Yet again this Town Board has demonstrated their disdain for the folks they are supposed to serve: the people of Riverhead.
Out of the blue, at the Town Board meeting this week, they introduced from the floor and passed an important resolution that the public had zero opportunity to review and comment upon in any meaningful way. The resolution retains BFJ, the consultants already employed to update the comprehensive plan, and pays them an additional $10,000 to do SEQRA work on Mr. Rothwell’s latest pet project: proposed new zoning regulations on battery storage systems (BESS).
Rather than let BFJ study this use as a part of the comp plan update contract — for which they and the transportation/infrastructure subcontractor on the comp plan are being paid $422,000 — the Town Board is hell bent to push through a zoning change right now at the cost of an additional $10,000. As justification for doing so, they rely on a totally bogus reason.
As explained by Mr. Rothwell, if the town does not act now, “the state” will dictate where these systems have to go in our Town. The state will take over town zoning prerogatives. Are you kidding me? Has this ever happened in any other town? What is the factual basis for such a wild assertion? Will the state really jump in when a town can show it is diligently studying a new land use as a part of its ongoing comprehensive plan update? Certainly our neighboring town of Southold has not heard of such a threat as the supervisor there has proposed a one-year moratorium on such projects so they can study, plan and get this important new land use right.
But no, not in Riverhead, the developers’ promised land. We will plunge forward to get this done now —study and planning be damned. The board’s threat of the state taking over and dictating locations was clearly an unfounded scare tactic used to blind-side the people of this town and justify passage of an unpublished last-minute resolution that allowed for no public input on a new important land use.
There was not even so much as a peep about this critical matter at the work session preceding this Town Board meeting. It was just sprung on us all at the Town Board meeting. Open government? I don’t think so. Supervisor Aguiar needs to drop the charade and stop talking about wanting to hear from the public. This town’s business is all being done behind closed doors.
And the reason for this misguided, headlong rush on BESS facilities? Mr. Rothwell says it’s the only way we control our own destiny and decide for ourselves where these BESS facilities should be. I say that is hogwash. Developers are ready to build and our Town Board is in lockstep with them — not the people of Riverhead. The mantra on this and just about all development in this town is get the shovel in the ground — planning be damned. Ignore the people and accommodate the developers. Our elected officials won’t listen to us at Town Board meetings so let’s make sure they hear us at the polls in November.
Kathleen McGraw is a resident of Northville.
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