City Council will hire BFJ Planning to complete full plan update
City Council will hire BFJ Planning of New York to complete the full Riverhead plan update, a majority of council members agreed during today’s business session.
The planning company was one of three companies being considered by the city council after it terminated its contract with previous AKRF consultants in July, citing insufficient progress in the update.
Additionally, pro-BFJ city council members said they wanted to retain Brookhaven’s LK McLean Associates, the engineering contractor hired to perform traffic and infrastructure analysis under the AKRF contract. BFJ’s proposal did not address traffic and infrastructure analysis.
According to BFJ’s proposal, which was presented to the board last week, the work is expected to cost $299,000 and take about 14 months. LKMA still has $123,000 of work to do “provided nothing changes from their previous scope,” building and planning administrator Jefferson Murphree said in an interview after the meeting.
Reasons cited by board members for their decision to hire BFJ include the company’s expertise in transferring development rights programs, the company’s proposed use of public outreach work of AKRF, the price of the company’s proposal compared to the estimate of H2M, the other finalist under consideration, and the environmental review process proposed by the company in conjunction with the development of the plan.
Murphree recommended the board hire BFJ. He cited the company’s experience with Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects — Riverhead Town received $10 million for downtown projects under the state program this year — as well as the company’s “innovative” work in the city of New Rochelle with downtown projects.
“From a SEQRA [state environmental quality review act] perspective, I was very, very excited to hear about the SEQRA concurrency review process concurrently with the review of the entire compensation plan,” Murphree added.
“For me, that gave them the edge,” said board member Frank Beyrodt. “We really need to get this going and finish it.”
Murphree also recommended the city continue to use LKMA. “We haven’t had any complaints about them. Sometimes, as traffic engineers, they tend to speak candidly about sensitive community issues. We will have to work on that. But their knowledge of traffic is unmatched,” he said.
LKMA has made a batch of recommendations since the start of the full plan update, including adding new turning lanes and traffic lights at “critical intersections” on major city roads. The company also made the controversial recommendation to widen Sound Avenue to add a two-way center turn lane to ease congestion.
Murphree said in an interview after Thursday’s business session that he had not been able to get in touch with LKMA representatives since last week’s presentation. He said he spoke to LKMA President Ray DiBiase prior to that meeting and said DiBiase was willing to continue the company’s work on the plan.
Not all council members were in agreement during the working session. Board member Ken Rothwell said he was in favor of hiring H2M Architects + Engineers, the other firm to be considered by the board, as he believed they would do more in-depth work on the plan and had already carried out projects for the city.
“I think BFJ relies a lot on previous work done by AKRF, but I just think the community involvement, all I honestly think, was a complete failure,” Rothwell said. He added that City Hall “never reached out to the west side of the city.”
H2M’s proposal called for an expansion of the public engagement work done by AKRF over BFJ’s proposal. H2M’s proposal was estimated at over $830,000.
He said the forums hosted by the city and AKRF had “the same 20 people at each, regardless of what part of town we discussed or how people felt. It was the same people in the room and I didn’t have a good idea of how people felt in Wading River versus how people felt in Jamesport and then all the towns in between.
“I think H2M is going to be a lot more detailed. And I almost feel like they have to start from scratch,” Rothwell said.
“I just want to do it the right way from the start and yes, in my opinion, it may cost more, but you get what you pay for in the end,” he said.
Council member Tim Hubbard said BFJ is “more in tune with the East End”, having completed a comprehensive plan for the village of Southampton and completing the Wading River Route 25A Corridor Study in 2011 for Riverhead Town.
The city has paid about half of the $675,000 it pledged to pay AKRF before the contract was terminated, financial administrator Bill Rothaar said. Muphree said he requested $109,000 in next year’s budget to cover the cost of retaining BFJ and LKMA to complete the plan. The total of $675,000 the city agreed to pay AKRF in 2019 was generated through community benefits and easement agreements with the developer of a Calverton solar facility by sPower.
A comprehensive plan is a document intended to guide the direction of a city’s planning and land development over the next 10 to 20 years. The overall plan for Riverhead Town was last updated in 2003.
Members of City Council stressed the importance of reviewing new industrial uses not analyzed in the 2003 plan in the update – including anaerobic digesters, solar power generation facilities and carbon storage facilities. batteries – and to re-evaluate the city’s industrial zoning. Council members also said revising the city’s development rights transfer scheme and limiting inner-city apartment saturation were priorities.
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