Developer learns late he’ll need state’s OK for outlets

A proposed outlet complex planned for a 4.1-acre parcel in between two sections of Tanger Outlet Center will need state approval because part of it lies within the Peconic River area protected by the state’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, town planning department officials said last Thursday.

The proposed 35,000-square-foot structure could hold about 10 outlet stores, depending on their configuration.

The proposed retail complex would not be owned by, or affiliated with, the Tanger organization. The proposal comes from developer William Dries, who originally proposed two restaurants for the site in 1998 with Anthony Specchio, a business partner who has since died.

Thursday was the first time the town has mentioned that the site falls under the Rivers Act, according to Martin Sendlewski, an architect for the developer. He said on Tuesday that the town had previously granted both a clearing permit and a building permit for the project.

“It’s not a big deal,” he added. “Only a small portion of the project is within the Rivers Act boundaries.”

That portion is located in the southeast corner of the property, where the application calls for a parking lot to be located, Mr. Sendlewski said.

Tanger II, which is directly east of Mr. Dries’ property, was required to get a Rivers Act permit in the mid-1990s, Mr. Sendlewski said.

Town planning director Rick Hanley said Wednesday that the site plan for the outlets was first approved four years ago, and that it has since received several extensions of that approval.

“It’s my recollection that no improvements had previously been shown on the part of the property that’s in the Rivers Act area,” Mr. Hanley said. The Rivers Act regulates only what uses are permitted along the Peconic, but not actual site plans, he said.

Mr. Dries also will need to determine if a stormwater pollution prevention plan has previously been sent to the state for this project, Mr. Hanley said. Those plans used to be regulated by the state, but the state shifted that responsibility to towns about two years ago.

The Rivers Act limits development along the Peconic River. Town officials have blamed it for blocking the economic revitalization of West Main Street. Some developers have said it took them about three years to get a state permit to build in the Rivers Act corridor, even though much of the road is already developed.

The state eased some of the act’s restrictions earlier this year, but the area affected by that change doesn’t include the Dries property.

Town planner Karin Gluth informed the applicants that a Rivers Act permit was needed at last Thursday’s planning board work session.

Mr. Sendlewski and Gary Grob, another agent for the developer, took the news in stride.

“We’re just enjoying the ride,” Mr. Grob told a reporter after the meeting. “We’re working together with everyone to make sure everything is right. We’re dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s.”

Mr. Dries’ original proposal to build restaurants ran into resistance because the adjacent manufacturers outlet overlay zone in which Tanger is located prohibited restaurants. The prohibition was intended to make Tanger customers go elsewhere in town to eat. Mr. Dries’ property was zoned Industrial A at the time, where restaurants were allowed but only with a special permit granted by the Town Board.

The Town Board at the time rejected Mr. Dries’ special permit application. He challenged the decision in court, but the town was upheld.

Mr. Dries came back in 2004 with a proposal to build a warehouse and offices on the property. But the town had just completed its master plan update and changed the zoning to allow only factory outlets on the property.

Mr. Dries later came back with a proposal to build a 35,000-square-foot outlet center on the property, which was approved. But construction was delayed by estate issues arising from Mr. Specchio’s death, and several extensions were granted on the site plan approval. The site was cleared in 2008, but no building has begun.

Mr. Sendlewski said very little has changed in the outlet proposal since it was first submitted, but that the Town Code has undergone extensive changes.

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