The Riverhead Planning Board has granted preliminary site plan approval for a proposal to build two new stores in the parking lot at Applebee’s restaurant on Route 58.
During Thursday’s meeting, the board vote 4-1 in favor of the plan, with board chairman Richard O’Dea voting no.
Despite voting in favor of the proposal, other board members aren’t praising the project.
Board member Joe Baier said he “reluctantly” moved the resolution to approve the project for a vote.
Referring to the intersection of Kroemer Avenue and Route 58 near the proposed development, board member Stan Carey said: “I don’t like the way this intersection unfolded and that intersection is horrible … [but] I can think of no good reason to vote ‘no’ because it already had been approved.”
Board member George Nunnaro said Mr. O’Dea visited the site earlier in the day around 6 p.m. and found only five available parking spaces. He said the restaurant was very busy and the staff took up 25 spots.
Board member Ed Densieski suggested a silver lining to the parking issue.
“People can’t find parking spaces at Applebee’s because it’s too busy, so maybe they’ll meander downtown and spend some money there,” he said.
The applicant, a company controlled by New Jersey-based Lerner Properties, is planning to build 7,200 square feet of new retail onto a grass pad located east of Applebee’s.
The site plan approval for Applebee’s in 1999 designated the pad, which is surrounded by parking, for additional stores, but they were never built.
The property’s zoning changed in 2003, and the prior “Industrial A” zone no longer allowed retail, while the current “destination retail center” zone does.
As a result, a new site plan is needed for retail on that spot where the developer plans to build two stores, including eye care store Visionworks.
While the other store isn’t finalized, Kim Judd, an attorney for the applicant, said it may be a Verizon store.
Lerner owns the Applebee’s property as well as the nearby Gateway Plaza shopping center, which includes Walmart, Bob’s Discount Furniture and vacant space.
There’s also a proposal to build a 3,500-square foot Peconic Bay Medical Center annex in the Gateway Plaza’s parking lot. The proposal received preliminary site plan approval in February.
While both proposals for the parking lots at Applebee’s and Walmart have received preliminary site plan approvals, final approvals are still pending with the town.