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Two Jamesport projects should be studied together, civic groups argue

Larry Simms and Angela DiVito speak at Saturday's Civic Association meeting in Jamesport.

Leaders of four civic and environmental organizations have sent a letter to Riverhead Town Board members asking that the town require two large development projects in Jamesport to have their environmental impacts studied together. 

A Route 25 “corridor study” of all potential development from Route 25 to the town line in Laurel — an approach suggested by Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter recently — wouldn’t be completed fast enough, the groups said. The two projects are “poised to forever alter the hamlet center of Jamesport,” the letter states.

The letter was signed by the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, Save Main Road and the Group for the East End.

One proposed project is for an assisted living center and the other is an expansion of the Jamesport Center.

“We said don’t give us a corridor study. It’s not what we need,” said Larry Simms of Save Main Road, a group that was founded partly because of opposition to an earlier development proposal, describing the letter to the town.

“What we need is something that will address, first and foremost, two projects across the street from each other. Both have applications before the town, and if you add them up, it’s like dropping a Walmart in the middle of the hamlet.”

The Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association discussed the various development proposals at its meeting Saturday morning at the Jamesport Meeting House.

“Part of the reality is that this land will have something built on it,” said Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association president Angela DeVito, of the 10-acre property where the assisted living center is proposed. She said residents need to determine what type of use will be in the community’s best interest.

Mr. Simms said he thinks the assisted living is the best proposal he’s heard so far.

“We think that use would cause a whole lot less damage to the community and would create amenities that we won’t otherwise see,” Mr. Simms said.

Laurel resident Laura Jens-Smith, who ran for Town Board last fall, cautioned against changing the town’s “rural corridor” zoning along Route 25, which developers have complained is too restrictive. The 10-acre parcel is zoned rural corridor.

“If you start chipping away at the rural corridor zoning and start letting these big projects in, you jeopardize everything in rural corridor from Route 105 to the end of town,” she said.

Mr. Simms said that if a moratorium was announced, restricting the processing of development applications while the town studied the zoning on Route 25 in Aquebogue, Jamesport and Laurel, “every project in the pipeline will kick into high gear” to get approvals before the zoning changes. Other property owners will try to submit applications to develop their property before a moratorium is adopted, he added.

“That’s what happened in Wading River,” Mr. Simms said, referring to the town’s recent corridor study and moratorium along Route 25A in Wading River.

Mr. Simms said he spoke to Supervisor Sean Walter about this and Mr. Walter indicated he still wanted to do the corridor study.

Mr. Walter could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr. Simms said it could be cheaper for the developers to study the impacts of both projects together, because they’d only have to hire for example, one traffic consultant or one engineering company for both projects.

Phil Barbato, the president of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, said assisted living proposal for the Jamesport site would not be permitted under that property’s current zoning, so the Town Board would have to allow a zone change in order for it to move forward.

“That project is nowhere near defined yet,” he said.

Several speakers Saturday feared that by re-examining the zoning along Route 25, the town could actually make it easier for developers.

“After today’s meeting in Jamesport, I believe that a corridor study is a bad idea, in that it would add nothing, cost too much, and potentially be an excuse to permit more development than is allowed currently,” Mr. Barbato said afterward.

“It’s important to remember that [developer Robert DiNoto] can build 42,000-square-feet there with the current zoning,” Mr. Simms said. “Imagine something the size of the George Young Community Center and then have 10 of those.”

The civic association also discussed the proposed 7-Eleven at Vinland Commons in Aquebogue, which has run into community oppositions from neighbors living near that site.

However, both Mr. Simms and Ms. DeVito said they don’t think the town has a good chance of prevailing in its lawsuit seeking to overturn a recent court ruling in favor of the project. A judge recently ordered the town to process Vinland Commons’ building permit application for the 7-Eleven, and an attorney for 7-Eleven said he believes the town’s proposal to ban 24-hour operations in some zones, including the one Vinland Commons is in, is illegal.

Also briefly discussed Saturday was the 37-acre property where Gabrielsen’s Country Farm had been for many years. The Gabrielsen’s leased the property, and recently lost that lease, as the property’s owners have put it up for sale.

That land is partially zoned for minimum two-acre residential lots and partial for rural corridor. The development rights on the land have not been sold.

Photo Caption: Larry Simms and Angela DiVito speak at Saturday’s Civic Association meeting in Jamesport. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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