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45-unit apartment complex gets preliminary OK — with conditions


A proposed five-story, 45-unit affordable apartment building on West Main Street received preliminary site plan approval from the Riverhead Planning Board Thursday night — but that approval came with 26 conditions, including one that requires that the Riverhead Fire Chief be satisfied that the building has sufficient emergency access along the rear of the building, which abuts the Peconic River on 11 West Main St.

The vote on the building — named Peconic Crossing — was 3-1, with Planning Board member Stan Carey opposed and Joe Baier absent.

“With 26 conditions, I don’t think this is ready for preliminary approval,” Mr. Carey said. “I’m not opposed to this, but I think 26 conditions is too many. I vote no.”

Priority for housing at the complex will go first to artists, and in order to win a lease, tenants would have to meet income guidelines based on the area median income for Suffolk County, which is $73,600, according to the nonprofit Community Development Corporation of Long Island, one of two partners in the project. The other is Rochester-based, for-profit developer Conifer Realty.

The first condition required that the building configuration be changed to show a fire lane to the rear of the building that’s to the satisfaction of the fire chief, but which limits public access to the lane. The building originally went as far south as a bulkhead along the river, but the fire department contended that it needs rear access in order to fight fires there.

Other conditions include requirements that the applicant to replace a bulkhead along the river, to find out the origin and ownership of an aging storm pipe by the bulkhead, and to determine whether it must be replaced.

The applicants plan to install removable posts to block public access, pending fire department approval.

Peconic Crossing will still need final site plan approval before it can seek building permits. It was not certain how long that would take.

Conifer Vice President Allen Handelman told the board at its last meeting that the project has already taken far longer than expected to get approval.

“We submitted our initial application in January and we’re sitting here in August,” he said, adding that they have missed deadlines for having approvals that were set by their lenders — including New York State — which in May announced that Peconic Crossing would receive $5.49 million in state grants.

The Planning Board also adopted a resolution saying that no environmental impact study will be needed for the proposal, which calls for demolishing the Long Island Science Center building and replacing it with the new apartments, which would also cover the parking lot to the east of the Science Center.

The Long Island Science Center plans to use the money from the sale of the building to purchase a new location, although they’ve not determined where.

The environmental impact study resolution states that the applicant already has done studies on the impact the project will have on traffic, groundwater impact, and other issues.

Planning Board chairman Richard O’Dea questioned on Thursday if there will be enough parking left in the parking district to accommodate the remaining 11 units.

Originally, the project called for 48 parking spaces on site and was originally proposed as a 48-unit for-profit apartment complex by a different developer before Conifer and CDCLI took over.

With the fire lane added, the number of apartments will be reduced to 45 units. The project is in the town parking district, which means it doesn’t have to provide any additional parking since it pays into the parking district tax. The developer has since changed those plans to provide only 34 parking spaces on the ground floor of the complex.

At first, six of the proposed units in Peconic Crossing were going to be for households with incomes at or below 50 percent of the county median income, while 33 units were slated for households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the county median income and nine units will be targeted for incomes at about 120 percent of the county median income. It hasn’t been clear, with the project slightly reduced, how many of each apartment would now be available.

The projected rents for the apartments are between $952 and $1,133 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, and between $1,141 and $1,528 for a two-person apartment. Heat and hot water would be included in that rent, but electric would be paid by the tenant, Mr. Handelman said late last year.