention. Keep your commitment and schedule public workshops for the corridor study.
Nicole Fanelli-Burke is an administrative assistant at Stony Brook University and a longtime Wading River Civic Association trustee.