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Residents To 'Occupy' Riverhead Town Hall

Opponents of a proposed development in Jamesport plan to "occupy" Riverhead Town Hall tomorrow in protest of a plan they feel will forever alter their bucolic quality of life.

A group of residents opposed to a plan to develop land on Main Road in Jamesport are gearing up to "occupy" Riverhead Town Hall on Tuesday.

A group called "" has galvanized in recent months to protest the proposed Jamesport Village Mall project, a 42,000 square foot plan that includes plans for bistros, retail establishments and medical offices that has sparked fierce controversy for years.

The Riverhead Town Board is slated to meet at 2 p.m. to consider a resolution to grant special permits for the project.

"Save Main Road" is a group of concerned citizens that organized to help preserve land and community character on a stretch of Route 25 from County Road 105 east to Laurel, to the Southold Town Line.

Two special permit applications were submitted by Jul-Bet Enterprises in 2007 for the project, which would be sited across the street from Cliff's Elbow Room. Special permits are necessary because current rural corridor zoning only allows for certain uses.

Debate has raged on both sides of the issue for years. Most recently, residents were furious that no public hearing was held on the final environmental impact study, which the town board voted to approve in December.

Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport/South Jamesport Civic Association, said while a group of residents are expected to turn out Tuesday to protest the project, many who can't attend due to the meeting's afternoon time slot have sent letters to be entered into the official town record. 

Others have asked that the town board delay the vote in light of questions they believe still need to be answered.

"There are plenty of people from different avenues who have a lot of issues and concerns," Keller said. "We don't want the town board to believe, if not many residents are there, that there is tacit approval for this."

Larry Simms, who resides both in South Jamesport and New York said a large grass roots movement is growing amongst residents who are concerned about the mixed use development proposal and what it would mean for existing quality of life.

"The project doesn't fit the community," Simms said. Simms added there are questions about why a zoning change was granted in 1987 and also pressing questions about findings in the final environmental impact statement.

Simms said Supervisor Sean Walter, in his state of the town address, highlighted a need to bring business back to downtown Riverhead. "And yet, they're going to the farthest reaches of the outer hamlets and giving people permission to build things that can't be build as of right," Simms said. "That only makes it harder to bring peopel to downtown Riverhead."

The project, Simms added, could force the closure of existing restaurants. He also questioned why the town would proceed with a new developments when so many storefronts in the downtown Riverhead and Jamesport areas sit empty. "It's very short sighted," he said.

The Save Main Road group has also organized to protest a proposed YMCA in Aquebogue; Tuesday's meeting will not focus on that issue.

Eva Salzman April 03, 2012 at 12:41 PM
I very much hope there is a grass roots organisation that continues growing, addressing such things all over the East End, not just in one's own town because it ALL impacts ALL of us. Exactly. Empty store fronts and Riverhead town. This is not an anti-development view. This is about land use and land policy. We seem to be so behind many other places in not understanding this.
Lisa Finn (Editor) April 03, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Thank you for your insightful comment, Eva. I look forward to continuing this dialogue and writing about the issues that impact Riverhead -- and all East End residents -- most deeply.
Oldvet April 03, 2012 at 02:39 PM
This is crazy. All the vacant buildings in downtown Riverhead and the town board looks into building more just when Riverhead is starting to turn around? Is there something I missed? I guess we should risk more vacant buildings in the town by building more. And what about the small business person, any thought given to them? I think not. The County and Town buy farms to preserve vacant space and Riverhead wants to build. Good thinking fellas.
Eva Salzman April 03, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Lisa, thanks, I'm so glad to hear that. There is something seriously amiss here and not for the first time. Calling this new development a "village" seems like a cynical hoodwinking ploy that suggests a sweet little ole innocuous Disneyland village. Like nobody would notice! A village exists already, with restaurants and stores! Ah well, I hope the Town Board listens too. I'm out the country but have emailed my letter for tem.
the baby April 04, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Stop buliding new people! Here in Massapequa, near the county line, there are about 3 or more vacant former car dealerships as well as a few strip stores on 27A that sit while more have been built. Construction jobs are not the only ones that are needed.

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