Stop work order issued at Costco site — again

The site of construction at Costco in late March. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
The site of construction at Costco in late March. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The controversial Costco/Shops at Riverhead development on Route 58 has been issued a stop work order, putting the entire project on hold until the developer can show that the work being done is in conformance with its approved site plan, according to Riverhead Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz. 

He said the developer will likely need to come back to the town to seek an amendment to its approved site plan.

The stop work order was issued Thursday afternoon at about 3:30 p.m. and stems from the fact that the amount of sand and material being stockpiled on the property cannot, in the town’s opinion, be spread out in a manner that will meet the grade and elevation levels that were in the project’s approved site plan from 2012, Mr. Kozakiewicz said.

In addition, he said, the site plan called for all of the proposed buildings in the first phase of the project to be constructed at the same time, and the applicant — Manhattan-based Brixmor Property Group, under the corporate name Heritage-Riverhead Retail Developers LLC — has thus far built only the Costco building and a gasoline service station to be operated by Costco.

Brixmor; its contractor, Condos Brothers; and five truck drivers all were recently issued violations for exporting sand off the property without a permit. The site plan called for a “balanced cut and fill,” meaning that no sand would be imported or exported from the site.

The town issued a stop work order for hauling materials off site at the time, and as a result of that violation, required that a town-appointed monitor, paid for by the developer, be on site. Observance by that monitor led to the stop-work order issued this week.

“We have reason to believe they have too much material on the site,” Mr. Kozakiewicz said. The work will remain on hold until the developers can provide the town with data showing how the material can be spread out on the site in a way that conforms with the approved site plan.

Mr. Kozakiewicz said the town doesn’t believe they will be able to do that, which would mean they would need to go back to the Planning Board and seek an amendment to their previously approved site plan.

Even if the solution is to allow Brixmor to export material off site, that would require a site plan amendment, since the approved site plan did not permit exportation.

Under town law, companies exporting sand from development sites would have to pay the town $2 per cubic yard of sand exported.

The town Planning Board and planning department recently said that Brixmor had not met a number of site plan requirements in terms of screening, buffering, landscaping and stabilizing the berm along their property line, and town Planning and Building Administrator Jeff Murphree vowed that he would not issue a certificate of occupancy for the project until all of the conditions were met.

Robert Hall, a neighbor living in the adjacent Foxwood Village development, said the sand piled on the site has been blowing all over the neighbors’ property.

“When this was first proposed, we asked the town for three things,” he said. “Sight, in that we didn’t want to see this from our homes. Sound, in that we didn’t want to hear noise from it, and safety, in that we didn’t want it coming into our neighborhood. We didn’t get any of those.”

He said they don’t oppose Costco. They just want to see the development done right.

Residents in the Millbrook Communities, to the east of the project, also say there is practically no buffer between the development and their houses and that they’ve heard more noise from Route 58 since the woods were cleared the project.

The clearing permit, which allowed the developers to clear the entire site of trees, even though they didn’t plan to build on the entire site, was approved by the Town Board in early 2013.

Peter Danowski, the attorney for the applicant, said Thursday that the town has changed its requirements for the buffer and landscaping several times and that once the town settles on what they want the developer to do, they will do it.

He said that to date, the applicant doesn’t have agreements with any other tenants for the project besides Costco.