YMCA just weeks away from closing on Aquebogue land

Y plans taken from the Peconic YMCA brochure. Scroll down for the entire brochure.

An earlier version of this story contained what YMCA officials later said was an inaccurate selling price for the land. The price is still being negotiated, officials said. Also, the Y and the landowners have not yet signed a contract, as was also reported in error.

If all goes according to plan, Peconic YMCA will be holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony at an Aquebogue Y  — complete with an indoor pool, strength training center, rec rooms and pre-K classrooms — by August 2013.

Peconic YMCA has been pushing for a Y to come to Riverhead Town for almost 15 years, is now about three weeks away from closing on 8.9 acres on Main Road, across from Vineyard Caterers, Peconic YMCA chairman Joe Van de Wetering said Thursday.

The nonprofit YMCA group and landowners are currently negotiating a contract for the land, though the property is still under environmental review, Mr. Van de Wetering said.

An environmental assessment has found two problems at the property, one a 55-gallon drum that’s buried, and another that involves herbicides in the soil at one corner of the land, he said. The property is owned by three brothers in the Honig family, one of whom lives locally.

The drum has to be removed, and as for the herbicides, “What they’re doing is digging around there and determining how much soil, if any, has to be removed,” he said. “Nobody sees it as a big problem but things are taking a little while; we had hoped to close by Jan. 17.”

YMCA officials are now hoping for a March 1 closing date, he said.

“Then we have a big party,” Mr. Van de Wetering continued. “The two signs that we’ve made will be put on the property. They’ll say ‘The future home of the YMCA.’ And, hopefully, we’ll start the zoning application instantly. That will take a couple of months. We’ll try to speed it up as much as we can.

“There’s nothing in the town zoning code that says, ‘YMCA,’ ” Fritz Trinklein, director of strategic planning for the YMCA of Long Island, pointed out in a December interview about the Peconic YMCA’s fundraising and land acquisition efforts.

Still, Peconic YMCA’s lawyer, Peter Danowski, said the group probably wouldn’t have to seek any variances, or amendments to the town code.

“It would fit within the definitions of an educational facility without boarding or dormitories,” he said of one category in the town code that could describe a YMCA. “The town has to make a determination under the code provisions, and my expectation is they would rule we would have to go through a special permit process.”

He expected the project would need site plan approval from the Planning Board and special permit approval from the Town Board. And since Route 25 is a state road, the project plans would need state Department of Transportation approvals as well, Mr. Danowski said.

“I’m pretty confident it could get built,” he said. “It’s in a great location with a commercial establishment already across the street. It’s on a main thoroughfare, not in a quiet residential neighborhood. And hopefully we’ll get the support of the neighbors.”

The land is currently zoned RB-80, a zoning district Zoning that allows “for low-density single-family residential development and encourage protection of prime agricultural soils where appropriate,’ according to the town code.

One possible special use in the code is an education facility “without boarding facilities or dormitories, private.”

As for finances, Peconic YMCA has raised $6.1 million of the $8 million needed to move forward with a new YMCA in Riverhead Town. The $8 million would include both construction and land acquisition costs, YMCA officials said this week. The money raised includes $3 million from the Glen Cove-based YMCA of Long Island.

Mr. Van de Wetering said the Aquebogue property is especially ideal because the land is large enough for everything the Peconic YMCA group envisions, and it’s accessible to Southold and Southampton towns.

That has Southold Supervisor Scott Russell excited about the project, especially the indoor swimming component.

“As part of our master plan efforts we sent out a survey for the parks and rec chapter, and always at the top of the list — as it had been for decades since I’ve been in Town Hall — people want an indoor recreation and swim facility,” he said. “It’s at the top of everyone’s list. People with children want it. Older people want it because of the health benefits. It cuts across all demographics.”

As for what’s envisioned at the site, the first phase would consist of a 40,000-square-foot building, two acres for supporting infrastructure and another five for “open space, mainly for summer camp and outside activities,” Mr. Van de Wetering said.

“You start with a pool; every Y has a pool, maybe five or six lanes,” he said, adding that if the initial facility is popular and profitable, the group would add additional facilities, such as indoor gyms and an outdoor aquatic center.

There will be eight multipurpose rooms that can function as pre-K classrooms and  child care, YMCA officials said Friday.

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Check back at or the Feb. 16 News-Review newspaper for more information.

Scroll down to see Peconic YMCA’s brochure:

Peconic YMCA Brochure//