Is Peconic YMCA now headed for EPCAL?

The YMCA could be headed for Calverton now that Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter has offered up land at the Calverton Enterprise Park, Peconic YMCA chairman Joe Van de Wetering said this week.

But Mr. Van de Wetering warned it’s not a done deal. He said his local Y-affiliated group still has to talk to some of its financial backers, and that their plans to purchase a site in Aquebogue are still an option until a decision is made at EPCAL.

The land at the former Grumman property that was deeded to the town in the mid-1990s fronts Route 25 between the Grumman Memorial and the Stony Brook Business Incubator, Mr. Van de Wetering said. The parcel is about two miles east of the EPCAL site that was previously considered by Peconic YMCA, and ultimately rejected.

The former proposed site, which the town also planned to give to Peconic YMCA, was located within a 50-acre town park on the western end of EPCAL that has been in the works for several years but still hasn’t opened — in part due to holdups at the state and county levels.

Peconic YMCA members have been in talks to purchase an 8.9-acre property on Main Road in Aquebogue for a Y, but the prospect of building a facility there ran into strong community opposition, and now some Town Board members have raised concerns about the location as well.

The Y proposal in Aquebogue helped spark a  “Save Main Road” campaign among residents in the hamlets of Aquebogue and Jamesport.

Mr. Walter, who has supported the YMCA’s proposed Aquebogue location, suggested the new EPCAL site last Thursday, Mr. Van de Wetering said.

“We talked to the supervisor last week and it seems like he has a plan that seemed to make sense,” Mr. Van de Wetering said Tuesday. “I’m not sure if it does yet. I think it’s too early to tell.

“I’m trying to reach all the people on my committee. The people that count, the people that have the money. I haven’t seen all of them yet. I’ve seen two of them and I have two of them to go. We should be able to tell our position by [today] Thursday.”

Mr. Van de Wetering, who helped found the Peconic YMCA group over 15 years ago, said he has concerns about the time it could take to begin construction at the new EPCAL site, since the land still needs to be subdivided in order to have ownership transferred to them.

“We could spend a whole year or two years,” he said. “We can’t do that. We need to get a shovel in the ground and start building.”

Mr. Walter could not reached for comment due to a family emergency and other factors, but deputy supervisor Jill Lewis suggested the town could lease the property to Peconic YMCA while it awaits the completion of a subdivision.

Unlike the proposed YMCA location at the western end of EPCAL, the newly proposed site is close to existing water and sewer hookups at the Stony Brook business incubator. And while the land is not subdivided, the town has hired a consultant to subdivide the EPCAL property and the firm is scheduled to make a presentation on its progress to the Town Board at a public work session on Thursday, April 19.

“We are talking to each other and if the key people approve, then we’ll proceed,” Mr. Van de Wetering said. “Meanwhile, the supervisor is to be congratulated for trying to help us. He has shown support so far.”

Peconic YMCA members and potential donors have had concerns about the prior EPCAL location as being too far west, but this location is closer to Riverhead, Mr. Van de Wetering said.

“The question is, how soon?” he said.

Mr. Van de Wetering said he likes the idea of a temporary lease, but even if the town gives Peconic YMCA the land, the group may choose to ultimately pay the town for it in the future in order to avoid any conditions that may be applied to the gift.

Receiving donated land would free up money for construction, Mr. Van de Wetering said. Peconic YMCA has raised over $6 million in pledges and needs about $8 million total to get phase of the project, which includes an indoor pool, fitness center and multi-purpose classrooms.

Riverhead Councilman Jim Wooten said members haven’t talked about the proposed site at EPCAL yet as a board.

The Aquebogue site, should the Peconic YMCA group proceed with plans to build there, would require a special permit from the Town Board as an “educational facility” in an RB-80 (two-acre residential) zone, and opponents of the site have argued that it doesn’t qualify as an educational facility and shouldn’t be permitted in the RB-80 zone.

“I wish it were closer to downtown, but having a YMCA in town anywhere is a good thing,” Mr. Wooten said of the supervisor’s new proposed site in Calverton. “I like the Aquebogue site but I realize there is some controversy with it, so if there’s less friction involved in getting this new site approved, then I’m for it.”

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