“Here is what I see: A town whose leaders are in over their heads being played by an international developer who scours the world looking for weakness.” So says Andrew Leven, one of our more recent residents.
This may sound too strong, but many of us can’t help but feel that Riverhead has a target on its back. It has earned a reputation for welcoming the bulldozers of progress, for sweeping aside concerns for the impacts of traffic, water supply, retaining a balance of nature. For handing out exceptions to our rules and to paying a fair share of taxes.
Nothing makes it more clear than a sitting councilman branding Riverhead “The Town of Yes!”
Yes to the constant parade of developers sashaying into Town Hall, plans in hand, confidently presenting artists‘ renderings of massive warehouses, mega apartment complexes, speculative office buildings, McMansion developments and more.
Yes to cutting down and clearing out another however-many wooded acres that make Riverhead look and feel different from the stripped-bare town landscapes to our west.
Yes to overriding the protective requirements of our zoning. (Those new apartments being built next to the library asked for 12 variances and were granted nine).
Yes to IDA tax breaks for a decade or more. Intended to attract good-paying jobs to Riverhead, they are instead handed out to developers who are already here for all they can get. And the residents? We’re getting tax increases. And why hasn’t the IDA pulled back the tax break from Island Water Park? Two years later, the promised “mini-Disneyland” still isn’t open. So much for the projected 220+ seasonal jobs that helped earned their tax breaks.
Yes to pretty much anything and everything for developers. But when it comes to residents, little — no let’s be more precise — absolutely zero consideration for what we want or need.
But the residents are saying no. They’re saying it loud and clear. Read the comments on Facebook. Go to a meeting at Town Hall or watch any one or more meetings on the town’s website. You’ll see and hear residents, the taxpayers, the voters saying NO — that is, when they are permitted to speak. You’ll hear them be reasonable, emotional and sometimes aggravated as they make their points to a panel that does not always appear to be paying any attention.
Residents are not happy with the Town Board, the Planning Board, the IDA. We are not happy with the choices being made, the projects being okayed, or decisions that clearly go against common sense. (Ciderhouse, anyone?)
Our community wants to be and deserves to be heard. We don’t want and won’t fall for empty campaign-season promises. We don’t want what remains of what we love to be sold off and mowed down.
We don’t want our town government to say yes to every proposal that comes before them.
We want our town government to listen to what residents want, to prioritize smart progress, careful planning, projects that provide real benefits to the community. We want and deserve a town government that says YES to us — and our votes can make that happen.
Angela DeVito is the Democratic candidate for town supervisor. She lives in South Jamesport.
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