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Editorial: North Fork Civics survey is a very good idea

With the enormous challenges both Riverhead and Southold are facing, we applaud the North Fork Civics — a coalition of associations from the hamlets — for asking Southold Town residents directly about their biggest concerns and what they value the most about their town.

North Fork Civics, which does not include associations in Riverhead Town, has developed a survey that asks Southold residents to nail down their principal areas of concern as development pressures ramp up in every hamlet. 

As of Tuesday, almost 500 responses had already been sent in. The survey, which is available online until July 31, can be found at nfcivics.org/priorities. Paper copies are available at all local libraries.

In 2020, Riverhead followed a similar path when it unveiled its downtown “pattern book,” a roadmap meant to guide future development in the town’s core business district. For its part, Riverhead faces equally daunting challenges as Southold, both with new apartment construction, what constitutes workforce housing, where it should be built, and what businesses should be allowed in the downtown area. In recent weeks, for example, we have reported on whether Riverhead’s Town Board should restrict locations in the town where people can buy guns and ammunition.

In this age of mass shootings, families walking down Main Street in search of ice cream should not have to pass by store windows advertising assault weapons. For government planners and officials, that would seem to be just basic common sense. 

We were somewhat taken aback by a recent newsletter from Mattituck-Laurel Library announcing that “civilian response to active shooter education” will take place there Aug. 1. You know something has become mainstream when even the local library holds a meeting on what to do when someone with an assault weapon shows up.

We urge all Southold Town residents to fill out the North Fork Civics’ questionnaire. Armed with perhaps thousands of responses, we hope town officials can more clearly understand that they work for the people and not the developers or the contributors to their parties’ coffers. Real change comes when people’s voices are heard. 

In Southold there is a lot on the table that could have a profound impact on the town’s future, from hotel proposals, to limits on house size, to where to build affordable housing so our fire departments can be better staffed and small businesses can survive in a post-pandemic environment. 

In Riverhead, the Local Planning Committee will prioritize projects for a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant. The LPC has outlined 10 projects it considers vital for downtown Riverhead to thrive. These include a Town Square and a riverfront amphitheater. It was a smart call by town officials to break the Town Square funding into three components that focus on public access.

And on Tuesday, July 19, the Southold Town Board is expected to vote on whether the Cutchogue Woods affordable housing proposal should move forward. That is just one of the many issues before this board, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Residents in both towns need to make their voices heard as to what they want their community to look like.