YMCA’s proposed purchase sparks ‘Save Main Road’ campaign

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The entrance to an Aquebogue farm, just west of the land the YMCA wants to build on.

The latest proposed location for a Peconic YMCA appears to be running into opposition, just as all its predecessors did.

The Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association has scheduled a meeting for Saturday, March 10, to discuss the impacts of the YMCA proposed for Main Road in Aquebogue, as well as the overall zoning in that area. The meeting, set for 10 a.m. at the Jamesport Meetinghouse, was publicized on a new “Save Main Road” website and Facebook.

The meeting is open to the public.

Peconic YMCA last month announced plans to purchase a nine-acre property across from Vineyard Caterers on Route 25 in Aquebogue and build a 40,000-square-foot YMCA facility there.

Peconic YMCA has been looking for a site in the Riverhead area for more than a decade. Several proposed locations, including one on Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue, ran into community opposition. Others, such as county-owned parkland near Stotzky Park, were dropped because of the difficult process needed to alienate parkland.

Peconic YMCA officials themselves didn’t like the idea of building a Y at EPCAL, saying it was too far west. Other proposed locations, such as one on Riverside Drive and another off Manor Road in Calverton, were tied to large development projects that never happened.

Since the latest location was unveiled, the News-Review has received a steady stream of letters both pro and con.

Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, told the Riverhead Town Board Feb. 7 that there was opposition to the proposed Main Road site.

“A 40,000-square-foot building on Main Road is unacceptable,” she said at the time.

Supervisor Sean Walter told Ms. Keller at that meeting that he supports the proposal to build a YMCA and he supports the proposed location.

“I support them 110 percent,” Mr. Walter said.

Other Town Board members had expressed some concern about traffic at the Main Road site, which is on a slight curve, and even Mr. Walter said the state Department of Transportation might require Peconic YMCA to install a traffic signal.

One issue that appears to be key for the YMCA to proceed at that site is whether it conforms with zoning.

The property is zoned RB-80, which basically allows two-acre minimum lot size residential uses. But a use allowed in that zone by special permit is an “educational institution without boarding facilities or dormitories, private.” A special permit requires a Town Board public hearing.

Fritz Trinklein, director of strategic planning for YMCA of Long Island, insists that a YMCA fits that definition.

“I would say a great majority of what we do is educational,” he said Tuesday. “It could be a rumba class or a strength training class or swimming instruction. Educational activities are a mainstay of what the Y does.”

Ms. Keller wasn’t buying that at the Feb. 7 meeting.

“It’s not an educational facility, it’s a recreational facility, therefore it’s outside the code,” she told the Town Board.

Ms. Keller could not be reached for comment this week.

Mr. Trinklein believes some of the residents’ concerns are not warranted.

He said a YMCA will only increase traffic by 2 to 3 percent, based on what’s happened at other YMCAs. And he said the proposed Peconic YMCA would be located toward the back of the Aquebogue property and would be screened by existing trees, which they plan to keep. The building would cover only about 11 percent of the land, he added. The centerpiece of the proposed YMCA is an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, and Mr. Trinklein says surveys have indicated that residents want an indoor pool. A recent survey in Southold Town showed that an indoor swimming pool was the respondents’ number one priority; Peconic YMCA got similar results on a survey it conducted several years ago.

Peconic YMCA still has not purchased the Aquebogue site, and has not submitted any formal applications for the proposed facility.

The Jamesport Meetinghouse (not to be confused with the Jamesport Community Center) is on the northwest corner of Route 25 and Manor Lane in Jamesport.

Mr. Trinklein said he does not plan to attend the meeting.

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