Town officials to discuss Route 25A study this week

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Traffic on Route 25A in Wading River.

Riverhead Town is getting closer to winding up its Route 25A Corridor Study in Wading River. Officials plan to discuss it once more at Thursday’s work session before scheduling hearings on adopting some of its recommendations.

The study was called for by civic and environmental groups after several large commercial projects were proposed along the Route 25A Corridor in Wading River.

Among the commercial applications filed in Wading River were Kenney Barra’s 37,000-square-foot Knightland project at the corner of Route 25A and Sound Avenue; John Zoumas’ 52,000-square-foot Central Square on the south side of Route 25A, just east of the CVS; Joseph Vento’s 42,000-square-foot Venezia Square on the south side of Route 25A, west of Wading River Manor Road; a 6,500-square-foot expansion of the Great Rock golf clubhouse, just north of Sound Avenue; and the Condzella/Partridge family’s 45,000-square-foot North Country Plaza on the north side of Route 25A, just east of the vacant ice cream store.

The Town Board declined to call a moratorium while the study was under way, and the Knightland project was approved by the town Planning Board before the study results were issued. The next day, that approval was challenged in a lawsuit filed by the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition.

The study, done by BFJ Planning of Manhattan, does not address the Knightland property because of the litigation. The Great Rock project also was outside the scope of the study.

Originally, BFJ recommended rezoning the Zoumas and Condzella/Partridge properties from Business CR, which permits retail development, to Multifamily Residential/Professional Office zoning, which would allow one-family townhouses or multi-family units for people over 55 years old, as well as professional offices and agriculture.

The draft currently also is representing three other parcels on the north side of Route 25A from Business CR to MRP. These include the two properties just east of the Condzella/Partridge lot, one of which is a farm owned by John Condzella, and another which is vacant land owned by Mr. Barra, who had been approved to build a country inn there several years ago.

The other Business CR parcel slated for rezoning to MRP is a small triangular parcel just west of the gas station on Route 25A and Sound Avenue.

In addition to the proposed rezoning, the draft study also recommends that the parcels on the south side of Route 25A that are still zoned Business CR — including the Central Square and Venezia Square properties — also have an overlay district giving them the option of building one-family townhouses or multi-family units for people over age 55, instead of retail.

At Thursday’s work session, Councilman George Gabrielsen suggested not rezoning the Condzella/Partridge parcel because an application is already pending on that property. That proposal didn’t gain support from the other board members.

Frank Fish of BFJ Planning said the proposed zoning uses generate significantly less traffic than current zoning uses, and would need significantly less parking than the current zoning. He also believes the proposed zoning will have no impact on the number of schoolchildren in the area. BFJ thinks the development of the MRP zoning will be 74 percent housing and 25 percent offices.

The market analysis accompanying the study indicates that Wading River residents spend $88 million on retail and restaurants outside Wading River, and that Wading River can accommodate an additional 88,000 square feet of retail development. The zoning they propose shows a development potential of 200,000 square feet in additional retail, which accounts for future growth.

“Our conclusion at the end of this report is that there a balancing act here that moves the town in the right direction,” Mr. Fish said. “We are containing commercial development. There’s a debate as to whether we contain it enough, but we clearly contain it.”

Peter Danowski, an attorney who represents Mr. Barra, Mr. Zoumas and the North Country Plaza project, opposes the proposed zone changes.

“The housing will not get built because there is no profit incentive,” Mr. Danowski said. “It doesn’t matter what the zoning says because the health department controls the density in this area, and if it doesn’t have public sewer nothing will get built. And who would want to live on the Main Road anyway?”
He said Mr. Barra’s expertise is restaurants and that’s what he wants to build on the vacant parcel across from CVS, but he won’t be able to under the proposed zone change.

Mr. Danowski said retail development will generate more taxes than residential development as well.
Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, said he doesn’t understand Mr. Gabrielsen’s rationale for not wanting to rezone the Condzella/Partridge parcel. He said the overlay proposal was an “interesting idea” and thinks the MRP zoning will still generate tax revenue.

The Town Board plans to discuss the study again Thursday before moving forward with public hearings and other steps needed to adopt the proposed changes the study recommends.

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