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Riverhead Town may update master plan; Giglio calls Route 58 zoning a priority

The Town of Riverhead is considering issuing a request for proposals to update its comprehensive master plan for the first time since 2003.

The cost of the update, which would be determined by responses to the RFP, is expected to be between $500,000 and $1 million, according to town building and planning administrator Jeff Murphree. He added that it would take at least two years to complete.

“The comprehensive plan was supposed to be updated every five to 10 years, at least, which not been done during that time,” said Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith.

The fact that the town hasn’t updated its master plan since 2003 “doesn’t mean the town has been negligent in further updating the plan,” Mr. Murphree said. “We’ve done a large number of studies since then, such as the Wading River Corridor study, and a whole host of other amendments which are based on the recommendations of this plan.”

By state law, Mr. Murphree said, “every action by this board is supposed to be consistent with the findings and recommendations” of a master plan.

He suggested the town meet with John Shapiro of Abeles, Phillips, Preiss & Shapiro, Inc., which oversaw the 2003 master plan, to hear his thoughts on the recommendations made then and how things turned out.

Mr. Murphree said he’d spoken with Mr. Shapiro recently.

The zoning and population projections in the 2003 study capped the town’s maximum population based on that zoning at about 45,000, but the most recent population estimates put the town population at 33,506. Mr. Murphree said the increase in land removed from the tax rolls for preservation affected the population growth. Housing types, downtown development, employment projections and farmland strategies are among the topics suggested for study under a new master plan.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she’d like to start with the zoning on Route 58, as that area is now feeling the brunt of a national trend away from big box retail stores, which has led to a number of big box stores on Route 58 going out of business — and remaining vacant.

“I think the key is to have a comprehensive overview of the whole town,” Ms. Jens-Smith said.

Ms. Giglio said she’d like to see the study done in phases, rather than all at once. “I think Route 58 is a priority,” she said.

Ms. Jens-Smith, who later discussed the master plan in her State of the Town address Monday, said they should get the whole study first, and then break it into smaller pieces.

“We need to reserve the right to not do it all at once, in the RFP,” Ms. Giglio said.

Mr. Murphree said the town could target one area while doing the rest of the town at the same time. But he said, for example, that you couldn’t do the transportation part of the plan before the land use part.

He said the transfer of development rights portion of the plan could be done in the early phase.

Mr. Murphree presented board members with a draft RFP, which they are expected to discuss further at their April 25 work session.

“I’m so excited about this,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said.

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