03/27/14 7:00pm
03/27/2014 7:00 PM
The site of the Costco/Shops at Riverhead plaza on Route 58. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The site of the Costco/Shops at Riverhead plaza on Route 58 on Thursday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The developers of the Costco/Shops at Riverhead development on Route 58 have been issued a stop work order barring them from taking sand on or off the site, according to Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz.

“There’s an allegation that they were exporting sand, as seen by code enforcement officer Richard Downs on Tuesday,” Mr. Kozakiewicz said.

(more…)

11/06/13 9:00am
11/06/2013 9:00 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | A fence and vegetative berm bordering Foxwoods Village.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A fence and vegetative berm bordering Foxwoods Village.

To the relief of some, construction has started on a vegetative berm and buffer abutting homes in Foxwood Village, on the northern end of The Shops at Riverhead, where nearby residents have been infuriated by the clear cutting of 41 acres of trees at the proposed shopping center, saying it increases dust and noise at their properties and creates security concerns.

While the town Planning Board had threatened to pull the permits on the Route 58 project as a result of the original berm plans, they were never revoked after recent changes were made to the board’s satisfaction.

Jeff Murphree, the town planning and building administrator, said the new information submitted by the developer “clarifies” the previous information.

An evergreen buffer and fence also is planned along part of the eastern boundary of the property, near the Millbrook Community, a mobile home park on Mill Road, officials have said.

The berm under construction is about four feet high and has evergreen trees being planted on top of it that are about eight feet high. Additional trees are proposed. There also is a six foot wooden fence along the property line with Foxwood Village; however, residents there have called it inadequate.

Residents have also questioned why the developer needed to cut down all the trees near their homes in the first place, since there is no building planned in that area in the approved site plan.

Peter Danowski, the attorney for the project – which will feature a Costco Warehouse as its anchor tenant – has said the project is a “balanced cut and fill,” whereby no sand would be imported or exported from the site, but would instead be moved around to regrade the land.

He said that once the berm and buffer are constructed, residents will be happy with it.

“In certain parts, it’s good,” said Marylee Feldman, president of the Foxwood Village Homeowners Association, which has been critical of the plans. “For some of the residents, it’s good. It’s fine, because it’s way higher than the fence. Once they put the trees on, it will be very good if they space them correctly.”

However, she said the trees won’t provide an adequate buffer if they’re not spaced correctly.

Robert Hall, a Foxwood Village resident who has monitored Planning Board meetings on the Shops at Riverhead application for the past four years, says he believes the trees that are being planted are too far apart to provide adequate screening, and are too small.

Foxwood Village residents still plan to go back to the Planning Board on Nov. 7 to ask for a better fence.

“I think this one will fall down by itself. It’s very rickety and not constructed properly,” Ms. Feldman said.

Residents have questioned the need to cut all the trees that were there initially, saying the “balanced cut and fill approach” was merely intended to save money for the developer.

“Some questions will never get answered,” Ms. Feldman said. “I just hope it’s okay” in the long run, she said.

Following the negative reaction to the project’s clear cutting, the Riverhead Town Board last week adopted new regulations that would require large commercial projects adjacent to residences to retain 50-foot natural buffers, or to construct a 50-foot vegetative buffer if one doesn’t exist naturally.

Supervisor Sean Walter said that requirement will apply to Shops at Riverhead only if the developer attempts to build more stores in the northern part of the property.

The Shops at Riverhead, which is now owned by Brixmor Property Group of New York, would be required to buy transferred farmland development rights in order to be able to build any more than what is currently proposed.

tgannon@timesreview.com

10/17/13 7:00am
10/17/2013 7:00 AM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Excavation at the site of a future Costco on Route 58.

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

To the editor:

There certainly should have been more consideration afforded the adjacent community by the contractor of the Shops at Riverhead. I fully support the protesters for the lack of local workers — both union and non-union.

Jobs should be a primary consideration in approving any major construction.

However, the protesting politicians who are against the coming of Costco, and view it as an issue to hang their hats on, are in for an unpleasant surprise. Everyone I have spoken to has only one major complaint: “What’s taking so long to open? We can’t wait!”

And all reports indicate Costco pays relatively excellent pay and benefits, while also offering a realistic path to advancement. Sounds like a great addition to Riverhead.

Ed Goldstein, Baiting Hollow

10/11/13 4:29pm
10/11/2013 4:29 PM
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.

The Riverhead Town Planning Board has scheduled a special meeting Tuesday to “review and possibly take action on The Shops at Riverhead site plan.”

The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. in Town Hall.

The Shops at Riverhead is the proposed 271,000 square foot shopping center on the north side of Route 58, across from Riverhead Raceway, which drew a protest last week from more than one group of gatherers.

The project, which will feature a Costco Warehouse store as its anchor, has run into complaints from neighbors because the developer clear cut all the trees on the site right up to their property line, though the work was done with the approval of the Town Board and Planning Board.

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The Shops at Riverhead has also drawn complaints from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 138, 138A, 138B & 138C, which says the developer is using out of state, non-union labor. They have been picketing outside the site for weeks, and have three large inflatable rats along the road in front of the property.

The Planning Board recently has threatened to revoke the building permits issued to Shops at Riverhead because it stated that a berm constructed along the property line was not property engineered. To date, however, they have not done so, but assistant town attorney Bill Duffy said that is a possibility for Tuesday.

Ali Moayeri, Costco’s senior vice president for construction, said in an interview on Wednesday that the clearing of the property and the design for the berm had nothing to do with Costco. He said the overall developer of the site, Brixmor Property Group, handled that.

Mr. Moayeri said Costco had to wait for Brixmor to do clearing and grading and installation of utilities before they could even get onto their store’s foundation on site, which they did about two weeks ago.

Costco has purchased its foundation on the site.

Mr. Moayeri said Brixmor hired non-union labor for that part of the job and the unions immediately began picketing outside the site and blaming Costco.

He said Costco had a union contract signed and ready to go with Whiting-Turner, a contractor they have used on many projects.

However, when the unions continued picking this and other Costco sites and stores, Costco “felt like we were being punished for trying to do the right thing.”

He said Costco then rebid the job “open shop,” which means both union and non-union contractors could compete.

Whiting-Turner ended up backing out because they couldn’t match those prices, Mr. Moayeri said, and T.D. Farrell of Georgia was selected.

Mr. Moayeri said they have some union contractors on the site, though most are non-union. The sub-contractors hired by T.D. Farrell include both union and non-union, he said.

Mr. Moayeri said regardless of whether contractors are union or non-union, Costco has a policy that all workers on its construction jobs be paid fair market wages, as determined by the federal Davis-Bacon Act.

Representatives of Brixmor have yet to respond to several requests for comment.

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

09/12/13 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