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No opposition voiced for historic district downtown

Town landmarks preservation chairman Richard Wines, left, and Jennifer Betsworth of the state Historic Preservation office, speak at last Wednesday's meeting. Tim Gannon photo

The last historic district proposed in Riverhead, on Main Road in Aquebogue, Jamesport and Laurel failed to gain ground over fears — real or imagined — that its institution would restrict property owners from doing whatever they would like with their houses.

At an informational meeting last week about a historic district proposed for part of downtown, no such fears were noted. In fact, the sparse crows in attendance — about a dozen people from a district which would encompass nearly 150 properties — seemed in favor of it, though some were just there to learn more about it.

The proposed “Second & Ostrander” historic district, as it’s being called, covers the area roughly north of the existing downtown historic district, which was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

The proposed Second and Ostrander district includes 147 properties, of which 133 where built between 1840 and 1940, and only five are less than 50 years old, according to Richard Wines, the chairman of the town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is spearheading the effort.

Mr. Wines said he’s heard from four other property owners either before or after Wednesday’s meeting and they were in support.

Only about ten property owners showed up at last Wednesday's meeting on a proposed "Second and Ostrander" historic district downtown. Tim Gannon Photo.
Only about ten property owners showed up at last Wednesday’s meeting on a proposed “Second and Ostrander” historic district downtown. Tim Gannon Photo.

“Certainly, the reception the district receiving from property owners seems to be positive,” Mr. Wines said afterward. “I’m pleased that no one showed up to oppose the district and a number of homeowners seemed to be looking forward to use the tax credits.”

Both the federal and state historic district programs provide tax credits of 20 percent for restoration of historic properties within the district. Mr. Wines said being in the National Register can improve properties values and bring more people to an area.

While having feedback from 14 out of 147 property owners might not seem like a high percentage, Mr. Wines said issues usually only get a lot of feedback when there is opposition.

“Opponents tend to be the ones that are vocal and show up,” he said. “I think the lack of vocal opponents is a good sign here.”

Owners of properties within the proposed district were notified of the meeting by mail, he said.

Wednesday’s meeting was also attended by members of the Landmarks Commission and Jennifer Betsworth, an Historic Preservation Specialist at New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, the Town Board liaison to the committee, was the only Town Board member in attendance.

Mr. Wines said the next step will be to ask the Town Board to pass a resolution in support of nominating the area to the state Historic District, and then to proceed to the formal nomination.

Normally, properties on the state register of historic district are then routinely accepted into the National Register.

“I’m an avid supporter of the Historic District,” said Itai Vishnia, who is in the process of buying an historic building on Second Street with the goal of providing office space and office solutions for medical health professionals.

He said he just bought a building in Baltimore that’s on the National Register there, as well.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity here,” he said in in an interview. “This is going to be good for Riverhead.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Anna Boyland, who owns a building in the proposed National Register district. “I’m hoping this will be a good thing for Riverhead and bring more people here.”

Others interviewed after the meeting had mixed opinions.

“It sounds like a very good idea. I just need to know a little more about it,” said Carmela Cannella of Second Street. “I’ve lived in Riverhead a very long time. Every time I turn around , they say the town is coming back…Now I actually believe it.”

Isabelle Gonzalez, who lives in a home that was built in 1910, said she’s “not fully educated” on the proposal and wants more information.

Property owners within the the National Register only face restrictions on what they can do with their properties if they accept state or federal money.

The proposed historic district would run the entire length of Second Street, from Griffing to Ostrander avenues, and stretch north to include portions of the southern part of Northville Turnpike, between Union and Roanoke avenues. A piece of the proposed district would also extend as far south as East Main Street, where it would abut properties that are already on the national register.

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Top photo: Town landmarks preservation chairman Richard Wines, left, and Jennifer Betsworth of the state Historic Preservation office, speak at last Wednesday’s meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)