In a split vote, the Riverhead Town Board approved both the site plan and the special permit application for Georgica Green Ventures’ proposed 116-unit mixed-use apartment complex Tuesday night. The board also approved an environmental study submitted by the applicant and stated that the project will have “no significant adverse environmental impacts.”
The vote was three in favor, one opposed and one abstaining. Councilman Tim Hubbard cast the no vote, and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio abstained.
“There’s a lot of issues with this project that I’m concerned about,” Mr. Hubbard said, citing parking, a proposed 30-year Industrial Development Agency tax abatement, and the impact the apartments might have on school enrollment.
Ms. Giglio said she asked the town ethics board for an opinion on whether she should abstain, since she is an owner of the Summerwind Square apartments downtown, and they recommended she abstain.
The five-story project, Riverview Lofts, is on the southwest corner of East Main Street and McDermott Avenue and calls for 116 “workforce housing” apartments as well as two restaurants and about 1,500 square feet of retail space on the ground level.
Two existing buildings on the property, including the former McCabes site, will be demolished to make room for the new structure.
“It’s a fantastic project for downtown,” Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview. “Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t tell me about their problems trying to find rental apartments, mainly for millennials.”
Councilwoman Jim Wooten said the project will “create sustainability for businesses” by providing people who live there and would go to stores in downtown Riverhead.
One of the biggest questions about the project deals with its impact on parking.
The application calls for 55 parking spaces to be created on the ground level of the building, but the applicants point out that because they are located in the town’s public parking district, they aren’t required by law to provide any parking.
Owners of commercial properties in the parking district pay a special tax that entitles them to use public parking anywhere within the district as their required parking.
The applicants also have commissioned a “voluntary” environmental impact study of the project that between the 55 spaces being proposed and parking already available in the town parking district, there will be enough parking to accommodate not only Riverview Lofts tenants, but also those at an adjacent 171-unit apartment projects proposed for the former Sears site on East Main Street.
The parking district comprises 853 spaces, according to the study, done by traffic engineers Nelson and Pope.
The study found that the combined peak parking demand from both Riverview Lofts and the project at the Sears’ site would be 481 spaces, leaving 504 spaces available.
“The available parking exceeds the peak parking demand,” the study states.
Rents for the 115 apartments (one of the two-bedroom units is for the building superintendent) will vary depending on size and occupants’ incomes, which must meet certain limits, according to the impact study.
There are three different tiers for the studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. The first tier includes households that earn 60 percent of the average median income. The 25 studio units in this tier will rent for $976 per month; the 44 one-bedroom units are $1,210 and the 18 two-bedroom units are $1,452.
The second tier is for households that earn 90 percent of the AMI. Rents in that tier range from $1,125 to $1,655 and there are a total of 13 apartments.
The final tier is for households earning 130 percent of the AMI. This includes 15 units with rents ranging from $1,326 to $1,955.
The household income limit varies depending on the tier and the units. For example, in the first tier, the household limit is $46,560 for a studio, $49,860 for a one-bedroom and $59,880 for a two-bedroom.
Tennants also will pay electric costs.
The environmental study estimates that only 14 school-age children will result from the development.