Study: Downtown doesn’t have enough parking for more apartments

The corner of Roanoke Avenue and East Main Street downtown. (Credit: Tim Gannon, file)
The corner of Roanoke Avenue and East Main Street downtown. (Credit: Tim Gannon, file)

A new study indicates downtown Riverhead doesn’t have enough parking or infrastructure to support the maximum number of apartment units allowed in the town’s existing master plan. 

While zoning under the 2003 master plan allowed 500 additional apartment units downtown, the Brownfield Opportunity Area study — being conducted by consulting firm Nelson, Pope and Voorhis —  suggests the town will need to reduce that number.

The study echoes what Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter has been saying for more than a year about the need to rezone downtown. The supervisor now hopes the study’s findings will serve as a wake-up call for downtown property owners who have discussed mixed-use apartment projects.

“I think all of the property owners thought we were kidding when we said that at some point, there will be some rezoning or zoning modification,” Mr. Walter said at Thursday’s Town Board work session, where a presentation was given on the study. “Some of these business owners that think they have gold, there’s going to be a point in the not-too-distant future where we rezone, so they better get moving on their projects or they may not get them.”

Three apartment projects recently built or proposed for downtown — the completed Summerwind Square, the apartments being built at the former Woolworth building and  the proposed Blue River Estates Riverhead — total 119 units.

“The next big project could be the last,” Mr. Walter said.

In 2013, Riverhead Enterprises filed a pre-submission plan for a 130-unit apartment project at the site of the former Sears building, but no formal application has since been made. Riverhead Enterprises owns several downtown buildings.

Mr. Walter has hinted that he’s trying to bring a large mixed-use apartment project to East Main Street. He has said in the past that one big project stalled, but he is still working on getting another developer involved.

The current “downtown center-1” zoning in downtown, which allows five story buildings with apartments on the upper floors, would allow a maximum buildout of more than 1.7 million square foot, according to Charles Voorhis of Nelson, Pope and Voorhis.

That’s too much, he said.

“In terms of parking and traffic, we are not looking at a full buildout, because it’s not realistic,” Mr. Voorhis said.

The consultants are currently examining alternative zoning plans that would eliminate the fifth floor and reduce the number of apartments permitted downtown to somewhere around 284 to 360.

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