Lovers of North Fork history and preservationists looking to keep the rolling farm fields of the Route 25 corridor in Riverhead have been working since 2012 to make this corridor along the Main Road a National Register Historic District.
Last week, New York State sent letters to the 312 property owners in Riverhead Town whose land, businesses and houses would be included in the district, asking them to weigh in on whether they want to be included.
The historic designation would not prohibit people from doing anything with the property they own, Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Committee Chairman Richard Wines told the Riverhead Town Board at a work session Thursday morning, but it would allow them to take advantage of tax credits if they want to do historically sensitive renovations of their buildings.
“The property owners received a letter from the state, and if they object, they can send notarized letter of their objection,” said Mr. Wines. “If the majority of them object, this will not go forward.”
“Anyone who wants to object has until Sept. 10, and it’s their perfect right to do so,” he added.
Mr. Wines said there will be a public information meeting on Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Jamesport Meeting House to discuss the proposal. He has prepared a slide show of historic buildings along the corridor for the meeting, and representatives from the New York State Historic Preservation Office will be on-hand to answer questions.
Mr. Wines said the state had wanted to see 42 properties in Laurel on the Southold side of the town line included in the historic district, which has proved problematic due to county licensing agreements for Southold’s Geographic Information Systems software, which would be used for the mapping.
He added that Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell had expressed concern about whether objections from residents of Southold could be tallied separately from objections on the Riverhead side of the town line.
Mr. Wines said many people in Southold liked the idea of a historic district so much that “they wanted to continue the same concept all the way along the Main Road down to Orient.”
Mr. Wines plans to meet with Mr. Russell later this week to have an in-depth discussion about these issues.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio pointed out property owners may not want to object, since houses in historic districts are more valuable than houses that aren’t in historic districts.
“That’s good. We can raise their assessment now,” joked Councilman Jim Wooten.
Mr. Wines pointed out that he, Save Main Road activist Georgette Keller and other preservation-minded people had taken on the task of documenting the properties on a volunteer basis, while many towns would have paid $30,000 to $40,000 for the project.
“Thank you very much. Next year, I’ll double your salary,” said Town Supervisor Sean Walter.
Mr. Wines chuckled. But then, he often chuckles.