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Will Riverhead be a town dominated by more big box stores, when we know retail is retreating? Will our hamlets become a litany of faceless strip malls, when we know there are already too many vacant storefronts? Will we value open space, or cut down every last tree in the name of “progress”?

Riverhead has a choice between unconstrained development and preserving our character. I believe our town needs to change before we lose what makes Riverhead unique. Because of this I am calling for an update to our town’s master plan.

Our master plan will be the document that will chart our town’s future and it is up to all of us who love our town, to have input into what kind of place Riverhead will be for our children for decades to come. Will we protect this special place from looking like just everywhere else?

Our last update to our plan was some 16 years ago, and, left unchanged, I feel we will continue to overdevelop. I believe it’s time to update it and take a fresh look at where we are going before it is too late.

I believe we need to encourage the kind of businesses that will provide sustainable, good jobs for our residents, and we need to move away from the kind of suburban sprawl that has marked Long Island’s sometimes haphazard growth. Let’s make a place for projects that truly build our tax base and discourage things that require too much government service to make financial sense.

How many of our rural roadways have become shortcuts as cars speed through neighborhoods seeking a way to beat traffic, only because we failed to plan a few year ago? Will we find solutions to the traffic along Sound Avenue that traps so many in their homes during the summer and fall? Only by proper planning can we change this.

We are the only town in Suffolk without an assisted living facility, yet, we are Suffolk’s oldest town by age. Our master plan needs to better serve our seniors. We have a youth population that needs activities to keep them busy. How will we encourage growth downtown without choking out progress because we haven’t adequately addressed parking? Only smart planning can do that.

We need answers to these questions, and they will only come by updating our master plan, with your input.

In the coming weeks, we in town hall will vote on a series of resolutions that will begin the master plan process. I hope you will speak out and support this process. And, if we pass the bills needed to create a new master plan, I hope you as residents will be a part of our planning process.

Speak up, attend meetings, write letters to the editor, write and call me and the other members of the town board. Let your voice be heard.

Only with your input will we get a new master plan that protects what makes Riverhead special. With your help, we can chart a course that will ensure that Riverhead remains the great place to live, work and play that it is today and create an even greater future for ourselves and for the generations to come.

Laura Jens-Smith is the Riverhead Town supervisor. She lives in Laurel.

Editor’s note: The “In My Opinion” column is open to anyone who wants to submit a viewpoint on any topic. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the point of view of RiverheadLOCAL’s publishers. We welcome submissions. Be sure to include your email address and daytime phone number. Click here to submit your opinion.

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