Land swap for a Riverside roundabout will go to voters

The Route 24 traffic circle in Riverside. (Credit: Tim Gannon, file)
The Route 24 traffic circle in Riverside. (Credit: Tim Gannon, file)

A proposal to swap land between Southampton Town and Suffolk County in order to facilitate the redesign of the Riverside traffic circle will go to voters this fall.

The county Department of Public Works is planning to widen and redesign the traffic circle into a two-lane roundabout. A roundabout has different approach points than a circle and is designed to make traffic slow down before entering the circle.

DPW proposes that 7,500 square feet of town parkland be “alienated” in order to be used for the county roundabout project. In exchange, Suffolk County would give the town about 15,300 square feet of land it owns to the immediate west of the town park. That land is often used as a pathway to and from Grangebel Park.

The land swap was the subject of a public hearing before the Southampton Town Board last Tuesday, and met with no opposition.

It will now go to town voters on Election Day, Nov. 4.

“The circle is at the epicenter of the revitalization efforts that are ongoing in Riverside,” said Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. She said the town is hoping to attract new commercial and residential development to the area, and “making sure traffic flows smoothly is essential.”

Southampton Councilman Brad Bender, who was president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association before being elected to town office, said improving the traffic circle is something the FRNCA organization had talked about for years. He said Suffolk County has budgeted money to begin the job in 2015.

“It’s a big win for the whole community,” Mr. Bender said Tuesday.

Since the town land, which was once the home of the Tire Craft auto repair shop, was acquired as parkland with voter-approved Community Preservation Fund dollars in 2002, using it for another purpose requires that the parkland be “alienated” through a vote of the state Legislature, according to Laura Tooman, an aide to state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

That approval came on July 22, when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law.

The second step in the process is a Nov. 4 referendum amongst Southampton Town voters on the alienation of the parkland. Nov. 4 is the general election day.

The DPW’s plan for the roundabout calls for retaining access to and from the circle for all the streets that currently intersect with it, including Flanders Road, Peconic Avenue, Riverleigh Avenue, Lake Avenue, Nugent Drive and Woodhull Avenue.

The county had at one point discussed closing access to Riverleigh Avenue, but backed off that suggestion in the wake of opposition from emergency service providers and residents of the Riverwoods mobile home park on Riverleigh Avenue.

The new plan requires a portion of the town-owned park at the southwest corner of Peconic Avenue and the traffic circle to be removed in order to make room for the widened roundabout.

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