Thursday, May 16 2013 17:24
The controversial riverfront zip line proposed for downtown Riverhead is likely to be delayed until next summer due to logistical speed bumps encountered during today's town board work session - as well as resistance from local business owners and residents.
The project will require a public hearing before approval because of the landing tower's proposed location, which is in public parking district property.
"We initially thought the structures would be limited to town-owned park," said Deputy Town Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti. The proposed landing tower, however, would be located in the municipal parking lot off of McDermott Avenue, which would therefore mandate a public hearing.
Prudenti said that the zip line must also be approved by the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, adding that representatives have already expressed support of the project.
Supervisor Sean Walter said the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation could further delay the approval process if a permit is required for the construction, which is planned within 500 feet of the Peconic River. Walter said a recent call from the DEC indicated a permit may, in fact, be needed.
Town board hopeful Anthony Coates said in comments before the board that, with all the surfacing red tape, "this seems like a moot discussion for 2013."
July is the earliest the town board could now approve the project, considering the need for a public hearing.
If approved, Urban Jungle Zip Lines would pay the town an estimated $35,000 for its seasonal operation, a portion of which Prudenti said would be given back to the parking district for its use of parking district property for a landing tower.
That number would increase to an estimated $45,000 if the lease is renewed for a second season, she said.
Six people addressed the town board about the project during the work session, most of whom said they supported the project, but not in its intended location between Peconic and McDermott Avenues.
When Walter asked Business Improvement District president Ray Pickersgill about the consensus from local business owners, Pickersgill said businesses on the south side of Main Street "don't want it there."
Pickersgill added the proposal would be brought up during discussions at the next BID meeting.
Councilmen James Wooten and John Dunleavy both asked Urban Jungle Zip Lines owner John Finnegan if he had considered any other possible locations, such as Grangebel Park or EPCAL. EPCAL has thus far topped the list of alternate locations suggested by those interviewed by RiverheadLOCAL.
At the meeting, only Vic Prusinowski of Cody's BBQ & Grill told the board he is "keeping an open mind" about the proposal in its intended location, adding he hopes to find out more about the project's engineers and construction crews.
Dee Muma, owner of the Dark Horse restaurant, said she objected to cluttering the Peconic Riverfront with "a permanent cheap carnival." Urban Jungle estimates the zip lines would attract around 100 people per weekday and 200 people per day on weekends.
Muma also asked the board who would be liable if anyone were injured during the course of a zip line ride.
Prudenti said her research showed liability would ultimately "fall to the Town of Riverhead," requiring insurance she said was "far more extensive than we've ever had before."
Town Assessor Mason Haas, representing the East Creek Advisory Committee, also approached the board to speak out against the project. He said that the town should be focusing on building foot traffic by better developing boat dockage along the river.
"These are not things you see at marinas," Haas said. "Think twice about this."
Following the meeting, John Finnegan, owner Urban Jungle Zip Lines, told RiverheadLOCAL he was disappointed that his zip line operation may not be green lighted anytime soon.
"I wish there was an answer so we could get it up this year, but it doesn't seem like there's going to be an effort to," said Finnegan. "That's the impression I get because people are talking about 2014."
Photo caption: (Top) John Finnegan, (Right) Ray Pickersgill, (Left) Vic Prusinowski, (Right) Dee Muma
RiverheadLOCAL photos by Emil Breitenbach Jr.