Costco plans will go to the county

05/06/2010 12:00 AM |

A proposal to allow fuel pumps at a Costco under consideration for Route 58 appears to have the support of a majority of the Riverhead Town Board, but it first needs the approval of the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

Despite opposition from some neighboring residents at a recent public hearing, the Town Board appears to be leaning toward allowing the pumps, though they would have to be farther away from homes than originally proposed.

Board members at first considered approving a revised plan to require gas pumps to be 400 feet away from residences at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, but then learned that the proposal was required to go before the county commission.

The commission can either recommend something, rule that it’s a matter for the town to decide, or it can recommend denial. If a denial is recommended, four of the five Town Board members must vote to override the county, instead of the usual three.

And whether the Town Board could compile that many votes remains to be seen, as three board members have told the News-Review they’ll vote in favor, one would vote against and Councilman John Dunleavy said he’s on the fence, “but leaning towards no.”

“I would love to get Costco without the tanks,” he said. “There’s no others on Long Island that have it. But I’m looking at what impact that would have on the community, what kind of a discounts on gasoline people would get. I have to keep talking to my constituents. So far, some love it, some don’t care and some who live nearby don’t want Costco there at all.”

The developers of the proposed Shops at Riverhead shopping center on Route 58 have told the Town Board that Costco, a national wholesale club, would be willing to be a tenant in that development if the Town Board would allow gasoline sales. The gas would be available only to Costco members and would be self-serve.

Currently, warehouse or wholesale clubs like Costco are not listed as a permitted use in the Destination Retail Center zone in which the proposed shopping center is located, nor are gasoline fueling facilities.

So the Town Board held a hearing on a proposal that would make “warehouse clubs or wholesale clubs” a permitted use in the DRC zone, and also would permit fueling facilities as an accessory use to warehouse or wholesale clubs, so long as they are at least 300 feet from residences.

Residents from the neighboring Foxwood Village community submitted a petition with 208 signatures in opposition to both proposals.

Town Board members last Thursday originally discussed expanding the required buffer between the gas pumps and the nearest residences to 500 feet, instead of 300 feet.

“That wouldn’t kill the project, making it 500 feet?” Councilman Jim Wooten asked.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said it wouldn’t kill the project, but Supervisor Sean Walter suggested instead making the requirement 400 feet.

“That way, it sort of accommodates what the neighbors were saying, that maybe 300 is too close,” Mr. Walter said. “I know some people didn’t want it and I know some people wanted 1,000 feet. But this is one of those resolutions that I view as a job-creating resolution, and a tax base-building resolution.”

Mr. Walter, Mr. Wooten and Ms. Giglio have all stated their support for the proposal, while Councilman George Gabrielsen plans to vote against allowing gas pumps.

During the April 20 hearing, Peter Danowski, an attorney for the applicant, said the application had been redesigned to move the proposed Costco farther away from the homes in Foxwood Village.

A conceptual map he presented to the board showed the proposed gas pumps to be 1,146 feet from Foxwood Village, which is north of the project, and 514 feet from Millbrook Community, a residential development to the east of the proposed Costco, which is now proposed to be located just north of Riverhead Auto Mall.

The map did not address the location of any other stores proposed for the Shops at Riverhead.

Robert Hall, one Foxwood Village resident who spoke in opposition to the proposal, said Monday that a 400-foot buffer is still too close, but that if the developer can keep the gas pumps 1,146 feet from homes, he personally would not be opposed.

But he reiterated his displeasure that the developers had never responded to residents concerned about the project two years ago.

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