Long Island Sound beach in eastern Riverhead Town. File photo: Denise Civiletti

We may have seen it all now, folks.  Remember mention of a possible resort and spa on the bluffs of the Sound in the area behind and to the west of Briermere?  It was reported this past July that a Westchester developer wants to build such a five-star resort in that location and had met twice with Town Board members about the project.

See: Westchester developer interested in building spa and beach resort on L.I. Sound in Riverhead

But when asked about those meetings, both council members Tim Hubbard and Bob Kern couldn’t really recall the location or the specifics of the project. And Hubbard even went on to say he would not support changing the zoning to support hotels or spas.

Well, we suspect the developer of this project and others like it are behind this proposed change that was discussed at the Town Board work session on Nov. 30.  Specifically, the Town Board is considering a zoning code amendment to allow “agri-tourism” inns and resorts in the RA-80 residential zone.  The proposed amendment allows for the use of TDRs to build such resorts — which can include spas, salons, conference rooms, restaurants, pools and tennis courts — in the residential areas that lie north of Sound Avenue. 

See: Luxury inn and resort uses would be allowed north of Sound Avenue under code change being considered in Riverhead

If you take the time to watch the work session you will hear a tortured explanation about how these projects will afford people the opportunity to come to Riverhead to stay, study and have an immersive experience in agricultural life style and economy.  Who are they trying to kid? These will be high-priced luxury resorts on the Long Island Sound. To describe them as “agri-tourism” is poppycock.  Highly doubtful the guests will be there to see how pumpkins, corn and cauliflower are grown. This is not agritourism, it is tourism, plain and simple.  It will not enhance or preserve the Sound Avenue corridor; it will destroy it.

To make matters even worse, this zoning change is being discussed and proposed separate and apart from the town’s considerable expenditure of hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars to update our outdated comprehensive plan. Why on earth would the town consider a zoning change like this without having it thoroughly studied and incorporated into the planning that BFJ is being paid to do?  It is nonsensical and leads me to believe that the folks in Town Hall are there to do one thing and one thing only: the bidding of developers.  Sure they pay lip service to hearing from the residents about what they want in the comprehensive plan but meanwhile they are considering legislation that has the potential to ruin Sound Avenue and the bluffs of Long Island Sound.

Mr. Hubbard, you said you would not support zoning changes to support hotels or spas.  Well that is exactly what this proposed legislation is designed to do.  Keep your word. Step up and stand up for what’s right for Riverhead.  Do not let this proposed legislation move forward or even be considered until such a use has been thoroughly studied and vetted in the context of the comprehensive plan update process.

Kathleen McGraw is a resident of Northville.

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