Call it the Groundhog Day effect, or use the philosophical term “eternal recurrence,” but the topic of what to do about Route 114 in the Center is back for discussion by the Town Board.
Why has nothing been done, for years, about the darkened windows of empty storefronts staring blindly out to the street? Call it carelessness, call it some Islanders’ allergy to any government initiative, or elected officials unwilling to work with each other to come up with solutions.
Whatever you call it, the result is something visitors see immediately upon arriving — and residents see daily — what former supervisor Jim Dougherty rightly dubbed “an eyesore.”
But something might be changing.
There were discussions at the Feb. 25 Town Board work session on putting together a Comprehensive Plan for the town — what members are calling “a plan for the plan.” A municipality’s comprehensive plan dictates policy on several fronts, including development, land use, transportation and housing.
In 1994, a Comprehensive Plan was adopted by a Town Board resolution. A seven-month effort of discussion and research in 2008 produced an update to the plan, but the board rejected it.
In a draft presented on Feb. 25 for organizing the effort to putting together a comprehensive plan, options were given of what the community wants for the future, such as preserving the status quo of the town, or seeking, according to the document “a vibrant, thriving community with a strong and diverse economy, moderate-high income job opportunities, a growing age-balanced population, preserved cultural and natural resources, and a modern, resilient infrastructure.”
Then the board turned to a more immediate plan, one that would be provided to Suffolk County’s Department of Economic Development to secure funds for “downtown revitalization.”
The town has until May 22 to present the county with specific ideas before funds would be released. Ideas on beautification of Wilson Circle and lighting for municipal buildings in the Center were discussed, but more importantly, those empty Route 114 buildings were spoken about.
The board seemed interested in finding a way to get businesses back into the abandoned stores, and then, using what’s called in planning circles, “smart growth” ideas, have affordable, rental apartments above the stores.
It’s encouraging that the board is not just looking beyond the following week, and more encouraging that they seem to be bringing energy and thought to solving problems.
We hope they remember that eternal recurrence, or never-ending Groundhog Days, is the death of sound, innovative policies that benefit the Island.