Costco developer ordered to cease and desist following sand removal

The site of the Costco/Shops at Riverhead plaza on Route 58. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
The site of the Costco/Shops at Riverhead plaza on Route 58 on Thursday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The developers of the Costco/Shops at Riverhead development on Route 58 have been issued a stop work order barring them from taking sand on or off the site, according to Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz.

“There’s an allegation that they were exporting sand, as seen by code enforcement officer Richard Downs on Tuesday,” Mr. Kozakiewicz said.

“They were issued a stop work order preventing them from bringing sand onto the site or exporting sand off the site until the town can get a monitor appointed to watch what’s coming in or out of there.”

The Costco project had come under fire with neighbors last year after the developers clear cut the entire property, which they were allowed to do by the town.

The stop work order was issued Wednesday afternoon and only applies to the export or import of sand from the site, Mr. Kozakiewicz said.

“They are still allowed to work on the structure, they are still allowed to work on the building, and they can still do site work if they are moving soil around inside the property. They just can’t take dirt off,” he said.

The stop work order reads: “cease and desist any and all ‘exportation’ of ‘material’ as those terms are defined in chapter 62 of the Riverhead Town Code.”

Chapter 62 of the town code defines ‘material’ as follows: “Topsoil, loam, earth, sand, gravel, and other material such as wood, stumps, timber in its natural or reprocessed state.”

The developers, Heritage Riverhead Retail Developers LLC, received site plan approval from the Town Planning Board in 2012 that called for a “balanced cut and fill,” which meant that they would not export or import sand from the property, and would instead move it around on site in order to level the hilly property.

The town has a law that requires developers exporting sand to pay the town $2 for every cubic yard of sand exported from a site, and by doing so, the Costco developers have avoided paying that fee.

They have been charged with a violation of that sections of the town’s excavation code, as well as with violating their site plan approval.

While Mr. Kozakiewicz said officer Downs saw three trucks leaving the property with sand, he said the town doesn’t know how much sand left the property.

Peter Danowski, the attorney for the applicants, said Thursday that he had only heard about the violations second hand.

“I have to find out what they did wrong,” he said. “I know we’re not supposed to be exporting sand, so we’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again, and if the town wants to put a monitor on the site to follow us around, that’s alright.”

The monitor would be paid by the developer.

Mr. Danowski said a large pile of material on the site, which the town has heard complaints about, is actually top soil, not sand, and the plan is to spread that around the property.

He said the developers are building only the Costco building and the gas station that will accompany it initially, and they hope to have those open by May. They still have to put in parking and drainage for that store.

There are other buildings that were approved for the first phase of the development for which construction has not begun. Mr. Danowski said the applicants don’t have tenants for those buildings yet.

[email protected]