Highway Superintendent George Woodson will oversee the operations of the town garage for at least the remainder of the 2018. The town board on Tuesday approved a local law increasing his salary from $94,803 to $114,803 for the current fiscal year, to be prorated for the remainder of the year.

The board acted unanimously to approve the law, despite reservations previously expressed by Councilmembers James Wooten and Jodi Giglio. State law requires the new salary to be set by local law, which is subject to a permissive referendum.

Giglio voiced opposition to the proposal during a public hearing last month, arguing that a few years ago, the board discussed having the highway superintendent take over all of the responsibilities of a retiring longtime employee, who served as head of both the sanitation and municipal garage departments — for the same $20,000 increase. She also expressed concern that the increase would carry over to future years and future highway superintendents.

The board’s discussion with Woodson at the March 29 work session prompted a change of mind, Giglio said Tuesday before voting.

“I liked that Gio — what he had to say when he came to the town board work session and I think if we’re going to hire anybody to figure out what’s going on in the municipal garage and to oversee the pump installation and cameras and things of that nature,” Giglio said before voting. “I thought he made some really good points so I think that he is the perfect person to get in there and analyze it and I don’t think there is anybody that can do it better for that type of money — for figuring out and analyzing what’s going on in the municipal garage, so I will support this resolution and vote yes for the year 2018 to figure out what’s going on in the municipal garage, so I vote yes.”

Wooten said the prorated expense of about $10,000 for the balance of the year is “a little more palatable.”

He said improvements in “clerical staff, accountability and paperwork” have “already started to take place” at the garage. “Oversight is probably not a bad idea for the rest of this year,” he said.

Code changes to deal with ‘snow events’

Penalties for failing to keep sidewalks clear of snow and ice are going up. The penalty for a first offense will be from $250 to $2,500 per day, with each day counting as a separate violation. The penalty for a second offense will be from $750 to $2,500 and for a third offense from $1,000 to $2,500.

When the town supervisor declares a snow or winter storm emergency, and certain roads are closed for travel for all but emergency vehicles, any nonemergency vehicle traveling on roads closed to travel may be removed by the town police or other town personnel. Any person violating this provision of the code shall be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.

The increase in penalties for snow and ice obstructions was passed unanimously. The “snow events” code change granting broader authority to the town supervisor passed 4-1 with Giglio voting no.

“I didn’t support this resolution when it was brought up by the previous supervisor and it actually failed. There were three people that didn’t support it at the time. So I will not be supporting this again, so I’m voting no,” Giglio said.

Before voting, Wooten said, “I think it was an error that we didn’t pass this last time. I think it makes all the sense in the world.”

Downtown Revitalization Committee authorized

The board authorized the creation of a downtown revitalization committee “for the purpose of examining and exchanging ideas and recommending solutions” to help create “a framework for the development of a comprehensive and long term revitalization strategy for the downtown area.” The goal is to attract new business, devise innovative solutions for vacant buildings, maintain and build on downtown’s historic character and to create a safe, vibrant and prosperous Main Street, according to town officials.

The 12-member committee will include representatives from the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association, the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and East End Arts as well as individuals with
experience or expertise in: marketing/graphics, recreation/open space, construction, banking/finance, engineering/planning; individuals with experience/expertise in the senior community and youth community; and individuals who have experience operating a business located downtown and a business that impacts the downtown area.

The town will solicit volunteers for the committee, Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said Tuesday. They would conduct a walking tour of downtown soon.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent will be the Town Board liaison to the new committee.

Committee appointments

Kareem Massoud, Richard O’Dea and Jeff Rottkamp were reappointed to the Riverhead Farmland Preservation Committee and a new member, Matt Schmitt was appointed to it.

Architect Hideaki Ariizumi was appointed to the Architectural Review Board.

Charles Thomas was appointed to the Conservation Advisory Council.

Ed Powers, Brian Mills, Larry Williams, Marjorie Acevedo, Ronald Schmitt and George Gabrielsen were reappointed to the Recreation Advisory Committee and new member Dwayne Eleazer was appointed to it.

Larry Simms was appointed to the board of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, in a 3-2 split vote. See separate story.

Budget officer terminated

Bryan Carroll of Miller Place, who was appointed to the newly created position of budget officer in the town supervisor’s office effective Feb. 20, was terminated by the supervisor on March 27, according to a resolution passed by the town board Tuesday acknowledging and accepting the termination, which was effective immediately.

Caroll was “not the right fit for the job,” Jens-Smith said in an interview. She declined further comment.

Public hearings

On Tuesday, April 3 the board held the following public hearings:

A public hearing on a proposal to ban some types of bamboo in the town and making owners of the plant responsible for removing it from adjacent properties. See separate story.

A public hearing on a proposed code revision to roll back a change made in 2010 that excludes certain spaces from the calculation of “floor area ratio” of hotels and country inns, including bathrooms, closets, hallways and foyers. The exclusion had the effect of reducing the number of farmland land development rights developers had to purchase to achieve desired lot coverage, thereby reducing costs to the developers. L.I. Farm Bureau administrative director Rob Carpenter spoke in favor of the roll-back.

“This is something that never should have happened,” Carpenter said. “It ended up taking TDRs away from farmers.” When the town upzoned farmland from one to two acres, it cut the farmers’ equity in half, he said. The TDR program was intended to help make farmers whole. The 2010 change “diminished” the TDR program, he said.

Representatives of the owner of the Aquebogue site known as Broad Cove and of the owner of Hotel Indigo
spoke against the changes.

“If you change this law you’re going to literally take away what we’ve been counting on for six years,” architect Martin Sendlewski said. The hotel owner is extending the town sewer line at great expense, he said.

Larry Oxman, representative of the owner of the Broad Cove site, said that property is “Tourist Resort Campus,” which doesn’t allow the transfer of development rights to increase permitted lot coverage, which is only 8 percent in that zone.

“It just doesn’t pertain,” Oxman said, asking the board to exclude the Tourist Resort Campus district from the change.

A public hearing on a proposed change to the lighting code to require “warm” rather than “bright” lights for commercial properties drew no public comment.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.