Suffolk planners OK Route 25A rezoning plans for Wading River

Wading River, Route 25A, Planning Study
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Winter traffic on Route 25A in Wading River.

The Suffolk County Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously recommended approval of the zoning code amendments proposed by Riverhead Town’s Wading River Route 25A Corridor Study, clearing the way for the Town Board to adopt those changes.

“The selective comprehensive plan update will guide future development along Route 25A in Wading River so that it allows for orderly growth and development while balancing conservation and preserving and enhancing the quality of life and community character of the study area,” the county planning department report adopted by the commission states.

The corridor study was done by BFJ Planning, which made a presentation before the county commission Wednesday.

The planning commission report, which recommends approval for the corridor study changes, says those changes on Route 25A will reduce the maximum development potential in that corridor from 142,877 square feet of commercial space to 100,520 square foot of new development, which would break down to 35,720 square feet of professional office space and 64,800 square feet of multi-family residential housing.

The county got those numbers from the town, the report states.

The Riverhead Town Board could have adopted the changes without the county planning commission’s recommendation for approval, but it would have needed a vote of four of the five Town Board members to override the county vote.

There are five parcels totaling 16.4 acres slated to be rezoned from Business CR zoning, which permits retail, to Multi Family/Professional Office zoning, which does not.

The Suffolk County Planning Commission recommendation is one of the things the Town Board was waiting for before voting on the proposed changes.

“At this point, the town is poised to pass a resolution which would amend the zoning text of the Business CR district and the MRP district and the actual map itself,” said town planning director Rick Hanley.

The Town Board recently held four hearings on the proposed changes, one on changes in the actual text of the Business CR zone, one on text changes of the MRP zone, one to change the zoning map to replace Business CR zoning with MRP on five properties, and one to amend the town master plan, which was adopted in 2003.

The hearings, which were held simultaneously at a three-hour meeting on Aug. 21, drew comments from property owners opposed to having their land rezoned and comments from some residents and civic group members who supported the rezoning, but in some cases, felt additional lands should also be rezoned to prohibit retail development.

The five properties slated for rezoning are all on the north side of Route 25A, and the three large parcels are all across the street from the CVS pharmacy. The other two parcels are to the east and are much smaller.

None of the four large commercial development applications that led some residents to call for the zoning study in early 2011 were recommended for rezoning, but one large commercial application which was submitted after the study began is proposed for rezoning.

That project is owned by the Partridge and Condzella families. Another property slated for rezoning is owned by Kenney Barra, the owner of East Wind Caterers, who had received approvals to build a country inn on the land several years ago but never built it.

Both of those property owners opposed the rezoning.

Peter Danowski, an attorney who represents both of those property owners, said in an interview, “I expect lawsuits. Anybody that has had zoning taken away from them will consider that.”

The third large property slated for rezoning is located in the middle of the other two and is owned by John Condzella, who farms it. He supported the rezoning.

Supervisor Sean Walter has said that getting consensus among the five Town Board members for the proposed changes that were the subject of the hearing was so difficult that he doesn’t think any major changes from those recommendations will be made when the board votes to adopt the new zoning.

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