10/07/13 11:56am
10/07/2013 11:56 AM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO  |  The fence that runs along Foxwood Village and the Shops at Riverhead property lines.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | The fence that separates Foxwood Village and the Shops at Riverhead.

Foxwood Village residents will hold a rally along Route 58 Tuesday to speak out against the developers of the Shops at Riverhead shopping center being built next to the retirement community.

Residents have been up in arms ever since the developers clear-cut the entire property, which stretches north from Route 58, even on land for which there are no current plans to build.

Just a small wooden fence now divides the shopping center property and Foxwood homes. Residents have also complained about the fence.

The developers had been given a deadline by the town by which to submit new plans for a proposed buffer separating the properties, and although they did file new plans by the town’s deadline, town attorneys had said those plans were insufficient.

The town is threatening to revoke the building permits for the project, which will feature a Costco Wholesale as its anchor store.

“They have just stalled the town with extension after extension and they have not kept their promise to make it right,” resident Paul Spina said as the reason for the rally along Route 58. ”We will be asking that they stop stalling and improve both the berm and the fence.”

The event will run from 10 a.m. to noon.

mwhite@timesreview.com

10/03/13 11:14am
10/03/2013 11:14 AM

 

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Excavation at the site of a future Costco on Route 58.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Excavation at the site of a future Costco on Route 58.

A planned change to Riverhead Town’s zoning code that would require buffer zones around commercial developments was praised by civic groups and derided by property owners at a public hearing during Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.

The proposal would require any commercial property with a building of more than 5,000 square feet to keep a 50-foot buffer zone of trees or shrubs between it and the neighboring properties. Any property with a building equal to or less than 5,000 square feet would need a 25-foot buffer.

Current zoning law requires a 10-foot buffer zone around all commercial properties.

The zoning change was proposed after the Town Board faced public outrage over construction work at the Route 58 Costco development that resulted in clear-cutting up to the property lines of two residential communities.

Brian DeLuca, president and CEO of Group for the East End, an environmental organization, said it was “absolutely necessary” for larger commercial projects like Costco to have a buffer zone.

“The protection of the character of the town, this region, is vital to this economy,” he said at the hearing.

Representatives from the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the Wading River Civic Association, also lent their support to the zoning change.

RNPC president Dominique Mendez said the buffer zone will improve residents’ quality of life and suggested the board consider applying the requirement to multi-family apartment developments as well as commercial properties.

But commercial property owners said the zoning would take a substantial bite out of their land, reducing the value of their properties.

Aquebogue property owner Walter Binger says that homeowners who live near commercially zoned areas have “no right” to demand commercial property owners set aside land for buffer zones.

“I have rights,” he said. “Other commercial property owners have rights.”

August Groeber, who owns 2 acres of property, also railed against the proposal.

He said that since he purchased his land years ago, zoning changes have reduced the area he can develop to about a sixth of what he once could, reducing the property’s worth. While builders on larger plots may be able to afford a 50-foot buffer, Mr. Groeber said he would lose even more land under the new zoning regulations.

“You’re stealing my land and you’re giving it to my neighbors,” he said. “You aimed at Costco and you hit me.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the town will look at neighboring towns’ zoning regulations to see how they handle buffer zones before continuing with amending the code.

The public hearing will remain open for written comment until Oct. 11, town officials said.

psquire@timesreview.com

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated how much land Mr. Groeber owns.

09/19/13 6:05pm
09/19/2013 6:05 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The northern part of the Costco property off Route 58 in Riverhead.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The northern part of the Costco property off Route 58 in Riverhead.

The developers of The Shops at Riverhead shopping center on Route 58 will have one week to get the Riverhead Town Planning Board corrected site elevations for a berm the developers are proposing to build along the northern boundary of their property, abutting the Foxwood Village retirement community.

If the corrected plans are not in by Sept. 26, the town will revoke the building permit for the project, town officials said.

Bill Duffy, the attorney to the Planning Board, said the town’s consulting engineer believes the ground elevations submitted by the developers are incorrect.

“The berm was supposed to be high to block the view’ of the shopping center from neighboring residents, Mr. Duffy said at Thursday’s Planning Board meeting.

Based on the elevations submitted by the application, he said, “That’s not necessarily going to happen.”

The developers were supposed to get the new information to the Planning Board by tomorrow, but the board decided to give them more time.

Planning Board member Ed Densieski suggested a drop-dead deadline “to get the corrected information in, and issue a stop-work order if they don’t.”

“Based on the fact they submitted falsified information,” he said.

Mr. Duffy said the town would have to first revoke the building permit before it could issue a stop-work order.

The board directed Mr. Duffy to send a letter to the developers — Heritage-Riverhead Retail Developers — stating that if the corrected information is not submitted by Sept. 26, the town will revoke the building permit.

Clear-cutting of trees at the Shops at Riverhead, which will contain a Costco Wholesale as its anchor store, has angered residents of the neighboring Foxwood community to the north and Millbrook Community to the east.

They’ve also complained that fencing dividing the properties is inadequate.

Foxwood Village president Peter Mastropolo recently hired a land surveyor, John Ehlers, to review the approved plans for the Shops at Riverhead, and determined the elevations showing the natural topography of the land where a berm is proposed along the northern property line were incorrect.

The town planning department now agrees with that assessment.

Planning director Rick Hanley said the elevations, which show how high above sea leave the land is, before the development began, showed only the easternmost portion of the berm area, which had the highest elevation.

Mr. Hanley said the Planning Board was led to believe that this was the elevation for the entire site when it approved the site plan.

Peter Danowski, the attorney for the applicant, was not at Thursday’s Planning Board meeting, but he discussed the berm issue during an interview on Wednesday in response to comments Supervisor Sean Walter had made about the berm at a Town Board meeting the day before.

“The Ehlers elevation shots at the property line are not terribly inconsistent with what’s on our plans,” Mr. Danowski said on Wednesday.

“In fact, I would say they are consistent.”

Mr. Danowski said Mr. Ehler’s drawings don’t show the landscape plan that the Planning Board approved, which calls for the berm and the planting of evergreen trees along the property line forming a 30-foot buffer.

He said that once that plan is in place, he believes residents will be happy with it.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/14/13 2:30pm
09/14/2013 2:30 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Foxwood Village co-owner Peter Mastropolo at last week’s Planning Board meeting.

The approved drawings for The Shops at Riverhead shopping center under construction on Route 58 are incorrect, and would put the center’s parking lot six feet above the top of a fence that now runs along the property’s border with the Foxwood Village retirement community.

So said Peter Mastropolo, president of the corporation that owns Foxwood Village, at last Thursday’s Riverhead Planning Board meeting in Town Hall.

Foxwood residents have been up in arms ever since the developers of The Shops at Riverhead, which will feature a Costco as its anchor tenant, cleared the entire 41-acre site right up to the Foxwood property line earlier this year — even though the developers don’t have current plans to build on the entire property.

The Shops at Riverhead, owned by Manhattan-based Heritage-Riverhead Retail Developers, LLC, received Planning Board approval last year to clear the entire site so they wouldn’t need to import or export sand to grade the land. The approval requires the developers to create a 30-foot vegetative buffer and a four-foot-tall berm along the Foxwood property line to replace the trees that were cleared, but that buffer has yet to be constructed.

Foxwood residents have also complained about the quality, or lack thereof, of the six-foot-high wooden fence erected along the property line by the developers and requested last Thursday that it be replaced with a sound wall.

“When it came time to clear the land and the trees were removed, it became very obvious that the impact on Foxwood Village was going to be more severe and more than what was stated in the drawings that were presented to the Planning Board,” Mr. Mastropolo said at last week’s meeting.

He said that when he and other Foxwood residents were protesting a recent Zoning Board of Appeals applications filed by the developer seeking a variance on town lighting laws, “we did some actual surveying and found that the drawings showing the elevations were incorrect.”

Foxwood Village has since hired its own surveyors to review the developer’s plans, he said.

“When they installed the fence, we did a line of sight [analysis] and elevation readings and the fence came out to be actually six feet below the top of the parking lot,” Mr. Mastropolo said. “So when a berm is installed in there, the berm is going to be below the elevation of the parking lot.”

He suggested the Planning Board re-examine the approved plans for The Shops at Riverhead to see if the elevations are correct.

“There’s too much disparity between what they say we have and what the prints show,” Mr. Mastropolo said.

Planning Board members said they would take a look at the information provided by Mr. Mastropolo, but made no promises about reopening the developers’ application.

“I haven’t been supplied with anything by Peter [Mastropolo], so it’s hard for me to comment on it,” Peter Danowski, an attorney for The Shops at Riverhead, later said. Mr. Danowski was not present at last Thursday’s Planning Board meeting, as the project was not on the agenda but was brought up by residents during the meeting’s public comment segment.

“We’re pretty comfortable that what we put on the approved site plan is what will get built and [once it’s built] will show the elevations approved by the Planning Board,” Mr. Danowski said. “I find it hard to believe the parking lot is going to be above the fence. We’ve always said that when we built this thing, it will be consistent with the plans that were approved.”

Mr. Danowski said plans for the 30-foot-wide buffer include eight- to 10-foot arborvitae and other trees, some of which will be planted atop a four-foot-high berm along the Foxwood property line.

He added that, should someone in the Foxwood community stand against and look over the fence, “they would never see anything, because we have a slope from the fence sloping downward with arborvitae and other landscaping that was approved in the buffer area,” Mr. Danowski said, “You couldn’t see beyond the arborvitae.”

Mary Lee Feldman, current president of the Foxwood Village Homeowners Association, asked the Planning Board to require the developer to replace the wooden fence that is there now with a sound wall, something Foxwood homeowners had also demanded at previous board meetings.

The current fence, she said, is not high enough or strong enough to protect the community from pollutants and noise.

And Diane Barba, who lives in the neighboring Millbrook community, just east of The Shops at Riverhead, mentioned that residents there are getting only a chain-link fence. However, existing trees on the Milbrook land already serve as a natural buffer to the cleared shopping center property.

“The noise is unbelievable” since the clearing took place, Ms. Barba said. “I feel like I’m back in the Bronx.”

Mr. Danowski said in an interview that he doesn’t foresee the developer reopening the application.

“We’re going to build the approved plan,” he said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/12/13 8:16pm
09/12/2013 8:16 PM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO  |  The fence that runs along Foxwood Village and the Shops at Riverhead property lines.

FILE PHOTO | The fence that runs along Foxwood Village and the Costco property line.

After much public opposition, the other half of The Shops at Riverhead developer’s request for variances to Riverhead’s lighting regulations was denied Thursday night by the Zoning Board of Appeals, which had rejected the first half of that application two weeks ago.

The developers of the proposed shopping center, which will feature a Costco Warehouse store with gas pumps in front of it, were previously denied in their request for variances from the town’s “dark skies” lighting code in which they sought permission to install lights in the shopping center parking lot that were 25 feet high instead of the permitted 16 feet.

The applicants said the shopping center would only need 61 light poles instead of 165, if the variance were granted.

Residents from the adjacent Foxwood Village and Millbrook communities, already angry about The Shops at Riverhead having clear-cut all the trees on its property right up to the neighboring property lines, turned out in force at several meetings to urge the ZBA to reject the lighting variance, which the ZBA did at their its meeting.

The other half of the ZBA variance request, which was not rejected at the last meeting and was instead held over to Thursday night’s meeting, called for more lighting than is permitted under the canopy covering the planned gas pumps at Costco.

The pumps have already been approved.

The proposed lights would be LED lights, which are brighter and were intended to increase security at the pumps at night, according to Peter Danowski, the attorney for the applicant.

While that request didn’t meet as much opposition as the request for the taller — thus brighter — light poles did, it still met with some opposition, and on Thursday, the ZBA unanimously voted it down.

Fred McLaughlin, the chairman of the ZBA, assured the large crowd of Foxwood and Millbrook residents who were in attendance Thursday that their concerns had been heard, and that issues that have been brought up, like dust from the construction site, were issues for other town agencies to take up.

As a result, no one other than the applicant spoke, and the ZBA went straight to the vote on the request.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/04/13 3:00pm
09/04/2013 3:00 PM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO  |  The fence that runs along Foxwood Village and the Shops at Riverhead property lines.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | The fence that runs along Foxwood Village and the Shops at Riverhead property lines just north of Route 58 in Riverhead.

While Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy has been able to avoid most of the controversy in the three-way primary for two Republican council nominations this fall, that hasn’t been the case in the past week, where he’s managed to anger some of his Foxwood Village neighbors regarding answers to questions at a recent candidate debate.

John Dunleavy of Riverhead

John Dunleavy

Those neighbors say Mr. Dunleavy was the president of the Foxwood Village Homeowners Association for two years while The Shops at Riverhead application was pending with the town, and that he should have taken a more active role in monitoring the development of the proposed shopping center next to their homes.

The Shops at Riverhead, which will feature a Costco as its anchor store, was first proposed in 2007. The developer recently cleared the trees up to the Foxwood Village property line, angering residents there.

“He was the president [of the HOA] at the time the scoping meeting was held on this development and he knew everything was coming down the pike and never told us,” said Marylee Feldman, the current Foxwood Village HOA president told the News-Review. “He didn’t protect us.”

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Mr. Dunleavy responded.

Mr. Dunleavy said the HOA at Foxwood Village deals only with providing recreation for the residents of the community there, and the president also may relay concerns some residents have to the retirement community’s owners.

“The homeowners association is only a recreation association,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “It has nothing to do with the running of Foxwood Village.”

Not so, Ms. Feldman said.

“All things representing the homeowners are taken up with that group,” Ms. Feldman said.

Paul Spina, another Foxwood Village resident, said in an interview that current bylaws of the Homeowners Association state that the obligation of the HOA “is to safeguard the interests of the members.”

He added, “Apparently Mr. Dunleavy did not take his obligation too seriously if he only considered himself a recreation committee member.”

Mr. Dunleavy’s wife, Marie, said Mr. Dunleavy was asked by the HOA three years ago to talk to the group about town issues and he has done so.

“When they liked what he was saying, it was fine,” Ms. Dunleavy said. “Now, they don’t like what he’s saying, so it’s not fine.”

She said the couple has lived in Foxwood Village retirement community for 13 years and “until this month, there’s never been a political atmosphere here or a problem here.”

She said the residents of Foxwood Village knew all about the Costco development and the pending land clearing.

At the Sept. 16 “Riverhead at a Crossroads” candidate debate at the Suffolk Theatre, Mr. Dunleavy and fellow incumbent Republican council candidate Jodi Giglio were asked if they understood what they were voting for on April 2 when the Town Board voted to approve a clearing permit for the Shops at Riverhead, which abuts Foxwood Village.

The candidates were also asked if they understood the developer had planned to clear 11 or more acres on which there are currently no plans to build anything.

Mr. Dunleavy and Ms. Giglio are in a three-way race with challenger Anthony Coates for the two Republican council nominations, and most of the campaigning thus far had involved Mr. Coates and Ms. Giglio trading barbs.

“The problem I had was this,” Mr. Dunleavy said at the debate. “I belonged to a recreation committee at Foxwoods and they picked a fellow resident to represent the residents of Foxwood. He didn’t really know what was going on. He didn’t ask me any questions. I didn’t want to force his hand. He went to every planning board meeting.”

Mr. Dunleavy, who didn’t identify the resident by name, said the owners of Foxwood Village should have represented the  community at Planning Board meetings about the Shops at Riverhead.

“The recreation committee didn’t want to talk to me at that time because they had this representative going to every meeting,” Mr. Dunleavy continued. “First they wanted an expressway wall, then they wanted a berm, then they wanted a fence.

“They really didn’t know what they wanted.”

Those comments angered Robert Hall, the Foxwood Village resident who’s been attending meetings concerning the Shops at Riverhead development for the past four years.

Mr. Hall was the person Mr. Dunleavy was referring to, Mr. Hall later wrote in a letter to the News-Review.

“He threw Bob Hall under the bus,” Ms. Feldman said Wednesday.

Mr. Hall wrote in his letter to the editor that he wasn’t picked by a committee, he volunteered.

He also said he did seek to contact Mr. Dunleavy in July 2007 and got no response.

Mr. Spina and Ms. Feldman both said the recreation committee that Mr. Dunleavy referred to is not the homeowners association, and only deals with providing recreation for the community and has nothing to do with monitoring planning board meetings.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/23/13 3:00pm
08/23/2013 3:00 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The Saber Riverhead project is under construction on land just east of Riverhead Raceway on Route 58.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The Saber Riverhead project is under construction on land just east of Riverhead Raceway on Route 58.

Just as it was revealed that a Five Guys Burgers and Fries would be coming to Riverhead, issues arose during a Planning Board meeting last week about a promised sound wall at the Route 58 shopping center the popular burger joint will call home.

The main issue with the wall is that — well, so far there is no wall.

Back in October, Saber Riverhead, developer of the 122,000-square-foot shopping center being built on the south side of Route 58, agreed to build a sound wall to prevent construction noise from disturbing residents at the nearby Glenwood Village senior community.

That concession came at the insistence of Glenwood Village owner Brian Stark and several residents , and was part of the project’s site plan approval.

The agreed-upon wall was to cover a 200-foot stretch along the eastern part of Saber’s property and would be about 10- to 12 feet high, according to Saber Riverhead attorney Charles Cuddy of Riverhead.

But 10 months later, with the stores are already under construction, the wall still hasn’t been built.

“If you remember the conversation we had [in October], we wanted the wall up so the neighbors wouldn’t have to live through all this noise,” Planning Board member Ed Densieski told Rick Decola, a representative of developer Martin Berger.

“I was ready with the wall,” Mr. Decola responded. “I was all set to go.”

He said it was Mr. Stark who halted the process, because he wanted a different-looking fence to go up instead.

“What is his official capacity in this?” Mr. Densieski asked.

Planning Board officials then lectured Mr. Decola that it’s the board that dictates the wall, not a neighbor, such as Mr. Stark.

Mr. Decola and Mr. Cuddy explained that the neighbors for whom the wall is being built aren’t complaining about the delay and neither is Mr. Stark.

Mr. Stark, who did not attend the Planning Board meeting, confirmed in a later interview that he had asked for the new design, figuring that it was better to do the wall right, at the expense of a little more time.

“The design we wanted was like a pre-cast fence,” he said. “It was a little nicer aesthetically.”

Mr. Stark also confirmed he hasn’t heard complaints from his residents about noise from the construction of the new shopping center.

“In fact, some residents say the buildings that have gone up have actually helped mitigate noise from the racetrack on Saturday nights,” he said.

Mr. Decola said the wall will be the same dimensions as agreed to in October, but will have a different look.

Mr. Stark said today, Friday, that workers have started on a berm but he didn’t expect the wall to built until September.

Though the Planning Board members voiced concern that the change in the wall’s design was made without their input, they eventually voted to approve an amended site plan for Saber Riverhead by a vote of 4-0, with board member Lyle Wells absent.

The major change to the site plan involved adding the Five Guys restaurant, which will be  located near the front of the shopping center, near a Starbucks. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Christmas Tree Shops, Buffalo Wild Wings, Aldi and Five Below will all be located toward the back.

Buffalo Wild Wings is expected to open in October, with Dick’s and Christmas Tree Shops following in November, Mr. Decola said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/22/13 9:11pm
08/22/2013 9:11 PM
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | South Jamesport resident Larry Simms stated his concerns about Costco Wholesale's request to install lighting fixtures exceeding illumination levels at Thursday's ZBA hearing Thursday.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | South Jamesport resident Larry Simms stating his concerns with a request to side-step the town’s dark skies laws at Thursday’s ZBA meeting.

Facing stiff opposition from neighbors and Riverhead civic leaders, the developers behind the Shops at Riverhead project now being built on Route 58 have withdrawn their request to build lights that are taller and brighter than what’s allowed under town code.

“I know there are many people here tonight to discuss the issue,” Peter Danowski, an attorney for the developers, explained at the start of Thursday night’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, which drew dozens of residents from neighboring communities already incensed with the future shopping center’s land being clear-cut of all its trees and vegetation.

“We will withdraw the application seeking the height variance with regard to poles,” Mr. Danowski said.

The developers were seeking variances from the town’s dark skies code, which would have allowed lights in the shopping center parking lot that were 25 feet high instead of the permitted 16 feet.

Mr. Danowski explained to ZBA members in July that higher lights would mean fewer light poles would be needed, from 165 to 61.

News of the withdrawn variance elicited a round of applause from neighbors and vocal civic leaders.

But some took to the podium in Town Hall to say they were still concerned about the company’s ongoing request to install lighting fixtures exceeding allowed illumination levels under a canopy at a gas station planned for outside the Costco Wholesale anchor store.

“There is simply nothing to justify a variance in this case,” said Larry Simms of South Jamesport. “I’d like to see [the company] comply.”

Jennifer Hartnagel, a senior environmental advocate at Group for the East End, said the company failed to make an argument for any potential hardship that would justify granting the variance.

“I believe safety was shown as the rationale, but it was not elaborated on at all,” Ms. Hartnagel said. “We fully support dark sky compliance ordinances and there’s no reason to grant this variance.”

Dark skies advocates here and elsewhere in the U.S. and Long Island have worked to support educational and legislative efforts to eliminate light pollution.

The ZBA adjourned the gas pumps request until its Sept. 12 meeting.

ryoung@timesreview.com