Costco developer fees won’t be used to widen Route 58

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Route 58, just east of Ostrander Avenue, where two lanes merge to one heading east.

The county Legislature on Tuesday voted to apply $1.95 million in impact mitigation fees — paid from the developer of a proposed Costco shopping center on Route 58 — to paying down debt service on the work already done to widen Route 58, rather than extending the widening of the busy thoroughfare farther east.

Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), whose district encompasses the North Fork, had supported using the money to extend the two-lane portion of the road as far east as the Route 25/Doctors Path intersection, and the Legislature had unanimously voted to do that in February.

But County Executive Steve Levy vetoed that bill and had proposed an alternate bill to use the money to pay down debt service on the Route 58 project, which wrapped up last Labor Day and included replacing the old Roanoake/Route 58 roundabout with a two-lane traffic circle.

The fees were paid by the developer of the proposed Shops at Riverhead, a large shopping center on the site of the former Hazeltine property on Route 58, across from Riverhead Raceway. The project is proposed to have a Costco Wholesale Warehouse and other stores.

That alternate, Levy-sponsored bill was unanimously approved Tuesday night, with even Mr. Romaine voting in support of it.

“I didn’t oppose it because using the money to pay down debt service is a good idea, but I want to use the impact money from these other projects for widening the road,” he said.

Mr. Romaine said he hopes that similar impact fee payments from the proposed Lowe’s and Super Walmart projects on Route 58 can be used for the continued widening of the road.

In his veto message, Mr. Levy acknowledged that the road widening was originally intended to extend as far east as Doctors Path, but that was at a time when it was assumed that federal money would be obtained for the project. The original project was expected to cost about $70 million and the redesigned project, which he said never was proposed to extend as far east as Doctors Path, cost only about $12 million.

Mr. Levy had opposed the use of the impact fees to further widen the road based on a legal opinion from the county’s bond counsel that said this money can only be used to retire debt on the project and cannot be rolled into a new project.

But, believing the bond counsel to be wrong, Mr. Romaine said the legal opinion referred to projects using state or federal grant money, and the Rout 58 widening did not use state or federal money.

He’s asserting that the incoming fees could be used for construction.

Mr. Romaine said he also hopes the state will eventually agree to widen the road all the way to its intersection with County Road 105. The road technically becomes state Route 25 east of the Doctors Path intersection.

Mr. Levy said the 2011 budget also anticipates the use of the $1.9 million to retire debt and that without his veto, there would be a $1.9 million hole in the budget.

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