Is Peconic YMCA now headed for EPCAL?

The YMCA could be headed for Calverton after Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter offered up land at EPCAL, Peconic YMCA chairman Joe Van de Wetering said.

But Mr. Van de Wetering warned it’s not a done deal. He said his group still has to talk to some of its financial backers, and that their plans to purchase a site in Aquebogue are still an option until a decision is made on EPCAL.

The EPCAL site fronts Route 25 between the Grumman Memorial and the Stony Brook Business Incubator, according to Mr. Van de Wetering. The new proposed parcel is about two miles east of the EPCAL site that was previously considered by Peconic YMCA, and ultimately rejected.

That site, which the town also planned to give Peconic YMCA, was located within a 50 acre proposed town park on the western end of EPCAL that has been in the works for several years and still hasn’t opened, in part due to holdups at the state and county levels.

The Aquebogue site, on 8.9 acres across from Vineyard Caterers on Route 25, has run into strong community opposition and now some Town Board members have raised concerns about the location as well. The opposition to this proposal, as well as to the proposed Village at Jamesport commercial development, has led to the formation of a “Save Main Road” campaign among residents in the hamlets of Aquebogue and Jamesport.

Mr. Van de Wetering said Supervisor Sean Walter, who has supported the YMCA’s proposed Aquebogue location, suggested the new EPCAL site last Thursday.

“We talked to the supervisor last week and it seems like he has a plan that seemed to make sense,” Mr. Van de Wetering said Tuesday. “I’m not sure if it does yet. I think it’s too early to tell.

“I’m trying to reach all the people on my committee. The people that count, the people that have the money. I haven’t seen all of them yet. I’ve seen two of them and I have two of them to go. We should be able to tell our position by Thursday.”

Mr. Van de Wetering said he has concerns about the time it could take to begin construction at the new EPCAL site, since the land still needs to be subdivided in order to have ownership transferred to them.

“We could spend a whole year or two years,” he said. “We can’t do that. We need to get a shovel in the ground and start building. We need a fast-track approach.”

Mr. Walter could not immediately be reached for comment, but Deputy Supervisor Jill Lewis suggested that the town could lease the property to Peconic YMCA while it awaits the completion of a subdivision.

Unlike the proposed YMCA location at the western end of EPCAL, this site is close to existing water and sewer hookups at the incubator. And while the land is not subdivided, the town has hired a consultant to subdivide the EPCAL property and they are scheduled to make a presentation on their progress to the Town Board at the April 19 work session.

“We are talking to each other and if the key people approve, then we’ll proceed,” Mr. Van de Wetering said. “Meanwhile, the supervisor is to be congratulated for trying to help us. He has shown support so far.”

Peconic YMCA had concerns about the prior EPCAL location being too far west, but this location is closer to Riverhead and is a nice location, Mr. Van de Wetering said.

“The question is how soon?” he said. Mr. Van de Wetering said he likes the idea of a temporary lease, and even if the town gives Peconic YMCA the land, they may choose to ultimately pay the town for it in the future, in order to avoid any conditions that may be applied to the gift.

Receiving donated land would free up money for construction, Mr. Van de Wetering said. Peconic YMCA has raised about $6 million of the $8 million they have targeted for construction, he said.

The Town Board has not taken any formal action on the new EPCAL location for the YMCA yet, and Councilman Jim Wooten said members haven’t talked about it as a board yet.

The Aquebogue site would require a special permit from the Town Board as an “educational facility” in an RB-80 (two-acre residential) zone, and opponents of the site have argued that it doesn’t qualify as an educational facility and shouldn’t be permitted in the RB-80 zone.

“I wish it were closer to downtown, but having a YMCA in town anywhere is a good thing,” Mr. Wooten said of the EPCAL site. “I like the Aquebogue site but I realize there is some controversy with it, so if there’s less friction involved in getting this new site approved, then I’m for it.”

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