Editorial: Riverhead officials should stand up for the residents

TIM GANNON PHOTO |  The site of the future Costco in Riverhead earlier this summer where developers cleared the land up to neighbor’s property lines.

Sure, people like stores. But here’s why residents are so skeptical of companies and developers.

Take The Shops at Riverhead on Route 58, a shopping center that will have a Costco Wholesale as its anchor tenant. The developers have been back and forth with the town, asking for more and more concessions. First they asked the Town Board to change its zoning to allow a gas station — or else, they threatened, Costco wouldn’t be coming. The board allowed it. Now the developers are before the ZBA to try to get a variance to make the fuel pump area brighter, circumventing dark skies laws. They’re also asking the ZBA to allow light poles that are taller than permitted, so they can build fewer of them. As part of a proposed “deal” for fewer light posts, the developers are offering to expand a planned buffer between the shopping center and its next-door neighbors — this after getting the OK to clear-cut the entire site for no good reason.

The town should reject these requests, no matter what “promises” the developers make in return. They simply can’t be trusted. These proposals are all about saving money, never about being good neighbors or trying to do the right thing by people.

Then we have Allied Building Products of New Jersey, which recently received Industrial Development Agency tax breaks to come to Calverton, never mind that the company’s representative spun a shaky story about being wooed by an industrial park in the works in Westhampton.

The Allied Building Supply rep, David Doran, told the IDA at its July 8 meeting that “there would be a possible 15-year double tax abatement” available to them at the Hamptons Business District. What he didn’t tell the IDA was that they hadn’t even applied for those tax breaks, which are available through the Suffolk County IDA, which later told the News-Review it was not working with Allied. Mr. Doran also told the IDA that the Westhampton site Allied was considering was represented by Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, a Melville real estate firm. But a representative of that firm told the paper July 17 that Allied had considered the Westhampton site, but “backed out” a year ago to pursue the Calverton site.

Residents must urge their elected leaders to stand up to such businesspeople, not open their arms, and taxpayers’ wallets, for them.