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Mar 29, 2019 4:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Wildlife Center Looks To Expand To Aquebogue

Virginia Frati and Jim Hunter review the plans for the expansion site in Aquebogue. VALERIE GORDON
Apr 1, 2019 2:43 PM

The Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays is looking to expand to a second location in Aquebogue.

The Main Street property owner on the North Fork, Leslie Alexander, a philanthropist and former owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, offered to donate the 24-acre parcel to the wildlife center as a supplement to the pre-existing refuge on West Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays.

The center, named after Mr. Alexander’s mother, has been operating out of the facility located in Munn’s County Park in Hampton Bays for the past 19 years, and, according to executive director and founder Virginia Frati, space is limited. She added that the center’s caseload is increasing every year as the East End becomes more developed.

“We’re taking habitats away from wildlife,” she said. “We are very cramped here—we’ve really run out of room.”

To continue to operate out of the existing site would result in the center being forced to either turn injured animals away or euthanize them, Ms. Frati said.

Rather than go through the grueling process of attempting to build more structures on the county-owned land, Ms. Frati is hoping to secure a special permit or amend Riverhead Town’s zoning code to include wildlife rehabilitation centers as an allowable use.

She explained that the 24-acre parcel is split between two zoning categories: residential and rural corridor, which is where the center would operate.

The problem is that nonprofit animal rescue centers are neither permitted nor prohibited uses in the town code. Ms. Frati said the ideal plan is to have it added as a permitted use.

The nonprofit’s proposal garnered support at Greater Jamesport Civic Association meeting earlier this month, Ms. Frati said, adding that she has been working with Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith to secure the change: “It looks pretty good.”

Ms. Jens-Smith said on Friday that she is supportive of the project, adding that the Town Board is considering the proposal to amend the code so long as the nonprofit can guarantee that the residential lot would remain undeveloped.

“We look forward to working with them,” she said. “ I think it would be an asset for the community over there.”

During an interview on Friday, Jim Hunter, who serves as a member of the refuge’s board of directors, confirmed that the center has no intention of building on the residential property. He added that the plan is to eventually build a hiking trail and include native plantings for bees and insect habitats, which he said are essential to birds and their survival.

The rural corridor property currently houses five pre-existing buildings, which Mr. Hunter said would be renovated and re-purposed to include a rescue and education center, an animal recovery center, and a waterfowl recovery pool. The additional buildings would likely be used as a veterinary intern residence and a caretaker’s cottage.

The cost of repairs is expected to run close to $700,000—a good majority of which might be covered by an undisclosed donation from Mr. Alexander, Mr. Hunter said. The proposed expansion would be named the Jack Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center, after Mr. Alexander’s father.

Ms. Frati suspected that the project would be done in multiple phases, noting that the nonprofit’s first objective is to get the rescue and recovery centers up and running.

Mr. Hunter added that from start to finish the project will likely take five years to complete. However, the goal is to have the rescue centers complete by spring 2020.

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ANIMALS ARE GREAT!!!!! Thank you!
By Taz (695), East Quogue on Mar 30, 19 10:36 AM
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