Town faces $25K fine for sand mine

Riverhead Town will be fined $25,000 for illegally mining sand in Jamesport, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

However, he said the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which brought the charge, has agreed to suspend $10,000 of the fine, meaning the town will have to pay only $15,000. Mr. Walter discussed the issue during last Thursday’s work session, when the board was reviewing resolutions that were to appear on yesterday’s Town Board meeting.

The town also agreed to apply for a mining permit from the DEC, Mr. Walter said.

But a DEC spokeswoman said nothing is final, although her comments came before the Town Board vote on accepting the fine.

“The Department is currently negotiating a settlement with the Town of Riverhead in regards to the mining violations in question,” spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo said by e-mail. “There is currently no signed Order of Consent.”

The DEC issued a notice in October saying the town was in violation of environmental law for having an illegal sand mine off Manor Lane in Jamesport. The site, which was used by town highway workers, was first excavated in the 1970s for drainage, and the town maintained it was permitted to remove up to 750 cubic yards of sand per year from town land without a sand mining permit, as long as the sand was used for roadways. The DEC alleged that more than 1,000 tons of sand had been removed from the site, beginning as early as 2005.

The Jamesport property became an issue in last year’s election for town highway superintendent, with Republicans blaming incumbent Democratic Highway Superintendent George Woodson, who was re-elected, and Democrats accusing Republicans of bringing the matter to the state for political gain.

Town approves $1.9M pass for Resorts

Riverhead Resorts’ request for a 30-day extension on paying $1.9 million it owes Riverhead Town under the terms of its contract was approved by the Town Board yesterday.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio was the only member to oppose the move, which passed 4-1.

Riverhead Resorts’ contract with the town requires them to pay a $1.9 million fee each time it needs an extension to the scheduled closing date on its $108 million purchase of 755 acres of town-owned land in Calverton. That scheduled closing date, which was extended once in December, was May 15.

Riverhead Resorts can buy up to five $1.9 million extensions.

The company is seeking to buy the land from the town in order to build eight themed resorts, including one that’s proposed to have an indoor ski mountain.

Mitch Pally, an attorney for Riverhead Resorts, said they were asking to push the May 15 deadline back 30 days to June 15, by which time the company believes it will have the entire $108 million. The town is hoping money from the Resorts deal will help the town plug a $7 million budget deficit.

Costco gas pumps appear primed for approval

Costco’s request for gas pumps at its proposed Route 58 store appears to have the support of a majority of the Town Board, but how far away the pumps will be from neighbors was still being debated by board members at Town Hall last Thursday.

The developers of the proposed Shops at Riverhead shopping center across from Riverhead Raceway have told the Town Board that Costco, a national wholesale club, would be willing to be a tenant if the board allowed gasoline sales. The gas would be available only to Costco members and would be self-serve. But the property’s Destination Retail Center zoning doesn’t permit warehouse clubs or fuel sales. The Town Board held a public hearing earlier this year on a proposal to make “warehouse clubs or wholesale clubs” a permitted use in the zone, and to permit fueling facilities as an accessory use to warehouse or wholesale clubs, as long as they are at least 300 feet from any residences.

Residents of the Foxwood Village senior housing community to the north of the proposed Costco location submitted a petition with 208 signatures opposing both proposals, and Town Board members subsequently discussed requiring that the pumps be 400 feet from residences.

A conceptual map presented by Peter Danowski, an attorney for the developer, showed the proposed gas pumps to be 1,146 feet from Foxwood Village and 514 feet from Millbrook Community, a residential development to the east of the proposed Costco.

Councilman George Gabrielsen wanted the buffer between residences to be 500 feet. He said “it bothers me” that the proposed gas pumps were moved away from Foxwood Village and closer to Millbrook Community, whose residents, he said, “aren’t as well organized” as those in Foxwood.

Other board members said they could support 400 feet, or possibly 450 feet as a compromise.

Supervisor Sean Walter said he’d like the board to be unanimous on how large the buffer should be before approving the measure.

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