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May 27, 2015 7:10 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Riverside Traffic Circle Project Now Expected To Be Completed In 2016

May 27, 2015 7:10 AM

Suffolk County agreed Tuesday to transfer the necessary funds to allow the $4 million Riverside traffic circle widening project to be completed in 2016, as originally planned and before a shortage of funding and manpower had threatened to push it back by two years.

Prompted by Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and an online petition signed by more than 250 community members urging the county to complete the project next year, five of nine members of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Capital Budget Working Group agreed to move the project to the 2016 calendar.

“We did it,” Mr Schneiderman said immediately following the meeting of the budget group.

A simple majority was required to push forward the start date for the project. Though funding had already been set aside, the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, which would be completing the work, earlier this month informed county lawmakers that a lack of manpower would force the project’s start date back to 2018.

The working group’s packet, which includes a schedule for construction projects across the county over the next three years, still needs final approval from the Suffolk County Legislature, but Mr. Schneiderman said he is confident that it will pass during that body’s meeting on Tuesday, June 2.

The approval came after more than 250 residents signed an online petition urging the county board to change the schedule and start work in 2016 to transform the circle into an oval-shaped, two-lane roundabout with sidewalks and crosswalks. Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming attended Tuesday’s meeting and urged the nine members to consider the amount of work that has gone into revitalizing Riverside recently and how detrimental the impact of the delay would be.

Leaders from Riverside Rediscovered, the community group associated with master developer Renaissance Downtowns that has been tasked with redeveloping the hamlet, started the petition only last week.

“We wanted to make sure legislators knew that there is an overwhelming support for this project,” said Siris Barrios, community liaison for Riverside Rediscovered, adding that some residents were worried that such a delay would undermine revitalization efforts.

Last month, a drafted action plan was filed with Southampton Town by Renaissance Downtowns, outlining an overlay zoning district as well as suggestions from residents and business owners concerning the future of Riverside. An overlay zone, if implemented, would leave open the possibility of property owners altering the zoning of their lots, based on suggestions from Renaissance, or keeping their current zoning. Renaissance promised the action plan last year when it was hired by the town, at no cost, to create a plan to attract new businesses and people to the hamlet.

Sean McLean, a Flanders resident and vice president of planning and development for Renaissance, said he was concerned about the message that would be sent if the circle could not be widened for another two years.

“The sewers and the traffic are our two main issues … concerning zoning,” Mr. McLean said prior to the widening project being moved back to 2016, and also referencing a separate proposal that calls for creating a sewer district in Riverside.

The next step in the process, he added, is creating a Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which would incorporate the findings of a traffic study. Town officials have said they would like a draft of that document by the end of September, but not knowing when the traffic circle work was expected to begin and end would have thrown off the schedule.

“That would damage our own process and all of the other developers looking at Riverside,” Mr. McLean said. “That would scare everybody off and that’s not what anyone wants at this point. Property owners around here have suffered enough.”

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