Planning Board approves Costco’s amended site plan

(Credit: News-Review)
(Credit: News-Review)

The Riverhead Planning Board approved the amended site plan for the Shops at Riverhead/Costco development on Route 58 Thursday afternoon — two weeks after officials, neighbors and the developers hashed out a compromise plan aimed at making all sides happy.

The project has run into opposition from neighbors after the developer clear cut the entire 41-acre property last year, leaving dusty sand, and then built a fence and berm along the property line that neighbors said was inadequate.

The clear cutting was done with Town Board approval, but the town has subsequently fined the developer for illegally removing sand from the property.

On Thursday, the developer was given a second chance, with the Planning Board voting 4-0, with Ed Densieski absent, in favor of the amended site plan.

“We have a report from [environmental engineer] Vinny Guadiello on the amended site plan that essentially recommends that it meets all of the [proposed changes] we had on grading and fencing and landscaping over the many months we’ve discussed this,” said town planning director Rick Hanley.

The changes were required after the developers only built the 149,500-square foot Costco building — and not the rest of the 271,000-square foot shopping center approved in 2012.

In addition, the developer ended up with more sand on the property than expected and couldn’t build the project as approved in the site plan.

The changes contained in the amended site plan approved Thursday include:

• Building Costco first before constructing remaining stores
• Spreading out the extra sand on a 20-acre section at the rear of the property (where building isn’t currently taking place) in order to increase the grade of the land by 3.5 feet higher than initially approved
• Replacing a stockade fence with a six-foot high chain-link fence that has privacy slats extending along the northern border of Foxwood Village and the eastern border of the Millbrook Community
• Planting about 70 trees required in the site plan but was never completed

Jeff Murphree, the town’s planning and building administrator, said the town won’t issue a certificate of occupancy, which is the final document required before a store can open to the public, until the new list of requirements are completed.

Planning Board member Stan Carey asked if the increased grade of the property will result in rainwater running off on to neighboring properties.

Haig Buchakjian, the senior vice president of construction with Brixmor Property Group, which is the owner and developer of all but the Costco property, said it would not.

He said property is still at a lower grade than the berm built on the property borders.

Mr. Buchakjian had apologized at the meeting two weeks ago for the problems caused to neighbors and the town by the development, and said things would be different from that point on.

One change made since that meeting was shortening a portion of the six-foot fence on the eastern border to four feet because it it technically in the front of the property at that point, and the Town Code doesn’t permit six foot fences in a front yard.

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