Town Hall Notes: Town to foot bill to maintain Lowe’s traffic light

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO| A traffic light will be installed at the Route 58 entrance to the new Lowe's in Riverhead.

The Town Board also approved a resolution Tuesday to fund all maintenance on a new traffic light at the Route 58 entrance to the new Lowe’s, which is nearing completion. Lowe’s is paying to construct the traffic light.

The light will be aligned with the easternmost entrance to Riverhead Centre, which will be redesigned so it can be used by both eastbound and westbound traffic.

While there are already several traffic lights on this section of Route 58, Lowe’s had threatened to drop the Riverhead project last year after the county Department of Public Works rejected its light application.

The Town Board specifically drafted a resolution urging the county to permit the light, and the county Legislature overrode the DPW ruling and allowed the new traffic light.
Still, Town Board members this week complained about the fact that the town has to maintain traffic lights on county roads.

“It’s amazing that we have to pay for a traffic light on a county road,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

2012 budget approved by default

Barring some last minute change, it looks like the tentative 2012 Riverhead Town Budget presented by Supervisor Sean Walter in late September will be approved with no changes.

The Town Board did not have a resolution on its agenda Tuesday night to adopt the budget, nor have board members raised any complaints about — or suggested any changes to — the supervisor’s budget.

Under state law, towns must adopt a final budget by Nov. 20, which falls on a Saturday this year. If there is no vote to adopt or change the proposed budget that went to public hearing, it will automatically become the final budget.

As it stands now, the $51.6 million proposed budget would increase the townwide tax rate by 2.36 percent, spending by 3.3 percent, and the tax levy (the total amount of taxes collected) by 2.86 percent.

The budget is permitted to exceed the state’s new two-percent tax cap because it meets permitted exceptions for costs associated with pension increases and new building in the town.

Hotel can buy fewer development rights

Browning Hotel Properties on Route 58 won’t have to buy as many farmland development rights credits as originally required to build a second hotel next to the existing Hilton Garden Inn. The Town Board made that official Tuesday night, despite concerns raised by representatives of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

Under the town’s transfer of development rights program, developers can buy development rights credits from farmland that is slated for preservation in the agricultural protection zone (APZ), located mostly along Sound Avenue. Those credits can then be used to increase the amount of development permitted in commercial or industrial zones that the town has deemed to be TDR receiving areas, such as Route 58.

In 2006, developer Lee Browning received approval to build two hotels on his seven-acre Route 58 property. The first is the existing Hilton Garden Inn, but the second, a proposed 137-room Marriott Residence Inn, could only be constructed on that site if Mr. Browning purchased 71.8 development credits off farmland in the town’s agricultural protection zone.

The Town Board resolution approved Tuesday reduces that number to 36.2 credits. The reduction was possible because of a code change the Town Board adopted in May 2010 that subtracts such uses as closets, hallways and bathrooms from the calculation of total floor area, the figure that determines how many TDR credits are needed. The change was actually suggested to the Town Board by Mr. Browning during the Cardinale administration, but it was not adopted until last year.

On Tuesday, Joe Gergela and Lyle Wells of the Long Island Farm Bureau raised concerns about the changes.

“We are counting on TDR as a method of farmland preservation, when developers buy development rights from landowners in order to get certain densities,” Mr. Gergela said. “We want to make sure that this continues and that there are no give-aways on density.”

Mr. Wells said he thinks the town went “overboard on incentives” in the Browning case, since Mr. Browning originally agreed to buy 71.8 credits.

“A gift of this size, I think, is a little bit too much of an incentive,” Mr. Wells said.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said Mr. Browning has submitted a new, revised site plan since the 2006 approval, so the town is obligated to go by the existing rules for calculating TDR credits.

Supervisor Sean Walter agreed that the town should meet with the farmers to discuss the TDR program.

“If we don’t have it right, we’ll get it right,” he said.

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