08/10/13 8:00am
08/10/2013 8:00 AM
Riverhead, Taco Bell, Nathan's Famous, Route 58

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

Can you fit a restaurant on the tiny piece of land between Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue in Riverhead?

A Westhampton man is going to try, and his application will be the subject of a public hearing before the Riverhead Planning Board at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5, in Town Hall.

Chuck Chockalingam of Westhampton bought the 3/10 of an acre parcel just east of Taco Bell from Suffolk County several years ago on a tax default. He’s looking to build a two-story 24-seat restaurant there and was recently granted three property line setback variances by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Mr. Chockalingam said he has not yet picked a tenant for the restaurant.

In 2009, he leased the property to a tenant who applied to build a Nathan’s Famous hot dogs outlet there, but Mr. Chockaligam took that tenant to court to remove him from the project because he was unhappy with the pace of the proposed development.

At the time, the Suffolk County Planning Commission had called the application an “over-intensification” of the property.

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

07/16/13 1:20pm
07/16/2013 1:20 PM
Riverhead Town Board members and representatives from Saber Real Estate Advisors, LLC break ground at the new 119,000 square-foot shopping center on Route 58.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO  |  Riverhead Town Board members and representatives from Saber Real Estate Advisors, LLC break ground at the new 119,000-square-foot shopping center on Route 58.

A Route 58 shopping center that will include Dick’s Sporting Goods, Buffalo Wild Wings and Starbucks is inching closer toward completion later this year.

Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony today to commemorate the construction of the final businesses being built in the 119,000-square-foot Riverhead shopping center.

Representatives from Saber Real Estate Advisors, LLC and members of the Riverhead Town Board, including Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, attended the event.

The shopping center, which is adjacent to the Riverhead Raceway, will house Christmas Tree Shops, ALDI’s and Five Below. Construction is expected to be completed later this year. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Christmas Tree Shops will open in November and the remaining stores will open early next year, a Saber spokesperson said.

Charles Kwon, who owns Buffalo Wild Wings franchises in Suffolk County and Connecticut, said the restaurant’s Riverhead opening will be his sixth overall.

“I’m probably the most excited about this location,” he said. “I anticipate it will be very successful.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

04/15/13 12:21pm
04/15/2013 12:21 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Jamesport Manor Inn restaurant and inn operates in the site of what was a long-vacant Victorian-style house on Manor Lane.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Jamesport Manor Inn restaurant operates in the site of what was once a long-vacant Victorian-style house on Manor Lane.

The Jamesport Manor Inn’s proposal to add a catering hall to its Manor Lane property is back on the town’s agenda.

A state Supreme Court judge last week overturned an earlier court ruling on the case, saying the catering hall application must go back to Riverhead’s Zoning Board of Appeals for a ruling on its merits.

“This is a good thing,” said John Ciarelli, a Manor Inn attorney, told the News-Review. “We’re going to go full speed ahead and try to get this thing resolved finally.”

In 2009, property owners Matt Kar and Frank McVeigh had sought a ZBA ruling challenging town planning director Rick Hanley’s decision that the plans needed a special permit from the Town Board,  in addition to a site plan approval from the Planning Board.

But the ZBA in 2009 denied that application on the grounds that the hearing notice was not properly posted — a move the judge last week called “arbitrary and capricious” — rather than on the merits of the case.

That led to a lawsuit filed by Kar-McVeigh LLC in 2009, which was decided in the inn owners’ favor by state Supreme Court Justice Peter Cohalan in 2010.

Judge Cohalan, in that ruling, ordered the town to process the application. The town appealed that ruling, and in March of 2012, an appeals court overturned Judge Cohalan’s ruling, saying he was wrong in ruling that the town had to process the application before the town’s appeal on the motion to dismiss the case was decided.

The appeals court also rejected the town’s motion to dismiss the case.

This put the case back in state Supreme Court.

Judge Cohalan retired last year, and his replacement, Judge Joseph Farneti, ruled last Tuesday that the whole thing had to go back to the ZBA for a decision on the merits.

He said in his decision that the ZBA determination to reject the application based on the improper hearing notice “lacks a rational basis and is arbitrary and capricious.”

Jamesport Manor Inn had previously received a ZBA ruling from Judge Cohalan in 2007 upholding a 2004 ZBA ruling allowed Kar-McVeigh to have catering, but only in the main building.

That decision pertained to a lawsuit filed by neighbors, which ultimately was decided in Kar-McVeigh’s favor.

But when the inn owners sought permission to build a temporary tent or a permanent 4,000-square-foot barn for catering on the four-acre site that also houses the Jamesport Manor Inn, Mr. Hanley ruled that this would constitute an expansion of a “nonconforming, pre-existing use,” which requires a special permit from the Town Board.

A nonconforming, pre-existing use is one that doesn’t conform with the property’s zoning, but which has existed before zoning.

Mr. Ciarelli said the catering hall is needed for the restaurant and inn to  be economically feasible.

“I don’t think the community is going to feel an impact at all,” he said. “It’s not like the catering use is going to happen every day. It’s a nicely run operation, the property is beautiful and there’s nothing going to happen that will change that. They spent a lot of money trying to restore the building and this is an economic necessity for them.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said he was aware of the court ruling, but deferred to the ZBA.

“It’s a ZBA ruling, so it’s an issue for the ZBA to decide whether they will appeal the ruling or not,” Mr. Walter said.

The Town Board funds the ZBA and appoints its members, but other for that, the ZBA is an autonomous board, he added.

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/13/13 12:00pm
04/13/2013 12:00 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO |  Steve Scerri, vice president of New Beginnings Community Center in Medford,  urges the Riverhead ZBA to approve the group's proposal to build a home for people with traumatic brain injuries on Sound Avenue.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Steve Scerri, vice president of New Beginnings Community Center in Medford, urges the Riverhead ZBA to approve the group’s proposal to build a home for people with traumatic brain injuries on Sound Avenue.

New Beginnings Community Center’s proposal to create a home for victims of traumatic brain injuries in Riverhead needs an interpretation from the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals as to whether it is a permitted use, because town code doesn’t specifically mention that type of facility anywhere.

New Beginnings in Riverhead

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | The New Beginnings Brendan House site on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

Group respresentatives appeared before the ZBA on Thursday, and will have to appear again on April 25, as ZBA members asked for more information about what type of uses were allowed in the large colonial house on Sound Avenue, in which New Beginnings hopes to build.

New Beginnings is looking to convert the vacant house at 4079 Sound Avenue into a facility that will be named Brendon House, after Brendan Aykroyd of Blue Point, who died at the age of 25 from injuries sustained through a traumatic brain injury two years earlier.

Brendan’s parents, Sandra and Marshall Aykroyd, attended Thursday’s ZBA meeting in Riverhead Town Hall.

The group is planning to renovate the building to house four brain-injured patients, either veterans or civilians, New Beginnings vice president, Steve Scerri, explained to ZBA members. The center will be staffed with aides working around the clock to ensure the patients are fed and take their medication, although the aides will work in shifts and not actually live in the home, he said.

New Beginnings also plans to convert a separate building on the property into a home for a “house mother,” who will live in that home and will manage the facility and fill in when an aide can’t make it to work, Mr. Scerri said.

Michael Hubbard, the Riverhead youth who was badly burned by a gel candle explosion in May of 2011 and suffered brain damage after his heart stopped beating for a short time, is expected to live in Brendan House once it opens. Because there is no such facility locally, he has been staying in an upstate hospital with his mother, Nancy Reyer, by his side the whole time sine the accident.

ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone and ZBA members wanted more specifics, particularly about what was on the property before it was donated to New Beginnings, and when was the second building built, and for what purpose.

Mr. Scerri said he didn’t know when the second building was built, although he believes it was at least eight years ago.

Richard Reeve, who owns a farmstead across the street from the proposed center, was also in attendance Thursday night.

He said the second building was originally a shed that was renovated into an apartment by the previous owner about two years ago. He said the shed wasn’t there in 2004. Mr. Reeve said he believes the proposed facility is “good endeavor” but warned the New Beginnings representaties that the building is in the middle of an agricultural area — and that there will be noise.

ZBA member Leroy Barnes said he wanted to see the building department and assessment records for the property before making a decision.

The ZBA adjourned the hearing to their April 25 meeting.

Alysson Scerri, president of New Beginnings and the wife of Steve Scerri, said she got involved in New Beginnings about two years ago, when her father suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident.

“I saw the debilitating effect it has on families,” she told the ZBA members. ”When I work at the center, on a daily basis, I see a lot of parents who struggle with the thought that, if something happens to them, what happens to their loved one?”

New Beginnings Community Center provides office space specifically designated for individuals or groups committed to providing treatment to individuals with traumatic brain injuries and other similar disabilities.

Sandra Aykroyd said her son was blind-sided with a punch in 2009 that severed an artery and left him unconscious with a fractured skull.

He spent 71 days in an upstate hospital, and then continued his rehabilitation in New Beginnings when he came back home. He had been working with the group but still had seizures, never drove a car again and lost his independence.

On June 16, 2012, she said, he died suddenly.

“I can’t say enough about what New Beginnings has done for him and what is has done for us as a family and what it has done for community of survivors of traumatic brain injuries,” she told the ZBA. “It changes lives forever.”

Ms. Aykroyd said the proposed home will give its residents the sense of independence, hope and freedom they lost when they suffered their traumatic brain injuries.

“I thank you for the consideration of this project and I ask that you think about traumatic brain injuries, reach out and find out a little bit about it and look into your hearts before you make a decision,” she told the board.

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/12/13 1:00pm
04/12/2013 1:00 PM
South Jamesport house before ZBA

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Neighbors say replacing this structure with a much larger one on Dunlookin Lane in South Jamesport will impede views and cause adverse flooding affects.

A proposal to replace a South Jamesport bayfront house with one that is more than 5,000 square feet has run into opposition from neighbors.

Karen Caputo is seeking Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals variances to allow the new house on 49 Dunlookin Lane to be five feet higher than zoning allows — and to have a front yard that is only 19 feet from the road, instead of the required 50 feet.

Ms. Caputo bought the house last year for $1.5 million.

But neighbors say the new house will block their view of the water and will potentially increase flooding in a flood-prone area.

They also say the proposed new house will be longer than any building in the neighborhood, including the Jamesport Community Center and the Motel by the Bay.

Ms. Caputo is seeking to replace the existing, one-story house with a new, two-and-a-half story house that will have an attached one-and-a-half story wing to the east, and a two-story garage wing to the west, according to Garrett Strang, her architect.

The house would be build on a two-third acre lot.

Mr. Strang said at Thursday night’s ZBA hearing on the proposal the only reason the proposed house is so long is because the lot isn’t very deep. And, he said, the proposed 19-foot setback is to allow an open-air set of steps to the house.

The height variance is needed because the house sits right on the beach, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued new base flood elevation requirement that requires the first floor of houses in flood zones to be two feet above the base flood elevation, he said. In this case, the base flood elevation is six feet.

But since the existing structure had several inches of flooding during Hurricane Sandy, Mr. Strang said the property owner is proposing the first floor be 11 feet above base flood elevation.

“The difference is what is driving the increased building height, as I must protect my client’s best interests,” Mr. Strang said at the meeting.

Marianne Rufrano, who lives across the street, believes the increased building footprint and higher elevation will lead to more flooding of neighboring properties.

Dunlookin Lane and Second Street in South Jamesport already have problems with flooding, even before Hurricane Sandy, she said.

“We do have excessive flooding with heavy rains and nor’easters that come through that area,” Ms. Rufrano said.

She urged the ZBA members not to make any decisions until they study the impact such a new house would have on the neighborhood.

Mr. Strang said the house must be designed so water flows underneath it, so it may be built on stilts or some other method to raise it.

“If anything, it will help matters a little bit,” he said.

“This is a house that is three times larger than anything here,” said James Hayes, who owns a house nearby. “It will change the character of the neighborhood.”

A letter written to the ZBA by Walter Peters and read by area civic leader Georgette Keller said the new house would be “three-and-a-half times” the size of the longest house on Dunlookin Lane and would be “out of step with the modest and traditional beach homes” there.

“We were worried 15 years ago about the size of the Madonna house, that’s nothing compared to this,” Ms. Keller added, alluding to a house built by Bruce Madonna on Second Street and South Jamesport Avenue.

ZBA member Otto Wittmeier said that of the 5,600 square feet the proposed house measures at, about 1,840 square feet of that is for decks.

Larry Simms, another civic leader, also of Dunlookin Lane, said the length of the roof on the proposed house would be about 156 feet, making it longer than the Motel on the Bay (113 feet) and the George Young Community Center (100 feet).

“We’re going to be walking more than half the length of a football field before we see water again,” Mr .Simms said of passing neighbors. “Anyone that thinks that doesn’t change the character of the entire community, I think, is probably mistaken.”

ZBA member Leroy Barnes, a former town building department head, said that under zoning, Ms. Caputo has a right to build a 5,050-square-foot house, and that the only thing before the ZBA is the variance requests.

As for flooding, he said, “I don’t believe there’s anything you’re going to do about flooding. It’s part of being in that area. It’s a flood zone and it’s going to happen, no matter what.”

ZBA members asked Mr. Strang to come back with more information, such as building elevation drawings. Mr. Strang said he hadn’t done those because he wanted to know first whether the ZBA would allow the proposed variances.

“The intention here is not to become a sore thumb to the neighbors,” Mr. Strang said. “The intention is to be friendly to the neighbors.”

The ZBA adjurned the hearing until April 25.

tgannon@timesreview.com

11/08/12 5:35pm
11/08/2012 5:35 PM
Dick's, Route 58, Riverhead

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | The Dick’s Sporting Good store in Lake Grove.

The Riverhead Planning Board on Thursday voted 4-0 to approve a proposed 122,000-square-foot shopping center on 13 acres adjacent to Riverhead Raceway and Glenwood Village on Route 58.

Rick Decola, a representative for the applicant, Saber Riverhead LLC of Armonk, N.Y. said after the vote that the group hopes to begin construction in February and have the center open by the fall of 2013.

Saber Riverhead principal Martin Berger has said its tenants will inched Dick’s Sporting Goods, Christmas Tree Shops, Buffalo Wild Wings, an ALDI supermarket, Five Below and a Starbucks with a drive-through window.

The applicants are proposing to build a new traffic signal which would be shared with a 271,000-square-foot proposed shopping center on the north side of Route 58 that would have a Costco as its anchor store.

That project, called Shops at Riverhead, was approved by the planning board last month.

Saber Riverhead also agreed to provide cross easements with its neighboring properties, including Maximum Motorsports, the Holiday Inn Express and a 7-Eleven/gas station.

The cross easements would allow traffic to flow between the sites without having to come back on Route 58.

Saber Riverhead also agreed to build a sound wall to block noise from the development from impacting residents at Glenwood Village, and they agreed to eliminate a loading dock that was near homes at the community.

The wall would cover a 200 foot stretch on the east part of Saber’s property, where there are about four homes, according to Charles Cuddy, the attorney for the applicant.

The 13-acre property has previously been owned by Riverhead Park Corps and Larry Oxman and was involved in a protected legal fight after the town accused Riverhead Park and Mr. Oxman of illegally clearing the land and filling in wetlands.

Mr. Oxman eventually won the litigation, but lost the property to foreclose last year.

Planning Board member Lyle Wells, a farmer, left the room during the discussion and vote on Saber Riverhead, which plans to use five development credits transferred from preserved farmland in order to increase the amount of development permitted on the site. Mr. Wells said afterward that he was advised to recuse himself from the discussion and the vote because he may sell development credits from his farm to the applicant.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/09/12 9:26pm
08/09/2012 9:26 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The former Northville School House on Sound Avenue.

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals denied an application by McCarthy’s on the Green to run a microbrewery out of the Old Northville School House on Sound Avenue Thursday night.

Or did they?

The board, which is already one member short because the Town Board has yet to fill a vacancy left the by resignation of Charles Sclafani, had only three voting members on this issue because ZBA member Leroy Barnes recused himself since he dealt with the property when he was the town building department head.

Of the three remaining members, ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin and ZBA member Otto Wittmeier voted in favor of a resolution rejecting the application, while ZBA member Frank Seabrook voted for that resolution, meaning he supports the microbrewery.

In casting his vote, Mr. McLaughlin said the appeal had been denied.

But after the meeting, former town Councilman George Bartunek and former Riverhead school board member Angela DeVito, both of whom had spoken in opposition to the microbrewery, said they believed that unless there is a three-vote majority against the application, it is not necessarily denied.

ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone had left by then, and could not immediately be reached for comment,  and town building and planning administrator Jeff Murphree said he’d have to research the issue.

Either way, it’s not certain if the would-be brewers are still interested.

Applicant George Greene of Wading River said after the meeting, “We have somewhere else we’re looking at, and it’s not in the Town of Riverhead.”

Mr. Greene and Tim McCarthy of Lake Grove, who own McCarthy’s Pub in Centereach, planned to lease space in the school house from its owner, John Reeve Jr., and build a microbrewery there.

They acknowledged that they would not initially be growing the grain and hops needed to make the beer, but would instead purchase it from elsewhere, possibly from East End farms that grow those ingredients.

During the course of about four public hearing on the proposal, representatives from a number of civic and environmental organizations voiced opposition, saying, among other things, that without growing the ingredients on site, the microbrewery couldn’t constitute an agricultural use and would be akin to a tavern, and that allowing it would set a bad precedent on Sound Avenue.

They also said it failed to meet the stringent criteria for a use permit, which the ZBA can grant to projects that don’t meet zoning requirements, so long as they meet a number of difficult criteria showing why permitted uses for the land wouldn’t work.

The application sought, among other things, a ZBA ruling on whether a microbrewery could be considered agricultural production.

John Ciarelli, the attorney for the applicant, said the building had been running into disrepair until Mr. Reeve bought it in 2009 and began fixing it up. But, he said. Mr. Reeve has been unable to find a suitable tenant that conforms with the uses permuted in the agricultural protection zone, in which it is located.

The ZBA decision said they did not feel the proposed use constituted agricultural production, as defined in the town code.

They also rejected the use permit application, stating that “the applicant, based upon the record presented, has failed to demonstrate competent financial evidence the property owner cannot realize a reasonable return for each of the permitted and specially permitted uses in the APZ,” as they must do in order to get a use permit.

The ZBA also rejected their request to convert an existing use that is non-conforming with zoning to another non-conforming use, saying they presented no evidence to show that a non-conforming use legally exists there in the first place.

tgannon@timesreview.com