Proposed downtown apartment complex hits snags in Planning Board

09/09/2015 9:00 AM |

Peconic Crossing Rendering

A proposed 5-story affordable apartment building on West Main Street appears to have hit a few road blocks.

Peconic Crossing was hit with a number of new requirements from the planning department Thursday, having agreed at the last Planning Board meeting to scale back the project at the request of the Riverhead Fire Department and replace a bulkhead to the south of the building. 

Peconic Crossing, a joint venture between Conifer Real Estate Development and the non-profit Community Development Corporation of Long Island, would be built on the site where the Long Island Science Center is located; the Science Center would find another location.

The proposal originally called for 48 apartment units, but has since reduced that number to 45 or 46 units in order to accommodate the emergency access road, according to the site plan.

In 2013, a different developer proposed a similar apartment project on the same spot. It was called Blue River Estates, and called for market rate apartments, but that developer dropped out of the project and Conifer/CDCLI took over.

At Thursday’s Planning Board meeting, town officials informed Conifer’s vice president for development, Allan Handelman, the initial project was determined a “type one” action in 2013, meaning Conifer might have to do a potentially lengthy study of the environmental impacts of the project before it can be approved.

“You can’t take that back,” said Jeff Murphree, Riverhead Town’s building and planning administrator. “This is a continuation of that application.”

Peconic Crossing’s current applicants will have to fill out an environmental assessment form, which will be used by the town to see if a more in-depth environmental study is needed.

Mr. Handelman was not happy.

“We submitted our initial application in January, and we’re sitting here in August (sic),” Mr. Handelman said, apparently forgetting the month. He added Conifer agreed to address concerns that were brought up at prior meetings, like emergency access behind the building and restoring the bulkhead.

Now, Mr. Handelman said, a number of other issues have been raised in the two weeks since then.

Those issues include an aging pipe that sticks out through the bulk head and may need to be replaced, coordination with other outside agencies in the review of the project and the potential impact of fixing the Planning Board’s previous concerns, among other things.

That’s not all. Even though the proposal technically meets parking requirements since it’s in the town parking district, Planning Board member George Nunnaro said he thinks the project wouldn’t have enough parking space, judging by how many spots are normally available in the town’s municipal lots. 

These new holdups have frustrated Mr. Handelman.

“We’re not accustomed to having [the process] dragged out so long and, on a repeated basis, having additional issues come up,” Mr. Handelman said, adding the developers have missed deadlines for having approvals that were set by their lenders, including New York State — which in May announced that Peconic Crossing would receive $5.49 million in state grants.

“It doesn’t kill the project, but it puts our credibility in jeopardy and challenges their ability to get additional projects funded,” Mr. Handelman said, adding that it also challenges the credibility of the town.

Mr. Handelman said he thought after agreeing to the town’s requests on the emergency access and the bulkhead that the project might get a preliminary site plan approval Thursday.

But officials said there’s no way out of an environmental assessment form.

Mr. Seeman said Peconic Crossing has already done much of the work that would be needed in an environmental study, such as a traffic study, soil borings and groundwater studies, so he believes it shouldn’t take that long.

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