Preserving Sound Avenue is also preserving history

09/16/2010 12:00 AM |

Sound Avenue in Riverhead is one of the last purely rural corridors in all Long Island. For out-of-towners, it is truly a sight to see. And it leaves quite an impression, especially for those in western Suffolk and Nassau County who otherwise would have to travel hours, through tunnels and over bridges, for such a panoramic — and romantic — glimpse of old-time America.

That intense, compelling feeling in the gut that such a treasure should be preserved is what’s driving the outcry over an out-of-place commercial project proposed for a 4.1-acre parcel at the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue.

This should not be viewed as a NIMBY protest by pesky residents of nearby Reeves Park. Civic groups from across the town are starting to realize that, and they are finally joining forces with the local protesters.

Civic leaders in neighboring Southold Town should also be rallying their troops to fight this massive, unwanted and unneeded 28,000-square-foot retail complex along this state-designated historic corridor.

Indeed, preserving this parcel for open space is in the interest of all Suffolk County residents.

County Legislator Ed Romaine, whose district spans the North Fork, is giving all Suffolk a chance to do something about it. He is proposing a bill calling on the county government to begin taking steps to acquire the property.

His fellow lawmakers should support his bill. Meanwhile, the Legislature’s planning and agricultural committee should deem this land a top priority for acquisition, which would be paid for through the county’s quarter-penny preservation sales tax revenues. The committee is scheduled to consider the question on Oct. 4. Then, the Legislature should approve Mr. Romaine’s bill.

At this point, the county government appears to be the only hope for keeping this project off Sound Avenue; Riverhead Town has exhausted all its legal options.

We sympathize with businessman and parcel owner Kenn Barra, who has made a significant investment in his proposal. Nevertheless, if Mr. Romaine’s bill is approved, we would implore Mr. Barra, who is also the owner of East Wind Caterers in Wading River, to agree to part with his property.

Without a willing seller, there will be no sale.