Town making pitch to NYS to reclassify Peconic River parcels

Canada geese in the Peconic River just south of Riverhead's West Main Street. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)
Canada geese in the Peconic River just south of Riverhead’s West Main Street. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

In an effort to spur forward movement on lots along the Peconic River, Riverhead Town is expected to apply for a special Department of Environmental Conservation classification for acreage on West Main Street.

The Riverhead Town Board got an update last Wednesday from Charles Voorhis of planning firm Nelson, Pope and Voorhis on the $567,000 Brownfields Opportunity Area grant it received in 2011.

Mr. Voorhis told board members that the DEC was supportive of the town’s plan to apply for a Wild, Scenic and Recreational River community designation for the parcels. The designation would restrict certain types of development but incentivize developers to rebuild on the properties in other ways.

“They were very much in agreement with the overall concept,” Mr. Voorhis told the board.

The application would affect just over 200 acres along the river.

Non-river-related commercial and industrial uses, as well as government and institutional uses, are allowed under the community designation, but prohibited under the current recreational designation, according to the state.

The bulk of the area along the Peconic from Mill Road west to Calverton is zoned “recreational” under the Rivers Act designation. The category limits new one- and two-family residential development to two-acre minimum lot sizes, requires new lots to have 200 feet of shoreline, and limits commercial development to river-related uses that are less than 10,000 square feet, or industrial uses that are limited to light manufacturing or warehousing.

NPV have already reported back to the Town Board several times with progress on their efforts. The firm has suggested making Peconic Avenue a one-way street to mend traffic woes, this effort to lobby New York State to reclassify several parcels along the Peconic River to improve their uses, and pitched a movie theater and/or grocery store in the downtown area.

Supervisor Sean Walter said he was initially skeptical that the town could effectively use the grant for a study. But the results of the plan so far have changed his mind.

“I am a 180-degree convert,” he said, specifically citing the traffic analyses done by the planning firm. The Town Board will vote on a resolution soon to approve the application, which will allow the planning firm to send it to the DEC.