The Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals Thursday granted a use variance to allow a pharmacy and a bank on a 3.3 acre vacant parcel on Edwards Avenue.
Both of the uses are not permitted under that property’s Industrial C zoning, and as such, the applicants under state law had to prove to the ZBA that no other permitted uses were feasible on that site, and that the hardship wasn’t “self-created” in order to get a use variance.
The proposed use also can’t have an adverse impact on the surrounding area, the law states.
The property is just south of the former Village Crossroads restaurant. The applicants, 1998 Peconic LLC, headed by developer Paul Elliot and Jim Miller of Miller Environmental Group, also built the nearby gas station between the Riverhead Charter School and the Village Crossroads site on Route 25 in Calverton.
The ZBA vote on Thursday night was 4-1, with ZBA member Rose Sanders casting the sole no vote.
“In my opinion, the applicants failed to prove that the hardship was not self-created,” said Ms. Sanders, a former Riverhead Town Board member. She said they created the subdivision of the property and they created it too small to permit other permitted uses.
“I think it will be a complete improvement for the area, I vote yes,” said ZBA member Charles Sclafani. The other three ZBA members, Fred McLaughlin, Otto Wittmeier and Frank Seabrook voted yes without commenting publicly.
The project still needs site plan approval from the town planning board before it can be built, and the ZBA approval contained conditions.
Those conditions state that the approval only applies to the application as presented to the ZBA, and that it must receive site plan approval from the planning board within 18 months. In addition, the applicant must dedicate sufficient road frontage along Edwards Avenue to allow an expansion of that road, the specifics of which would be determined by the planning board during the site plan review.
During a ZBA hearing on the application in February, Mr. Elliot and his representatives argued that they had proposed other uses for the property that complied with zoning that were met with opposition from the community.
In addition, they argued that other permitted uses required more land that they had available at the site.
Members of the Calverton Civic Association said they didn’t have problems with the proposed uses but they did have concerns about the precedent that could be set by allowing uses that don’t comply with zoning.
The proposal calls for a 13,852-square-foot pharmacy and 4,092-square-foot bank, both with drive-through windows.
The Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, a nonprofit group that seeks to join together the various civic and environmental groups in town, had a representative present at Thursday’s meeting, and while he didn’t speak, the group’s president commented the following day in an email to the News-Review.
“We might as well have a summer bonfire with the town code, the comprehensive plan and state law governing ZBAs because the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals continues to disregard every one of them whenever it seems to suit a particular interest,” said RNPC president Dominique Mendez.
“About the case itself: the applicant’s justification for a use variance was a report filled with what appears to be misrepresentations, inadequate
arguments and illogical conclusions that do not satisfy state law and would not stand up to scrutiny, had there been any attempt by the ZBA to
scrutinize them,” she added.