Construction hasn't started. No plans have even been submitted in Town Hall. But opponents of a YMCA in Aquebogue are already organizing at the thought of constructing a 40,000-square-foot facility on Route 25.
Headlines that organizers of the Peconic YMCA were weeks away from signing off on an 8.8-acre parcel across the road from Vineyard Caterers. Though nothing remains signed as of Monday, a public meeting organized by the Jamesport Civic Association - titled "Save Main Road" - is scheduled for Saturday morning at the Jamesport Meeting House to and discuss the project.
"I support a YMCA," said Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport Civic Association. "Just not in that location. I grew up with a Y. I'm all for a Y. But 40,000 square-feet on Main Road east of Route 105 is inappropriate, especially if other locations are available."
The 'Save Main Road' campaign follows suit with Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition's 'Save Wading River' and the North Fork Environmental Council's 'Save Sound Avenue' campaigns in seeking to protect the rural feel of particular stretches of road in the face of development.
Keller said she takes particular issue with the size of the YMCA, and as a school teacher at Roanoke Elementary School, challenges the use that would be necessary to obtain a special permit - an educational institution. With Capital One exiting its Mattituck location, she said she'd like to see that put to use before building up a 40,000-square-foot center.
"If this is allowed to go through, we would be no different than Brookhaven," Keller said. "Let's face it, people don't go to Brookhaven to pick pumpkins."
Keller said Aquebogue Local - a civic group centered in Aquebogue - opposes the idea of a Y on Route 25 in the hamlet as well.
Currently, no firm plans have been proposed. However the Peconic YMCA, which has raised $6.5 million toward its $8 million goal and has been looking for a site in Riverhead for over a decade, mentions on its Facebook page a 40,000-square-foot recreation center, an indoor swimming pool, Pre-K and day care classrooms, and more.
Locations at Enterprise Park at Calverton, Route 105, Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue, and downtown Riverhead have all been considered before, though none have come to fruition.
Fritz Trinklein, director of strategic planning for YMCA of Long Island, said that responding to concerns about the size of a theoretical proposal would be difficult, but the 40,000-square-feet would represent less than 11 percent of the 8.8-acre footprint. He suggested that anyone with concerns about seeing a Y in Aquebogue visit another site (other nearby locations include Patchogue and Bay Shore) to see firsthand what they can expect.
Responding to concerns about traffic, Trinklein said data from a traffic study for the Village at Jamesport was taken, and used in concert with data from an existing Y similar in size and scope to one foreseen in Aquebogue. A two to three percent increase in traffic is predicted as a result of a Y placed at that particular location, he said.
And as with all YMCA's, Trinklein said, education is vital to its core mission, though perhaps not in the traditional school-day, K-through-12th grade education.
"The very definition of a class can include a zumba class, a yoga class, a swimming class," he said. "A great majority of all YMCA participants are involved in an educational program. It doesn't have to be synonymous with a school."
Councilman George Gabrielsen, a Jamesport resident, said that he supports a YMCA in town, though as of late, he said, "personally I've been getting a lot and lot of pushback against it. I'm actually surprised."
In order to meet zoning standards, the Y could would have to qualify as an "educational institution without boarding facilities or dormitories, private" - a specially-permitted use requiring town board approval under the zone RB-80.
Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said on Tuesday, "I'm not inclined to concur" that a YMCA would qualify as an educational institution. "However this is all subject to further review, should an application be filed. This will require some research."
At Saturday morning's meeting - open to all the public - Keller said she plans on educating the community about the permitted zoning on the parcel, getting feedback from attendees, and according to the Save Main Road website, to show "how to write a letter of opposition, where and to whom to send it, etc."