Wading River study calls for zoning changes at properties slated for development


Four Route 25A properties totaling 24 acres —  including two on which large commercial site plan applications have already been filed — are proposed to be rezoned to new zoning categories that don’t permit retail in the preliminary results of a Route 25A study in Wading River.

Frank Fish from BFJ Planning gave a presentation on the study’s preliminary results at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session.

The four properties proposed for rezoning are the 14-acre Condzella Farm property on the north side of Route 25A, next to the vacant ice cream store, and the eight-acre John Zoumas property across the street from that, and adjacent to the CVS pharmacy.

There currently are large commercial developments proposed for both of those properties.

The other two properties are owned by Kenn Barra, and include land immediately east of the Condzella property, as well as a 1.8-acre property on the west side of the Route 25A and Sound Avenue intersection.

One of the property owners in attendance wasn’t happy with the study’s proposals.

“We’re not going to change the zone,” Ed Partridge, whose wife is from the Condzella family, said in an interview after the meeting. “Someone just moves into town and they’re trying to change the zoning on land our family has owned for 100 years. We’re going to go forward [with developing the land.] It’s an inheritance. We’ve had this zone forever.”

After some debate between Councilman Jim Wooten, who wanted to hold a public meeting in Wading River on the zoning study, and Supervisor Sean Walter, who did not, the Town Board eventually agreed to hold a meeting in Wading River.

The tentative time for the meeting is Saturday, Feb. 4, at 10 a.m., although the location hasn’t yet been determined. Another public meeting on the study is scheduled for Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

Mr. Wooten argued that BFJ could call the meeting in Wading River, rather than the Town Board, which is what was done when BFJ held public workshops during Brookhaven Town’s Route 25A study, which was done by the same firm. Brookhaven had multiple public workshops, according to Said Bail of the Wading River Civic Association, who agreed with the decision to hold a meeting in Wading River.

Mr. Walter argued that the entire Town Board should be at the meeting, and noted also that Brookhaven’s Route 25A corridor study covered 18 miles, whereas the Wading River study covers only 1.5 miles.

“I don’t want to delay this through meeting after after meeting after meeting,” Mr. Walter said.

The BFJ plan recommends changing the zoning on four properties from “Neighborhood Rural Business,” which allows retail, to “multi-family residential professional office,” which doesn’t, but which allows some residential uses.

Councilman John Dunleavy said he would rather have the commercial zoning remain on the Zoumas parcel than allow residential. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio noted that the county made an offer to acquire the Zoumas property as open space, but the offer was rejected by the landowners.

BFJ made no recommendation on Mr. Barra’s property at the corner of Route 25A and Sound Avenue — the site of Mr. Barra’s proposed Knightland shopping center — because a commercial development has already been approved on that site, and because the town’s approvals are the subject of litigation.

Dominique Mendez, the president of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, one of the groups that lobbied for the study after four large development applications were proposed in Wading River last year, said she was happy the board scheduled a public workshop, which she said was called for in the contract with BFJ.

“Now that the Town Board has finally put the public workshop back on the schedule and Wading River can have full input, I have more confidence in the process,” she said. “For the most part, BFJ seems to be going in the right direction by recommending that a substantial amount of retail zoning be replaced with less intense professional and residential uses.

“And I was happy to see that the Town Board was receptive to what could be a good plan for everyone: landowners, existing local merchants, and residents,” she continued.

Ms. Mendez’s group is the one suing the town over its approvals of the Knightland project proposal.

“Unfortunately, the premature approval of the Knightland project caused BFJ to leave that sensitive parcel out of their recommendations, and thus the study has been compromised, just as we feared it would be. Hopefully this will be addressed at a later date,” she said.

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