08/16/12 10:29pm
08/16/2012 10:29 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A Christmas Tree Shops store is part of the proposed shopping center on Route 58 in Riverhead.

A Starbucks coffee shop with a drive-through window, a Dick’s Sporting Goods store and a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant are among the tenants slated for a 121,746-square-foot shopping center proposed on Route 58 in Riverhead.

The stores would be built on a 13-acre parcel which has been the subject of extensive litigation involving its prior owner, Larry Oxman, who has been involved in legal battles with Riverhead Town since being accused of illegally clearing the land in 2004. Mr. Oxman lost the land to foreclosure last year.

The new owner, a company called Saber Riverhead LLC, is based in Armonk, N.Y. and headed by Martin Berger.

Their site plan shows a 45,916-square-foot Dick’s Sporting Goods store, a 36,389-square-foot Christmas Tree Shops store, a 16,495-square-foot ALDI supermarket, an 8,555-square-foot Five Below store, a 6,600-square-foot Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, and an 1,800-square-foot Starbucks, along with two smaller retail spots that have yet to be leased, according to Rick Decola, a representative for the applicant.

Ironically, the founder of ALDI is the brother of the founder of Trader Joe’s, a store that some Riverhead residents had formed a Facebook site to try and lure to Riverhead, without success.

The Saber Riverhead site plan calls for the demolition of a vacant real estate office toward the front of the property, where the Starbucks and a 1,500 retail store are proposed. The other stores would be located toward the back, or south part, of the property.

The applicants are proposing to build a berm on the adjacent Glenwood mobile home park property, in an agreement with the park, to screen the homes there from the development, Mr. Decola said.

The site plan also calls for a traffic light on Route 58 that will link with the proposed entrance of another proposed shopping center on the north side of Route 58.

That shopping center is called The Shops at Riverhead and would feature a Costco Wholesale Warehouse as its lead tenant.

Neither shopping center has town approvals yet.

The Saber Riverhead proposal was discussed at Thursday’s Riverhead Town planning board meeting, where one of the criticisms board members had was with the parking.

“This is a sea of parking,” said planning board chairman Richard O’Dea. “All you see here is parking and everything else is way in the back.”

“It’s like Target and Sports Authority all over again,” said planning board member Lyle Wells.

The site plan shows 596 parking spots, which is actually 30 fewer than what the town code requires. The applicants believe that with shared parking, they only need 350 spaces.

Mr. Decola said they have leases in place with all of the tenants they’ve named and have just two smaller spaces that have yet to be leased.

The planning board took no official action on the proposal, which will be revised to meet some of the suggestions made in a planning department report before coming back to the board. The Suffolk County Planning Commission had recommended a conditional approval of the application in December.

One of their recommendations suggested the town clarify the permitted use in the property’s Business Center zoning, which the commission said permits banks and retail stores but not “shopping centers.”

The county commission also recommended the applicant considering using transfer of development rights, in which applicants can buy development rights off of farmland that the town aims to preserve in order to use those rights to increase the amount of development permitted in a commercial zone.

The applicant is now proposing to buy to purchase about four or five development right credits in order to be built at the square footage proposed. An earlier site plan from the applicant showed only 118,650 square feet of development.

tgannon@timesreview.com