Public weighs in as town resumes completion of Riverhead master plan update 

Riverhead Town initiated a second attempt to complete its comprehensive plan update Saturday during a workshop at The Suffolk. About 100 people gathered there to weigh in on the issues that should get priority as the update proceeds.

In 2003, when Riverhead last updated its master plan, some of the challenges the town faces today didn’t even exist.

Not surprisingly, the Enterprise Park at Calverton and industrial development in Calverton were the two issues that got the most mentions, when participants broke into several groups to identify the top concerns. 

The comprehensive plan update has taken longer than expected because the Town Board fired the company it originally hired to lead the effort back in June. 

That company — AKRF Environmental Planning and Engineering Consultants of Holbrook — was hired in October 2019 and had been on the job for nearly three years at the time of the dismissal. Officials cited slow progress on the update as a reason for parting ways with AKRF. 

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the planning staff and town officials “had grown increasingly frustrated with the slow pace … and shallow depth of study put forth by AKRF to date,”

She acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic also delayed progress on the update. At the time it was let go, AKRF had been paid $320,780 on a total contract of $670,000.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

In January, the town hired BFJ Planning of Manhattan to finish the update, at a cost of $422,000. Chief town planner Jefferson Murphree, who had been overseeing the ongoing master plan update process, was recently suspended from his position for an unspecified period. 

At Saturday’s workshop, after a presentation about BFJ Planning, participants were asked to break into seven groups to determine what issues should be given priority as the update continues. Members of each group were determined randomly. 

Speaking for his group, attorney Andrew Levine, currently a Democratic candidate for Town Board, said, “We are extremely concerned about the quality of life in this town and the pace of development.” .

He said there’s a lack of transparency about getting information to the community. Preserving the environment was also noted as a key issue, as was the potential for an overabundance of industrial warehouses and similar developments along Route 25 in Calverton. 

Another group’s biggest concerns included warehousing and the noise and pollution likely to result from it. At least four industrial warehousing projects are currently proposed in Calverton, not including Calverton Aviation and Technology’s plan for development at EPCAL.

Janice Scherer of Calverton said her group felt the master plan needs to address all the new uses being proposed, such as logistics and battery energy storage systems. 

“The biggest concern is the millions of square feet coming to our area and the potential it has to change the character of the area forever,” she said.

Housing, code enforcement and quality of life issues; economic development in both commercial and industrial areas, as well as downtown; agriculture, transfer of development rights; and transportation are among the issues the update needs to address, according to Noah Levine, the principal in charge of the comprehensive plan update for BFJ Planning.