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

07/22/2011 8:29 AM |

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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6 Comment

  • If I understand this correctly, the developer, Lee Browning, suggested reducing the amount of space considered revenue producing – a change which benefits him greatly and the rest of the town not so much – and the Town Board agreed? Seems to me that bathrooms, closets, hallways, and foyers should be considered “revenue producing space.” I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking a hotel without them isn’t likely to produce any revenue!

  • Right. We don’t have enough tools now for bypassing the Master Plan…let’s redefine basic terms so developers can do LESS for the community.

    Right. Bathrooms in a hotel shouldn’t count, according to the developer. “The hotel rooms produce the revenue.” Sean Walter says you’re making these guys buy “development rights for things that they’re not receiving a benefit from.”

    Let’s try this: put F.A.R. back where it was, & the developer can build a hotel that LEAVES OUT those pesky things that don’t produce revenue: bathrooms, closets, corridors & lobbies…all those things that the supervisor says don’t deliver a benefit. Then we’ll see whether the hotel is successful.

    It’s dirt simple, folks—if a structure must incorporate amenities to serve its intended purpose, then the area used for those amenities is an integral part of the project & must count against its Floor Area Ratio. Anything else is a gift from the Town Board (like tax breaks to developers who will build anyway), at taxpayer expense.

    Remember this when you vote!

  • Do we REALLY need 2 hotels right next to each other???? and a third a 1/2 mile away? I guess they dont care as they allowed the Lowes to be built across the street from Home Depot. I just dont get it 🙁

  • You might not think they are needed and it might look silly to have such similar places so close to each other. The people putting up the money for these projects have certainly done studies to show that these will be profitable enterprises or else they wouldn’t bother.

  • I hate politicians. They use clever phrases and definitions to get what they want. You don’t have to think too hard to realize that bathrooms and closets count towards the square footage of any structure. Common sense to common people; but I guess politicians can change the rules to fit whatever they want. Nice job Town Board.

  • I cannot believe the short-sightedness of our town board. Sure – reduce the amount of farmland to be preserved. Agritourism is a major contributor to our economy. Keep up the zoning changes and other restrictions and pretty soon there won’t be any farms to visit – or to produce our food…