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Farmers, residents raise objections to proposed Sound Avenue parking ban during public hearing

A proposal to ban parking on the entirety of Sound Avenue ran into opposition from farmers and residents during a public hearing at Riverhead Town Hall last Wednesday night. 

By the end of the hearing, some Town Board members also seemed to be backing away from the proposal. 

The proposed ban would prohibit parking on both sides of Sound Avenue “from its intersection with Route 25A, Wading River, continuing in an easterly direction to its terminus at the Riverhead/Southold boundary line.”

“Why is this being implemented?” asked Sound Avenue resident Marybeth Zilnicki. “Because other than specific sites, where there are problems with parking on the side of the road, I don’t see people parking anyplace else on Sound Avenue.”

Ms Zilnicki said the prohibition should apply only in areas where there are problems. 

“I think having no parking on Sound Avenue is going to be a little extreme,” said Riverhead farmer Jeff Rottkamp. He suggested the town work with the Long Island Farm Bureau to come up with a solution. 

Mr. Rottkamp said there are other problems on Sound Avenue — like speeding — that the town should pay more attention to. 

Brian Lewin of Lewin Farms in Calverton said parking along the roadside was a big issue a few years back, so they moved their strawberries and tomatoes back from the road.

“I just don’t understand; is there something we’re doing wrong?” he asked. “I feel like we are being singled out.”

“Actually, Brian, we did single you out, but it’s because you did a good job,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said, complimenting the Lewins for moving their items further back from the road.

“You guys have done a fantastic job,” Councilman Bob Kern added. “It’s not about you.” 

Lauren McGrath, associate director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said a farmer may need to pull over to the side of the road to check equipment or to address another issue. The proposal needs language to clarify this, she said. 

“Something that could exempt agricultural practices or just a clarification saying how far off the road would constitute acceptable legal parking, so that the farmers don’t potentially end up with a ticket when they’re trying to do some work,” Ms. McGrath said.

Former councilman George Bartunek, a member of the town’s alternative transportation committee, was the only speaker in support of the ban. 

“The committee has recommended no parking along the entirety of Sound Avenue,” he said. “This will increase the safety for bicyclists.”

The Town Board closed the hearing for comment, but will accept written comments at the town clerk’s office until Friday, May 27, at 4:30 p.m.

After that, the board could make a decision.