07/19/14 12:00pm
07/19/2014 12:00 PM
Riverhead, Taco Bell, Nathan's Famous, Route 58

A two-story restaurant is being proposed for a sliver of land between the Route 58 Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Riverhead’s smallest proposed restaurant keeps getting smaller and smaller.

Though reducing the size, the number of seats, and the number of parking lots the restaurant can hold hasn’t been enough to get approval from the Riverhead Planning Board.

At least, yet. (more…)

03/21/14 11:08am
03/21/2014 11:08 AM
Chuck Chockalingam suggested that he feels the board was biased against him. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

An application filed by Chuck Chockalingam was rejected on Thursday night. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

A plan to build a 3,200-square-foot restaurant on three-tenths of an acre on Route 58 was rejected by the Riverhead Planning Board Thursday, following a debate in which the applicant implied there was a bias against him, though stopped short of calling it racism.

On a resolution to approve the 24-seat restaurant, the vote was 3-2 against, with board members Ed Densieski, Stan Carey and Lyle Wells opposed, and Richard O’Dea and Joe Baier in favor. The vote on the application — first filed in October of 2012 — had been delayed for several meetings due to a lack of a full board at the last four meetings, and the three board members who voted against the application had all publicly stated their position at prior meetings.

Applicant Chuck Chockalingam, who said he is of Indian descent, suggested that he feels the board was biased against him in a memo to the board asking the board members who opposed the application to “reconsider their votes based not the merits of the application without any prejudice and bias.”

Bill Duffy, the planning board attorney, asked Mr. Chockalingam to specify what he was meant by that.

“Have you received anything from this board that said anything to make you think they’re being prejudiced or biased?” Mr. Duffy asked.

“No, but the indications are leading to that, because following the hearings going over two years, I’ve basically done everything the board has wanted,” Mr. Chockalingam said.

He said every time he meets a requirement the board makes, another one is added on, such as the color of the bricks, the need for windows on the building or a solution to traffic stacking on Harrison Avenue. The lot on which the restaurant is proposed is between Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue.

“You’re alleging some type of prejudice or bias when all they’ve only talked about are site plan issues,” Mr. Duffy said.

Pressed by Mr. Duffy as to whether he was saying the board was prejudiced because of his race, Mr. Chockalingam replied, “I don’t want to.”

Mr. Chockalingam said he felt the board’s vote was pre-determined.

The vote on the application, formally issued by Guddha LLC, was delayed or deadlocked for several months because the board failed to have all five members present for the past four meetings. The outcome was not unexpected, since all of the board members had previously voted, at least once, the same way they voted Thursday at a prior meeting, but those votes never led to a decision because the board lacked five members and never got a three-vote majority one way or the other.

A two-story restaurant is being proposed for a sliver of land between the Route 58 Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

A two-story restaurant is being proposed for a sliver of land between the Route 58 Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Mr. Chockalingam, who acquired the lot from the county in a tax default, said the county Department of Public Works did not oppose the project and only one person opposed the project at the public hearing, and that was Richard Israel, who owns the adjacent property that contained a Taco Bell and an office building.

Town planner Rick Hanley said Mr. Chockalingam’s application failed to meet several parking guidelines which the board has the discretion to waive, but has not done so.

And Planning Board member Lyle Wells said his vote was based on the fact that the lot was too small and was teardrop-shaped.

“I think you’re asking for an over-intensification of the lot,” Mr. Wells said.

Mr. Densieski said Mr. Chockalingam spoke with him about the application several times.

“I think I treated you with utmost respect. I don’t think I biased you in any way,” Mr. Densieski said.

Mr. Carey defended his vote, saying the lot is very small and oddly shaped.

“You’re trying to make a building fit on that piece of property that in my opinion, is going to give the appearance of being out of character for this area,” he said. He also cited the fact that the application doesn’t meet all of the parking guidelines.

Officially, Thursday’s vote constitutes a “no action,” rather than a denial, since it failed to garner three votes on a resolution to approve the application, according to Mr. Duffy.

In order to officially reject the application, the board will have to take up a separate resolution to reject the project, and then approve that resolution, he said.

The Planning Board will likely do that at its next meeting, but in the interim, the applicant also can make changes to try and meet the concerns of the board.

tgannon@timesreview.com

03/14/14 6:00am
03/14/2014 6:00 AM

Seven Republicans, two Conservatives, and a Blank walk into Riverhead Town Hall …

That might sound like the beginning of a bad joke to some, but after the most recent Planning Board appointment, it’s the actual political makeup of Riverhead Town’s planning and zoning boards.

And that’s no joke. (more…)

02/24/14 12:58pm
02/24/2014 12:58 PM
Riverhead, Taco Bell, Nathan's Famous, Route 58

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A two-story restaurant is being proposed for a sliver of land between the Route 58 Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue.

The developer planning to build a 24-seat, 3,200-square foot restaurant on three-tenths of an acre between the Route 58 Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue will have to wait again before the Riverhead Planning Board makes a decision on application.

The Planning Board on Thursday postponed its vote to a future meeting after the board ended in a 2-2 tie, with board member Lyle Wells absent.

At its previous meeting, they postponed the vote for two weeks because newly-appointed member Stan Carey, in his first meeting, wanted to get more information before voting.

And two weeks before that, the vote was postponed the vote because board member Ed Densieski was absent, and the vote ended up tied 2-2.

Mr. Densieski and Mr. Carey both voted against the application on Thursday, while Planning Board chairman Richard O’Dea and vice-chair Joe Baier voted for it.

Mr. Wells, who was absent last Thursday, voted against the application a month ago.

The applicant, Guddha LLC, headed by Chuck Chockalingam of Westhampton Beach, acquired the property in tax default from Suffolk County, and has been trying to develop it with a restaurant for more than eight years.

The property is zoned Business Center, which requires at least a half-acre to build, but Mr. Chockalingam claims that since it’s a single and separate lot that was created in 1950, prior to the advent of zoning, he is permitted to build on it.

Mr. Densieski said he strongly believes in people’s property rights, but added, “Putting a restaurant there is the epitome of poor planning.”

Mr. Carey said he reviewed the site plan and sat in the Walgreens parking for 20 minutes observing traffic at the site, which he said was stacking up on a Saturday morning where the proposed entrance to the restaurant would be.

“I really couldn’t get past how that building was going to fit on that property,” Mr. Carey said in voting against the proposed the restaurant.

tgannon@timesreview.com

02/07/14 11:32am
02/07/2014 11:32 AM
Tim Gannon photo | Clearing at Knightland started this week

Tim Gannon photo | Clearing at Knightland started this week

Clearing has begun on the controversial Knightland project in Wading River, where 32,500 square feet of retail space and a 4,900 square foot restaurant are planned in 24 buildings. It will replace the former Village Beverage store at the corner of Sound Avenue and Route 25A.

(more…)

01/17/14 3:00pm
01/17/2014 3:00 PM
COURTESY PHOTOS | Stairs leading up to Camp DeWolfe before and after Hurricane Sandy.

COURTESY PHOTOS | Stairs leading up to Camp DeWolfe before and after Hurricane Sandy.

Town Planning Board members plan on holding a public hearing on what one town planner called “the largest erosion control project this board has ever looked at,” a plan to bring over 5,000 cubic yards of material to a camp on the Long Island Sound in Wading River.

Following serious storm damage over the past couple of years, Camp DeWolfe in Wading River is proposing to build a 683-foot revetment to stabilize the camp’s Long Island Sound bluff, which had been badly damaged during hurricane Sandy.

To do so, the Christian camp, owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, will need to bring 5,500 cubic yards of material to the site, making 300 trips back and forth along the beach over a 10 day period, according to Joe Hall, an environmental planner for Riverhead Town.

“This is without question, by far the largest erosion control project this board has ever looked at, so it rises to a level of concern unexperienced by this board and myself,” Mr. Hall said at a Planning Board work session to discuss the project on Thursday.

The camp has said it lost more than 40 feet of the bluff it sits on horizontally and 60 feet of bluff vertically in some places, and that this destabilized the plant life higher up on the bluff, which continues to erode. Program Director Emma Tees said on Friday the project is 20 years overdue.

The town is concerned about the effect the heavy trucks carrying that material will have on the roads leading to the beach, on the boat ramp at the town’s Wading River Beach, and on beach access leading to the camp’s bluff, namely because the town and the homeowners just east of the town’s Wading River Beach were recently involved in a lawsuit regarding beach rights. A settlement was reached in which the town agreed to enforce trespassing on those properties landward of the mean high tide mark, which is considered private property.

The lawsuit was filed by several owners of property that front Long Island Sound. They claimed the town was neglecting to enforce rules stating that the portion of the beach landward of the mean high tide mark is private property. The trucks bringing material to the camp site would have to travel past those same homes to get to the camp’s property.

A Nov. 2012 update on the Camp’s website stated: “If you are familiar with Camp DeWolfe, you will know that Benson house, the pool chapel and Lodge 1 were already within 30 feet of the edge of the bluff, a line which grows closer with each rain storm. This past winter a land survey was conducted and determined that within the next five years, camp facilities would be in danger of falling into the Long Island Sound.”

The update said the camp planned to put into place hundreds of five-to-10 ton boulders, anti-erosion control netting, and to follow that by planting native species along the entire toe of the bluff to stabilize it.

Tim Rumph, a landscape architect working on the project for the camp, said they had considered bringing in the rocks by a barge in the Long Island Sound, but ultimately decided on trucking the material.

The camp property has no erosion control protection currently, he said.

Mr. Rumph said he has also recently met with officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and toured the site with them.

“They want us to answer a lot more questions (about things) that were shown on the plans we submitted to them,” Mr. Rumph said. “So we’re beginning a dialogue with them.”

Planning Board vice chairman Joe Baier suggested the board hold a public hearing on the proposal. The board will come up with a date at a later meeting.

“My thought on that is, you’re going to be crossing so many property lines, and because of the settlement, that we should have a public hearing so that at least the landowners that would be passed by (the trucks) could have an opportunity to at least know this may be going on,” Mr. Baier said.

“It would certainly provide notice to these people and they would have a chance to air their concerns and grievances,” Mr. Hall responded.

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/09/14 8:30am
01/09/2014 8:30 AM
MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Hall on Howell Avenue.

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Hall on Howell Avenue.

So, think you can be a Planning Board member?

The town is looking for someone to fill a vacancy on its Planning Board left by the recent retirement of 15-year member Lou Boschetti, who is plans to move upstate and chose not to seek another term.

According to the notice on the town website, applicants must be 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and a town resident and “should demonstrate a background in one of the following disciplines: architecture, historical preservation, urban planning, environmental planning or landscape design.”

The Planning Board meets on the first and third Thursday of each month and members are required to attend yearly training. The pay is $9,000 per year.

Interested applicants should send resumes and cover letters to the Town of Riverhead Personnel Department, 1295 Pulaski St., Riverhead, NY 11901 or fax them to 727-1768.

Supervisor Sean Walter said he plans to leave the position open until the end of January and will have members of the town personnel committee and others review applications and make a recommendation to the Town Board.

01/07/14 2:05pm
01/07/2014 2:05 PM

liveblog

Despite efforts from a local civic organization to halt it, the Riverhead Town Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to issue a land clearing permit for the Knightland shopping center proposed at the intersection of Sound Avenue and Route 25A in Wading River.

The board had planned to vote on a similar resolution in August, despite a court case filed by the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition challenging the town Planning Board’s approval of the project. But a last minute court ruling put that vote on hold.

In December, a state appellate court ruled that the RNPC and others who had brought the lawsuit didn’t have legal standing to sue on the matter, and dismissed the case.

With the lawsuit out of the way, the Town Board discussed the clearing permit briefly at last Thursday’s work session and agreed to issue it.

“I note that my client has paid all of the required site plan fees and the substantial building permit fees, and both a clearing permit and a building permit should now issue,” said Peter Danowski, the attorney for Knightland owner Kenney Barra, in a letter to the Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz on Monday. Mr. Barra also owns the adjacent East Wind Caterers.

Knightland’s plan calls for 32,500 square feet of retail space and a 4,900-square-foot restaurant in a complex comprising 24 small buildings.

RNPC said on its web site that the court ruling dismissed their case “without ever considering the merits of the lawsuit brought on behalf of the community.”

Mr. Danowski said at the work session that his client has paid $23,000 in building fees, but that they are not removing or importing any sand or material and will not have to pay the $2 per cubic yard fee the town charges for excavations or importation of material from construction sites.

The meeting starts at 2 p.m. and New-Review reporter Tim Gannon will be live blogging. Click below to follow or comment, and see the full meeting agenda and resolutions packet below that.

January 7, 2014 – Agenda by Timesreview

January 7, 2014 – Packet by Timesreview