TOWN HALL NOTES: Required public hearings for commercial plans?

Riverhead taxpayers can let their feelings known publicly on proposals to build new residential subdivisions, but there is no requirement that the public have its say on planned commercial developments.

But Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter is proposing that site plan applications, which builders and developers file with the town for commercial projects, be required to have public hearings before the town Planning Board.

The Town Board used to have jurisdiction over site plan approvals, but that jurisdiction was moved to the Planning Board several years ago.

Either way, public hearings were never required for site plans unless they required a special permit or zone change.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, during a discussion in Town Hall last week, agreed the supervisor was onto something.

“We’re the only town that doesn’t send out notifications of site plans,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said.


T.S. Haulers was ordered last Tuesday to pay the town $20,509 to cover the costs of the town’s legal fees in defending a federal lawsuit brought by the Calverton-based sand mine company.

T.S. Haulers, which the town maintained was operating a sand mine without the proper permits on Route 25 in Calverton, had filed a federal lawsuit claiming the town was violating its 14th Amendment rights to due process and equal protection by selectively enforcing its laws against T.S. Haulers but not against other similar projects, and its Fifth Amendment rights, claiming the town was illegally taking its land through its actions.

But that case was dismissed in February 2010 and last Tuesday, Judge Sandra Feuerstein ordered T.S. Haulers to pay the town’s legal costs for the lawsuit.
The judge wrote that while it’s rare for legal fees to be awarded in civil rights cases, “this is one of those rare cases where an award of attorneys’ fees is appropriate. The action was the third action commenced by [T.S. Haulers] asserting the same claims.”

Mr. Walter issued a statement Tuesday saying, “This case should serve as a warning to others that repetitive, court-clogging legal actions will not be tolerated.”


Tracy Stark-James will go from being coordinator of the Riverhead/Suffolk County Empire Zone to executive director of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency.

The IDA board on Monday approved hiring her to fill their executive director post, which has been vacant since the board fired Anna Maria Villa last August. Meanwhile, Ms. Stark-James’ job at the Empire Zone may be disappearing, as the state has done away with that program, which provided incentives to lure businesses to certain areas, such as the town’s Calverton Enterprise Park. While businesses that were previously given incentives will continue to receive them until their Empire Zone agreements run out, no new incentives will be given.

The IDA also can provide incentives, such as tax abatements, to lure businesses to Riverhead.

Ms. Stark-James’ salary with the IDA will be $75,000, which is slightly less than the $76,596 she made with the Empire Zone and slightly less than what Ms. Villa was making with the IDA, according to IDA member Paul Thompson.

The Empire Zone salary was paid by Riverhead, Suffolk County, Southampton Town and Babylon Town.

The IDA salary is covered by fees paid by applicants seeking IDA assistance.

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