Zoning questions arise in newest Ken Barra building proposal

TIM GANNON PHOTO The site of a proposed shopping center at the corner of Sound Avenue and Route 25A in Wading River.

Much like his controversial Park Road property in Riverhead, the Wading River acreage that catering hall owner Ken Barra plans to develop also was recommended to be rezoned by the town’s master plan consultants in 2002, only to have that recommendation rejected in the adopted master plan.
Dominique Mendez, the co-founder of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Committee, brought this to the Town Board’s attention at its meeting Wednesday. She said there also is a mistake in the adopted master plan, that suggests one zoning but includes text supporting another.
Mr. Barra, owner of East Wind Caterers, recently proposed to build 32,518 square feet of retail in about 30 small buildings, along with a 106-seat “cafeteria-style” restaurant on the triangle of land by the traffic light at Sound Avenue and Route 25A.
Ms. Mendez said the master plan consultant in 2002 recommended that this property be rezoned from commercial to a residential campus zone, which would not permit retail stores.
The draft master plan states, “The existing highway service/commercial zoning near the Parker Road/Sound Avenue intersection is not needed. Stores are already clustered around the Wading River-Manorville intersection and the area’s small population would not be able to support additional retail at Parker Road,” which is another name for this section of Route 25A.
The consultants said professional offices and campus-style multi-family housing would be permitted under their proposed zoning.
But a later draft, as well as the adopted master plan, instead recommends allowing Business CR, which is also called rural neighborhood business, at this site.
The change was explained in a draft version of the master plan as being because “portions of the Route 25A area on the west side of Parker Road are already zoned multi-famiy residential/professional office.”
Despite this, the 2003 master plan recommends the Business CR zoning, but the retains the text from the draft plan that states that the commercial zoning near that intersection is not needed.
Mr. Barra’s proposed shopping center at the intersection of Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive and Sound Avenue also was recommended to be rezoned to a use that would not permit retail by the master plan consultants. That recommendation was later changed in the final master plan, which was adopted by both the Planning Board and the Town Board with the Business CR zoning in place.
When residents complained about the rezoning after Mr. Barra submitted a site plan for a shopping center there, the Town Board rezoned the property back to residential in 2004.
But Mr. Barra sued and won, with the courts upholding his commercial zoning. Residents are now pressing the town and Suffolk County to acquire that property.
Town planning director Rick Hanley said the Wading River property had been zoned for highway business before the master plan.
Town Board members seemed unimpressed with the consultant’s recommendations Tuesday.
“I can’t imagine that they thought that site was suitable for residential,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said.
“I wouldn’t want to see multi-family homes there,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. The property was originally zoned for business and it stayed zoned for business, Mr. Walter said.
“This mistake was not under your watch but you are accountable for how the town proceeds on this issue,” Ms. Mendez said. “I hope you correct this mistake and change the zoning.”
Mr. Barra could not be immediately reached for comment.
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