Commission ends Main Road historic designation proposal

10/27/2014 8:49 PM |
From left, Landmarks Preservation Commission member  Cliff Baldwin, Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and commission chair Richard Wines listen to speakers at Monday's commission meeting, where a proposal to make a six-mile stretch of Main Road a National Register Historic Place was withdrawn. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

From left, Landmarks Preservation Commission member Cliff Baldwin, Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and commission chair Richard Wines listen to speakers at Monday’s commission meeting, where a proposal to make a six-mile stretch of Main Road a National Register Historic Place was withdrawn. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

After hearing more comments both for and against a proposed National Register Historic District on Main Road stretching from Aquebogue to Laurel, Riverhead Town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission reluctantly voted to withdraw its application for the district.

The withdrawal, made at the commission’s monthly meeting Monday, kills the proposal in both Riverhead and Southold towns.

But it didn’t come easily.

At first, commission chairman Richard Wines made a motion to withdraw the historic district application and got no support from the other commission members.

It wasn’t until the commission discussed it further — and Mr. Wines threatened to resign if the board didn’t withdraw the proposal — that the rest of the commission agreed to vote in favor of his motion.

The proposed district covered a portion of Southold Town and officials there say it doesn’t appear to have support among property owners.

“We have had 19 owners raise objections and only four show support,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in a recent interview about the proposed district.

If one town withdraws its application, the proposal is dead in both towns, Mr. Russell said.

And because of that, Mr. Wines said it had no chance of advancing.

“Supervisor Russell has made it clear that, as far as he can determine, the majority of residents in Southold are against it,” Mr. Wines said at Monday’s meeting. “I am honor bound and the only way this is going to move forward is if you’re going to have my resignation. I gave my word that we’re going to listen to the people.”

The formal withdrawal of the application came after four of the five Riverhead Town Board members last Wednesday sent a letter to the commission and to the state’s deputy commissioner for historic preservation asking that the application be withdrawn immediately. The Riverhead Town Board decision came on the heels of receiving a petition with 75 signatures against the establishing the historic district.

Since the Landmarks Preservation Commission officially applied for the historic district, the commission would have to withdraw it, not their respective town boards, Mr. Russell said.

Mr. Wines had stressed that there would be no new restrictions on property in the proposed district and that owners of buildings that are more than 50 years old could qualify for federal tax credits.

Laurel Creek Nursery owner Gian Mangieri said he believes the historic district application process has “put neighbor against neighbor over a few paltry tax credits.”

Angela DeVito of South Jamesport argued that the deadline for comments on the proposed district isn’t until Dec. 1, and questioned why the Town Board was suddenly in a rush to withdrawn the measure. The rules of the historic district program states 51 percent of land owners must be in opposition for the proposal to fail and that letters of opposition should be sent to the state — not the town.

By rejecting the proposal now based on 75 signatures, the Town Board is going against the “majority rules” project, Ms. Devito said.

Commission members said they would still like to try to get the National Register of Historic Districts designation applied to Main Road again at some point in the future because they feel people were given misinformation and opposed it this time.

Mr. Wines said the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission originally proposed to have the historic district along Main Road in Riverhead Town, but that it was the state that insisted a portion of Southold Town be included as well. That request, he said, added a year to the time needed to make the application and left Southold residents feeling like the proposal was being sprung on them at the last moment.

“I think we have to recognize that, basically, we’ve failed to get public support,” Mr. Wines said. “I’m sure there was misinformation out there, but basically, the way I see it, we’ve lost the battle.”

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