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Riverhead Town to begin work on Master Plan update by mid-July

Riverhead Town’s goal is to begin work on its Master Plan update by mid-July, according to building and planning administrator Jeff Murphree, who briefed Town Board members on the plan’s status last Thursday. 

He said the project is expected to take about two years to complete. 

In October, the board awarded a contract to AKRF Environmental Planning and Engineering Consultants of Holbrook to update the Master Plan for the first time since 2003. 

The cost of the project is not to exceed $675,000, with funding coming from community benefits being paid by ePower Solar as a condition of the approval of its solar farm in Calverton and permission to run a power line under town property. 

The vote to hire AKRF was 4-1, with Councilwoman Jodi Giglio opposed. 

Mr. Murphree said the town signed the contract in January and AKRF began work in February, but had to shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Despite this, he said, the town was having weekly or biweekly meetings with AKRF and with Louis K. McLean Associates, which is doing traffic analysis for the project. 

The consultants are gathering background data and reviewing all relevant studies that have been done since 2003, according to Mr. Murphree. 

Their tasks include an updated projection for the town’s population. 

“It will be interesting to see how the population projections will change in light of COVID,” Mr. Murphree said. 

Among the factors that have changed since the 2003 update, he said, is global warming. 

“That was not even on our forefront in 2003. Sea level rise and alternative energy sources are going to be a really important part of the update,” he said. 

As in 2003, the Town Board plans to involve a citizens advisory committee comprising representatives of various town offices as well as each of the town’s seven hamlets. 

“Community outreach is going to be a really important part of this,” Mr. Murphree said. “We have a lot of hamlets in this town and we want to make sure they are a part of this effort.”

Councilman Tim Hubbard, who will act as Town Board liaison during the master plan update, served on that advisory committee in 2003. 

“It will be interesting to see what the needs are now as compared with back then,” he said. “Some will be obvious, but others will not.”

Mr. Murphree said the committee in 2003 had more than 20 members, which he feels is too many. 

“I think it’s very exciting, and it’s going to be a great tool for us,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said. “The advisory committee will be a key component.”