01/02/14 10:00am
01/02/2014 10:00 AM

liveblog

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to discuss at its work session today the clearing permit for Knightlands, a proposed shopping center in Wading River that has been involved in litigation.

The board also is scheduled to discuss filling a vacancy on the town Planning Board left by the resignation of longtime member Lou Boschetti. In addition, the board plans to discuss a plan to reduce the number of parking spaces the town requires in some developments, and the Hamlet Center zoning district.

The meeting starts at 10 a.m. and News-Review reporter Tim Gannon will be live blogging. Click below to follow or comment and see the full meeting agenda below that.

January 2, 2014 – Agenda by Timesreview

12/21/13 10:00am
12/21/2013 10:00 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Longtime planning board member Lou Bochetti, who will be stepping from his post at the end of this year.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Longtime planning board member Lou Bochetti, who will be stepping from his post at the end of this year.

Longtime Riverhead Planning Board member Lou Bochetti will be stepping from that post at the end of this year.

Mr. Boschetti, who was appointed during the administration of former Supervisor Vinny Villella, has been on the Planning Board for 15 years.

Prior to that, he was a town Councilman from 1982 to 1989 and he made two unsuccessful runs for town supervisor, one as a Conservative candidate in 1987, and one as a Democrat in 1991, even though he was elected to the Town Board as a Republican.

Mr. Boschetti, who works as a real estate broker as well as a consultant in the manufactured housing field, said at Thursday’s meeting that he’d be leaving the board.

He has property Upstate and is moving his business up there, he said.

“We will really miss you and your insight,” said Planning Board vice chairman Joe Baier at Thursday’s meeting, which will likely be Mr. Boschetti’s last, barring a special meeting before the end of the year.

“Lou was a balanced vote,” Planning Board member Ed Deniseski said. “You were fair and honest with everyone.”

It’s uncertain who the Town Board will choose to replace Mr. Boschetti.

Appointments are generally made at the first Town Board meeting of the year in January.

tgannon@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

09/04/13 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

08/09/13 8:00am
08/09/2013 8:00 AM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Excavation at the site of a future Costco on Route 58 stretches up to neighboring homes in Foxwood Village.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Excavation at the site of a future Costco on Route 58 stretches up to neighboring homes in Foxwood Village.

The attorney for the controversial Shops at Riverhead, which will include a Costco Wholesale on Route 58, made the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals an offer Thursday night.

It went like this: approve the developers’ request for taller, fewer lights in the shopping center’s parking lot, and they’ll add 10 feet to a planned buffer between the stores and neighboring homes.

The developers have already angered residents in the adjacent Foxwood Village and Millbrook mobile home parks by clear-cutting nearly all of the trees from the 41-acre site.

Two weeks ago, their attorney, Peter Danowski, came to the ZBA seeking variances from the town’s lighting code that would allow lights in the shopping center that were 25 feet high instead of the permitted 16 feet.

The company also sought to install lighting fixtures exceeding illumination levels under a canopy at a gas station at the planned Costco Wholesale store.

Mr. Danowski said higher lights would enable them to reduce the number of light poles needed from 165 to 61. He said this would produce the same amount of lights and would be an improvement aesthetically and in terms of safety, because less cars would crash into light poles.

Neighbors, meanwhile, have told both the ZBA and the town Planning Board that the current fence dividing the land from neighbors, as well as a proposed vegetative buffer, are not sufficient.

Mr. Danowski’s offer did not change anyone’s mind in the audience Thursday, as numerous speakers urged the ZBA to reject the proposal for taller lights.

“We really feel you should say no to this application,” said Dominique Mendez of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition .

She and other speakers said they believe the applicant’s real motivation for building fewer light poles is simply to save money.

Residents also didn’t buy the logic that fewer poles are needed so drivers won’t crash into them.

“If people hit the poles, it’s because they can’t drive,” said Millbrook resident Diane Barba.

Marylee Feldman presented a petition with more than 200 signatures of residents urging the ZBA to reject Shops at Riverhead’s variance request.

Milbrook resident Chris Knopp asked that the developer put a 12- to 14-foot concrete fence up to shield neighbors from the shopping center.

He also said that Millbrook residents will likely get flooded in heaving rain storms because they are below the grade of the shopping center.

Another Millbrook resident said that since the trees were cleared, they get light and noise from Route 58 coming into their homes.

Shops at Riverhead had received approval from the town Planning Board to clear cut the site, agreeing with the developers that this was needed so they would not have to disturb the area twice if they decided to expand the site in the future, and also saying that it enabled them to avoid importing or exporting material from the site.

While the trees were cleared right to the Foxwoods property line, Shops at Riverhead plans to build a 30-foot vegetative buffer to shield the homes at Foxwood Village from the development.

Mr. Danowski said Thursday that if the ZBA approved the variance on the lighting poles, the developer will build a 40-foot buffer with evergreen trees.

The ZBA took no action on the application and adjourned it to the Aug. 22 meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

tgannon@timesreview.com