2nd Route 58 hotel won’t need to preserve as much farmland

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Excavation work just to the east of the Hilton Garden Inn hotel on Route 58 in Riverhead.

The developer of a second hotel planned for next-door to the Hilton Garden Inn across from Tanger Outlet Center on Route 58 will likely be required to buy less than the 71 farmland preservation development credits he originally needed.

That’s because the Town Board in May 2010 adopted a change in its definition of floor area ratio that excludes things like bathrooms, closets, hallways and foyers.

Developer Lee Browning received approval in 2006 to build two hotels on the property. The first one, a 114-room Hilton Garden Inn, is already built, but the second one, a proposed 137-room Marriott Residence Inn, could only be constructed on that site if Mr. Browning purchased 71 development credits off farmland in the town’s agricultural protection zone.

The transfer of development rights program was intended to preserve farmland through transferring the amount of development that would otherwise have been allowed on a farm to a commercial site deemed more appropriate for development.

Mr. Browning has yet to purchase the rights. The floor area ratio of a project is used in determining how many development rights must be purchased.

That 2010 amendment was actually suggested by Mr. Browning at a Town Board work session during the former supervisor Phil Cardinale’s administration.

He told the prior Town Board in April 2009 that hotels should be treated differently that other commercial properties, such as retail, because so much of their space is used for things other than the hotel rooms, which produce the revenue.

The prior board held a hearing on the plan but never adopted it, and the current Town Board revived the proposal in early 2010, held another hearing, and did adopt it.

At a May 4, 2010 hearing on the proposed change, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said it was being done with the transfer of development rights program in mind.

He said the way floor area ratio was being calculated reduced the potential for commercial uses of farmland development rights in town.

“In other words, you’re transferring development rights for things that they’re not receiving a benefit from,” Mr. Walter said at the 2010 hearing.

The town planning board has not yet calculated how many development rights Mr. Browning would have to buy under the new formula, although Mr. Browning and town officials acknowledge that it would have to be less, since the floor area ratio is now less.

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