A proposal to nearly triple the size of the Jamesport Center on Main Road didn’t go over well with neighbors at a Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Thursday night.
The critics at the hearing, many of whom were Washington Avenue residents, said the proposal will increase traffic, cut down the trees that buffer their homes from the shopping center, and will cause lights to shine into their windows.
The residents said the proposal also doesn’t fit the town’s master plan and also asked whether it was needed at all, since four storefronts in the shopping center are now vacant and the center has seemingly never been full.
“The enormity of this 28,000 square foot building is mind boggling,” said Washington Avenue resident Linda Okula. “There are four empty stores there now. This community cannot support a building this large.”
A sketch of the proposal shows a 28,379-square foot addition being built to the south of the existing 16,394 square foot shopping center.
The plan would clear most of the trees to the south of the 4.4 acre property, which extends west to Washington Avenue, and it would add two exit/entrances to the shopping center on Washington Avenue.
While the center currently has four vacant stores, Jim DeLucca, a representative for owner Alan Cardinale, said at the hearing that some some future tenants are in place, including a Dunkin’ Donuts store.
He said grocery chains such as Trader Joe’s, Wild by Nature and Key Food are interested in building smaller stores in the expanded center.
But some speakers at the hearing said making the shopping center larger will only mean more empty stores.
Denise Hansen of Washington Avenue presented the ZBA with a petition signed by 155 people opposed to the project.
“I’ve been living there since 1987,” said Washington Avenue resident Randall Clement. “I tripled the size of my house because I love the area and I plan on staying there till I die, and I don’t want to do it in my front lawn with a car coming across my lawn because he’s doing 60 mph to go get a gallon of milk.”
The application before the ZBA asked for two exemptions the developers need: a request to allow 83 percent impervious surface instead of the maximum permitted 60 percent and a request to have 166 parking spaces instead of the required 171 parking spaces.
Most of the comments were on issues dealing with the site plan for the project, which would be a matter from the town Planning Board.
Larry Simms of South Jamesport said he believes about six more variances are needed, judging by the sketch plan. The zoning on the property’s Hamlet Business zoning doesn’t allow a single retail store to be more than 10,000 square feet, and he said that based on Mr. DeLucca’s comments about the grocery stores, it seems like they would be more than 10,000 square feet.
Mr. Simms said Jamesport is under tremendous pressure from developers, saying a 42,000 square foot commercial development is proposed slightly east of this.
“You take these two properties together and you’re going to be dropping 70,000 square feet of retail space into a tiny quaint hamlet,” he said.
Mr. DeLucca said the project conforms to zoning. It wouldn’t need any waivers from the ZBA if the project were just 1,500 square feet smaller and used impervious parking, such as gravel, it wouldn’t need any variances.
The ZBA didn’t make a decision on the application and adjourned the hearing to its Jan. 14 meeting.