Saying the company only closed due to a poor economy, representatives from 84 Lumber say they are now looking to reopen the company’s West Main Street location, which has been closed since 2011.
But reopening the building supply and lumber yard, located across from Tanger Outlets, is not that easy, since Riverhead Town changed the zoning on the property as part of its 2003 Master Plan update.
A lumberyard use was allowed back when 84 Lumber was first built on West Main Street in 1984, according to the company’s attorney, Charles Cuddy.
The town does let businesses that existed before their zoning was changed to continue operating. But if a business with a use that doesn’t conform to current zoning closes and doesn’t use the property for more than one year, the Town Code considers the “prior use” to have been abandoned.
At that point, the property owner would only be allowed to have uses that match the property’s current zoning.
And that’s where 84 Lumber is now.
The company spoke at the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Thursday night, seeking a variance to allow them to re-establish the building supply and lumberyarh, which isn’t allowed in the property’s current zoning category, called “riverfront corridor.”
Permitted uses in that zone include single-family homes, river-related retail business and non-motorized open space recreation. With a special permit approval from the Town Board, the riverfront corridor zone also allows bed and breakfasts and country inns.
“The intent of the Riverfront Corridor (RFC) Zoning Use District is to provide for a mix of residential, commercial and recreational uses that are in harmony with the natural habitat and ecologically sensitive areas of the Peconic River,” the code states.
Mr. Cuddy told the ZBA that the 5.5-acre property 84 Lumber wants to return to doesn’t even extend as far as the river; it stops at the railroad tracks.
“The riverfront corridor zone is very restrictive,” he said, adding that 84 Lumber currently has state Department of Environmental Conservation approval to reopen the lumber yard and building supply store.
The cost of demolishing the three vacant buildings on the site and removing the asphalt is estimated at $410,000, according to an estimate from Terry Contracting that Mr. Cuddy present to the ZBA.
That cost would drive the sale price of the property up to around $300,000 per acre, he said.
“That just isn’t going to happen. Nobody is going to buy that type of property for that much,” Mr. Cuddy told the ZBA.
He also produced letters from two local real estate brokers, Richard Israel and Sherry Patterson, saying that the only use for that site that would bring about a reasonable return to the property owner is a building supply and lumber yard.
Ms. Patterson and Mr. Israel were present at the meeting but did not speak.
In addition, Mr. Cuddy presented a letter from Cheri Bomar, 84 Lumber’s Director of Real Estate and Development, that said the company only shut down the site because of the poor economy at the time, and now wants to reopen it because the economy improved.
Mr. Cuddy said the buildings need “a couple hundred thousand dollars” of repairs, something 84 Lumber is prepared to do.
“Was the property ever listed for sale after they ceased to operate?” asked ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone.
“It’s my understanding that it couldn’t be sold,” Mr. Cuddy said. “It has not been listed for sale and there hasn’t been an offer.”
84 Lumber’s closing was just a temporary suspension of business until the economy turned around, he added.
“The only thing that concerns me is that the property has never been really maintained,” said ZBA member Leroy Barnes. He said the buildings are “in total disrepair.”
Mr. Cuddy said the buildings were vandalized after the business closed.
ZBA members said they will make a decision on the application at their next meeting, on Oct. 22.
Photo Credit: Tim Gannon