02/22/14 2:00pm
02/22/2014 2:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Neighbors have been complaining about noise and ground shaking near Gershow Recycling on Hubbard Avenue.

Neighbors have complained about noise and ground shaking near Gershow Recycling on Hubbard Avenue. (Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

Neighbors concerned about noise from Gershow Recycling’s Hubbard Avenue facility will get the chance to make some noise of their own April 3.  (more…)

02/21/14 12:00pm
02/21/2014 12:00 PM

A proposed off-site parking lot on Swezey Avenue for Farm Country Kitchen will first require a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. (Barbaraellen Koch photo)

Farm Country Kitchen’s proposed site plan with off-site parking will not be approved by the Riverhead Town Planning Board unless it first gets a variance from the town Zoning Board of Appeals, board members said at Thursday’s Planning Board meeting.  (more…)

10/17/13 2:09pm
10/17/2013 2:09 PM

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | A customer eats a burger at the Five Guys location in Huntington. For now, the closest Five Guys to Riverhead is in Port Jefferson Station.

Sorry, burger lovers: Five Guys Burgers and Fries has reportedly backed out of plans to open a franchise on Route 58 in Riverhead.

Riverhead Town planning and building administrator Jeff Muphree said Oct. 16 that the popular fast-food joint “changed their mind” about opening a store in Riverhead just one day after the planning board approved an amended site plan for them in August.

“They didn’t give a reason,” Mr. Murphree said of the change.

The Five Guys was originally set to be located near the front of the Saber Riverhead shopping center, which is currently being constructed on Route 58, just east of Riverhead Raceway. It was to join Starbucks, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Buffalo Wild Wings, Christmas Tree Shops and Five Below, a representative of the developer said in August.

Mr. Murphree said The Vitamin Shoppe is expected to fill the space Five Guys was originally set to occupy.

Multiple attempts to reach Rich Decola, a representative for Saber Riverhead, were unsuccessful, and a Five Guys company spokesperson did not return repeated phone calls. Charles Cuddy, the Riverhead attorney representing Five Guys, could also not be reached.

Currently, the nearest Five Guys location is in Port Jefferson Station. The chain has doubled its number of stores to more than 1,000 open in the U.S. and Canada, according to a 2012 article published on Forbes.com. And it has more than 1,500 additional locations in the pipeline, making it the fastest growing burger chain in the U.S., according to the Forbes article.

ryoung@timesreview.com

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

10/03/13 8:37pm
10/03/2013 8:37 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Pat Tuccio hopes to convert this vacant building on West Main Street in Riverhead into a restaurant called Simple Table.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Property manager Tom Mielnicki of Riverhead hopes to convert this vacant building on West Main Street in Riverhead into a restaurant called Simple Table.

A new restaurant is in the works for West Main Street in Riverhead and the hope is that it opens in May.

The Riverhead Planning Board held a public hearing Thursday night on plans for Simple Table, a proposed 40-seat eatery that Riverhead property manager Tom Mielnicki hopes to create in a vacant building at 305 West Main Street that last housed an auto shop about eight years ago.

“It’s about trying to do something positive with that part of town,” Mr. Mielnicki said of his plans.

Mr. Mielnicki, who is also vice president of the Polish Town Civic Association, said he will serve as executive chef. His daughter, a culinary student, will also work at the eatery, which he said will offer comfort food — served family-style.

Mr. Mielnicki said he also plans to build an outdoor patio with outdoor seating.

In an interview after the Planning Board meeting, Mr. Mielnicki said he purchased the property from Pat Tuccio for $243,000 in June. The property, which is a third of an acre, includes three buildings, including the space for the proposed restaurant. One of the smaller structures on the property is currently used as an office, Mr. Mielnicki said.

Mr. Mielnicki said he plans to build a small addition to combine two buildings that are just eight inches apart from each other, giving the restaurant a total square footage of roughly 2,300 square feet, with the a third building remaining free standing.

Sixteen gravel parking spaces will also be added, he said.

Lisa Cuomo, Mr. Mielnicki’s business partner, said Simple Table will offer reasonably-priced meals, something she said is “kind of lacking right now in downtown Riverhead, from a family’s standpoint.”

“We’re hoping we get the approval to go forward with this because it’s something that could be beneficial and encourage foot traffic,” she said.

The property is located west of the existing Citibank building.

ryoung@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

08/16/13 8:00am
08/16/2013 8:00 AM

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | The site of the Knightland shopping center at the corner of Sound Avenue and Route 25A. Village Beverage has since moved.

The Riverhead Town Board appears ready to grant an excavation permit that will pave the way for the construction of Knightland, the controversial retail center planned for the intersection of Route 25A and Sound Avenue in Wading River.

Board members discussed the plan briefly at last Thursday’s work session and informally agreed to issue the permit at the upcoming Town Board meeting — despite the fact that there is still an active lawsuit challenging Knightland’s site plan approvals.

That suit is currently in the appellate division of the courts, after the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, which challenged the town’s initial approvals, appealed a state Supreme Court ruling dismissing their original case, according to town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz.

The courts have not issued any orders preventing the development from moving forward while the case is being appealed, and have rejected a request to issue one, he said.

“The risk, if there is any, is on [Knightland principal] Kenney Barra,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. “The litigants had applied for a temporary restraining order and were denied, so there is no prohibition against us issuing the permit, and the developer could actually go to court and force us to issue the permit.

“If the developer begins construction and then loses the lawsuit, then Kenney Barra has a problem.”

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | A model, presented in 2011, of the Knightland development planned for Wading River.

Peter Danowski, the attorney for Mr. Barra who’s been asking the town since March to issue an excavation permit for the project, said he didn’t think it was risky to proceed with the development while the appeal is still pending.

“It’s risky to invest in projects in an economy that’s not great, but these investments hopefully will increase the tax base in the town,” Mr. Danowski said.

Mr. Walter said he liked the site plan Mr. Barra has submitted and doesn’t think it will clear-cut all the trees on the parcel, as several developers have done recently on Route 58.

“Kenney Barra does a nice job with landscaping,” Mr. Walter said. “There’s a couple of pretty dense tree buffers proposed in several locations and there’s a natural tree buffer around Sound Avenue and he does a beautiful job of dressing up East Wind Caterers,” which Mr. Barra owns.

“When you’re driving along Sound Avenue, you don’t even notice that East Wind is there,” Mr. Walter said.

“When he does something, he does it right,” Councilman John Dunleavy said of Mr. Barra.

The triangular-shaped property for which the shopping center is proposed had been rented to a beverage store.

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

Knightland LLC received site plan approval from the Riverhead Planning Board on Dec. 15, 2011. Members of the nonprofit Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition filed a lawsuit challenging that approval the following day.

The lawsuit claimed the project didn’t comply with the zoning for the property and that the town failed to consider the cumulative impacts of this project along with other development proposals in the area.

State Supreme Court Justice Hector LaSalle dismissed the case in April 2012 on the grounds that the nonprofit and the three residents who joined its lawsuit as individuals all lacked “standing” to bring the action and failed to show how they would be negatively affected by the development.

The Town Board declined to include Knightland in the Route 25A planning study it initiated two years ago because of the lawsuit.

“Once the Town Board refused to intervene and the Planning Board approved this tourist mall — despite state environmental law and the zoning — and then the litigation process became protracted, this clearing permit became fairly inevitable,” said RNPC president Dominique Mendez. “It’s how the process works and it works especially well for developers.

“I certainly hope that Mr. Barra does not tear down these woods without having first attained his financing and securing his tenants, otherwise all the community may be left with is a wide swath of stripped land at the start of the Sound Avenue historic rural corridor,” she said.

The Town Board recently made code revisions that require developers to obtain a building permit before a clearing permit can be issued. The changes were made after several town officials came under criticism when a handful of Route 58 developers got the OK to clear-cut land before acquiring building permits. Town planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree said the building permits for Knightland are ready to be issued. Mr. Walter said he anticipates the excavating and building permits will be issued simultaneously.

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/17/13 4:00pm
07/17/2013 4:00 PM
Sean Walter of Riverhead

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter (right) says elected officials should not serve on political parties’ executive committees.

Riverhead Town has a law in place prohibiting appointed members of boards such as the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals from serving on political parties’ executive committees.

But Supervisor Sean Walter says he plans to introduce legislation expanding that prohibition to include elected officials as well.

The supervisor unveiled his proposal at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, when board members presented a plaque to Marge Acevedo for her 25 years on the Board of Assessment Review.

Ms. Acevedo stepped down from that board earlier this year after she was named chair of the Riverhead Democratic committee. Mr. Walter said Brookhaven Town already has a law prohibiting elected officials from holding positions on the executive boards of political party committees, such as committee chair or vice chair.

The only current elected official in Riverhead who would be affected by the proposal is assessor Mason Haas, who is vice chair of the town Republican committee and is expected to take over as chairman later this year.

Mr. Walter, also a Republican, said he plans to discuss his proposal with the Town Board at Thursday’s work session.

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/06/13 7:00am
04/06/2013 7:00 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Bob Oleksiak of Baiting Hollow stands at the edge of his Silver Beech Lane property, about 90 feet from where Baiting Hollow Scout Camp officials are proposing to build a rope climbing course for youths.

Bob and Mary Oleksiak imagine that in the near future, the quiet and comfortable moments they’ve come to enjoy together in their backyard, which Ms. Oleksiak calls her “little piece of heaven,” will be interrupted by the constant noise of screaming kids.

Boy Scouts, to be exact.

The Oleksiaks and their immediate neighbors in Baiting Hollow are up in arms over plans to install a COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) course at the adjacent Baiting Hollow Scout Camp off Sound Avenue, owned by the Suffolk County Boy Scouts. The neighbors insist the course structures should be placed somewhere else on the 90-acre camp property — not immediately behind their yards.

A COPE course is a series of rope and high-wire climbing challenges designed to meet Boy Scouts of American standards, according to the COPE Course website. The site says COPE programs are based on attaining seven goals outlined by the Boy Scouts of America: teamwork, communication, trust, leadership, decision making, problem solving and self-esteem.

At a recent Riverhead Town Planning Board meeting, Baiting Hollow camp director Jim Grimaldi described the proposed course as requiring the installation of twelve 35-foot-high telephone poles on property east of a pond called Fresh Pond. He said the location is in “the farthest east part of our property.”

He later told the News-Review it’s the only viable spot on the property for the course, considering the land is flat in that area.

But that puts it within sight of the neighbors, making for some contentious exchanges before an auger has even hit the ground.

“I tried to make an attempt at explaining to the neighbors what a COPE course was, but I don’t take well to being threatened and cursed at, so we stopped the conversation,” Mr. Grimaldi told the Planning Board.

For his part, Mr. Oleksiak denied that he ever cursed at Mr. Grimaldi, though he said in an interview that Mr. Grimaldi had called the police on him for trespassing during one of his regular strolls through the neighboring camp.

According to tax maps, six properties abut the camp land. Mr. Oleksiak said there are markers in place indicating where the course would go and that the markers are only about 99 feet from his backyard. The land is currently woods and some trees will have to be cut down to build the course.

“Why are they putting it here when they have so much land elsewhere that they could put it?” Mr. Oleksiak asked Friday. “This is going to affect 25 homes on Silver Beech Lane. All you’re going to hear is noise.”

“They’re taking away my little piece of heaven,” lamented Ms. Oleksiak, who is battling cancer.

“I can’t sell my home now because the taxes are too high; I’m paying $19,000 in taxes,” said Annmarie Schreiber, who would also have the course running along her backyard. “Now they are going to put a thing like this up and make it a commercial area? I’ll never be able to sell my house. Are they going to charge only $1,000 in taxes? Because that’s what the house is going to be worth.”

Other neighbors also complained to the News-Review.

“The Oleksiaks are going to be exposed to this in their backyard,” said George Bartunek, a former town councilman who lives in the area. “The opinion here is that this is something that could be placed elsewhere to keep it more distant from everybody in the neighborhood.”

The Planning Board has scheduled a hearing on the proposal, which also calls for construction of an archery pavilion farther east on the scout property, on Thursday, April 18, at 3 p.m.

Mr. Oleksiak said he is asking the town to change the hearing to a night meeting because many people can’t attend in the daytime.

The camp director said the land’s terrain is what’s dictating the proposed placement of the course.

“It’s a large piece of property and we’ve been there for a long time, this is our 87th year, but we don’t have a lot of flat property,” Mr. Grimaldi said in an interview Tuesday. “To do the course and to do it safely, you have to have some flat property. There is no other place for it.”

He said the state Department of Environmental Conservation is allowing the group to cut down up to six trees but is requiring them to plant four new trees for every one they cut down.

As for the neighbors’ concerns about noise, Mr. Grimaldi said the COPE course will generally be used by only about a dozen scouts, and maybe two instructors, at a time.

“It’s meant for small groups,” he said. “It’s not like you’re building a football field or something like that.”

Mr. Grimaldi said the tallest pole is 35 feet and no poles are taller than the trees, so the course will blend in with its surroundings.

“You will have to look for it and know that it’s there in order to find it,” he said. “It’s in the middle of the trees and it’s a dozen telephone poles with wires hanging in between them and challenges hanging on those wires.”

He also promised there would be at least a 100-foot buffer between anything the camp builds and the nearest property line, not the 90 feet Mr. Oleksiak counted.

Mr. Oleksiak and his neighbors are also concerned about how the course would be secured when it’s not in use, and whether camp officials plan to build a fence or have lights or surveillance around the course.

Mr. Grimaldi explained to the News-Review that ladders are used to get to the elements of the course and that when the course is not in use, the ladders are not there and there is no way to access the various climbing elements, as they are called.

“There is nothing you can climb on from the ground,” he said.

The Boy Scouts also plan to bring local schools or youth groups to the site, Mr. Grimaldi said, though in those cases a Boy Scouts representative will always be on hand to supervise activity.

“We will always be running the course,” he said. “When we are not there and we’re not running the course, there is no way to access it.”

An archery pavilion is also planned for the property, which involves building an open-air roof over an existing archery range toward the west part of the scout property.

“The fact that the camp has existed for 87 years and we’ve really been free of complaints from our neighbors for 87 years … that record, in itself, should stand for something,” Mr. Grimaldi said. “I think we’ve been pretty good neighbors for 87 years and we’ll continue to be good neighbors for the next 87 years.”

tgannon@timesreview.com