“There are heavy projects coming and a lot of traffic and a lot of other things coming with these projects.”

They will “change the face of the city”.

“We can’t redo the rest. »

Those were the words spoken by members of the Riverhead Planning Board at Thursday’s meeting, when the five members of the board voted in favor of a moratorium on industrial development in Calverton pending the completion of the update full of the plan.

We couldn’t agree more.

Unfortunately, the Planning Board cannot pass the local law necessary to implement a moratorium. This authority rests solely with the city’s legislative body, the city council.

So far, the city council has given no indication that it is ready to adopt a moratorium beyond the one it adopted last year (and has just extended for another year) on commercial solar power systems. And it was done after the cows had already left the barn – and deliberately written to exclude pending requests, to boot.

The Greater Calverton Civic Association requested a moratorium in November 2020 and got no response. On March 7, the six civic associations active in Riverhead wrote to City Council asking for a moratorium on “all commercial, industrial, retail and multi-residential housing throughout the Riverhead footprint until the comprehensive plan is completed.” .

More crickets.

There was a time in this city when, if all the civic groups wrote to council expressing concern about something as important as the lack of progress on the long overdue comprehensive plan, the city council would seek to engage civic groups in a productive discussion. Perhaps invite them to the table during a working session to listen to them and address their concerns. But the city council mostly shows contempt for these residents, whom they seem to view as a nuisance, and no member has even seen fit to send a response email, let alone invite city leaders to a working session.

The lack of response pushed the letter’s signers to the podium at the March 24 board meeting, demanding a response to the three-week-old email.

Council member Tim Hubbard spoke, saying he didn’t see a moratorium serving any purpose. If zoning changes are needed, the compensation plan would address that. A “general moratorium” would not be “a wise move”, he said.

Council member Bob Kern said a moratorium would lead to many lawsuits from landowners, noting that “people have land rights”.

Council member Ken Rothwell said “it is inappropriate” to halt projects that are permitted under current zoning.

“I believe that, you know, commercial landowners are also taxpayers. And they have the right to develop their land. And it’s not our job to stop them from developing the land,” Rothwell said.

“We can’t just randomly stop progress at Riverhead, stop everything immediately,” supervisor Yvette Aguiar said. “There is a process. It is a complete process. We are doing it,” Aguiar said.

Councilman Frank Beyrodt said nothing.

It was March 24.

Hubbard and Aguiar have recently indicated their willingness to at least discuss a moratorium on certain uses — battery energy storage systems or logistics centers… maybe.

Since March, there has been no overall progress. In fact, the city council announced in June that it would be ending the contract awarded in 2019 to planning consultants hired to complete the full plan update. The board voted in July to do so.

The city still hasn’t hired a new company to pick up where the old consultants left off. The truth is, there’s very little to show for the two and a half years and over $300,000 spent on the abortive planning effort. Board members have agreed on a new company, but no resolution to hire them has been presented and the contract is not yet finalized.

The process of hiring a new company got off to a bad start. First, three potential consulting firms came to a working session in August to discuss their services, but they couldn’t say how much their fees would be or how long it would take to complete the compensation plan started by the first cabinet. They received no information about what had already been done, they told the board. Building and planning administrator Jefferson Murphree explained that the website created by the former consultant was offline and that it would be too difficult to retrieve all the documents, copy them and send them to the companies potential. Very well then.

More than a month later, two of the three firms have been called back to make a presentation. At this point, it became clear that the companies had received no scope of work on which to base their estimates, which explains the wildly disparate proposals and cost estimates submitted. One company reached $299,000 and the other over $830,000.

The city council opted for the cheapest price, but it did not include traffic, transport and infrastructure. Now the city is talking to the previous company’s traffic advisory subcontractor to get those coins back.

Now it’s almost November.

And the rhythm continues. Applications are submitted. Pre-submission conferences are organized. Plans are drawn. And projects that could forever change the face of our city are moving forward, with virtually no overarching plan in place to guide new developments. And the only city officials who have the power to say, “Wait, we have to make sure we’re doing it right” are just shrugging their shoulders, throwing their hands up, and telling us that a moratorium would be unfair to developers.

Meanwhile, Riverhead is no closer to having a full plan update than it was a year ago. We’d go so far as to say it’s no closer than before the last company hired in 2019 – that’s what little work we’ve seen. It’s convenient for officials to scapegoat the former consulting firm, but they should really look inside if they want to know what went wrong. There’s an old adage: trash in, trash out. On top of that, there was an incredible lack of management of the whole process.

Planning Board vice-chairman Ed Densieski has always been a strong advocate for property rights. If anyone would be expected to be the last to advocate a moratorium, it would be him. Yet he was there.

The size, scope and impacts of projects coming to town for uses that didn’t even exist when the last offset plan was completed over 20 years ago will change Riverhead forever.

It’s a no-or-never moment, Riverhead. We urge City Council to do the right thing. Quickly put a moratorium in place. Riverhead has no time to waste.

As Planning Board Chair Joann Waski said yesterday, when it comes to development, there is no change.

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