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60K square-foot development on Route 58 raises traffic questions

Rendering of proposed Garsten Retail Center on Rt 58 by architect Robert Stromski

Developers want to build a nearly 60,000-square-foot shopping center just east of the Riverhead Centre complex on Route 58.

But making sure the extra traffic stays off Route 58 is a bit more complicated than one might think.

At a recent Riverhead Town planning board meeting, the owners of the proposed 58,608-square-foot Irwin Garsten Retail Center agreed to allow access from their property to the adjacent Riverhead Centre stores.

But Riverhead Centre apparently doesn’t have to let them in.

The proposed Garsten shopping center calls for retail development spread over five buildings on a 12-acre site between Hudson City Savings Bank in Riverhead Centre and the Riverhead Town Highway Department yard.

Should the project come to fruition, it would be just the latest in a series of commercial developments to open up on the west side of Route 58 in recent years. Starbuck’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Buffalo Wild Wings — among other businesses — opened up across the street in 2013. Walmart moved from east of Roanoke Avenue to its new location near the Tanger Outlet Mall in early 2014. And a parcel which now contains Costco — which still has room for more businesses on site — opened up in mid-2014.

In addition to those businesses, smaller buildings are currently being built in the area. PBMC is erecting an outpatient clinic in the parking lot which holds Walmart/Bob’s Discount Furniture, while a retail building just east of that is being built next to Applebee’s.

Stores in the Garsten plaza would range in size from about 9,000-square-feet to roughly 15,000-square-feet; developers haven’t mentioned who would be the tenants yet.

A plan for the shopping center shows entrances on Route 58 and on Osborn Avenue, meaning Route 58 wouldn’t need another traffic light.

Peter Danowski, the attorney for Mr. Garsten, said his client has agreed to have access with the adjacent Riverhead Centre shopping center to the west, which would allow traffic to go back and forth between the two shopping centers without having to enter onto Route 58.

“We will certainly make the offer for the cross access,” Mr. Danowski said at Thursday’s Riverhead Planning Board meeting, indicating that his client proposed this access would come out near Best Buy in Riverhead Centre.

But town officials said Riverhead Centre isn’t required to accept a cross access plan. Mr. Danowski added that getting Riverhead Centre to also agree “is something the town will have to pursue.”

The planning department recommended that the applicant study the potential impact the project may have on emergency services, since the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance barn is located on Osborn Avenue, near the proposed entrance and exit from the Garsten property.

Two officials from the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance recently expressed concerns about the impact a proposed Sonic restaurant would have on Osborn Avenue at a recent Planning Board hearing. The Sonic proposal also includes an entrance/exit on Osborn Avenue.

The Garsten Retail Center application goes back almost five years and has been revised many times. Thursday’s hearing was on the project’s preliminary site plan, meaning more changes — such as those suggested by the town’s architectural review board, for example — can be made before it needs final site plan approval. The public hearing on the preliminary site plan was closed, though written comment will be accepted through Feb. 14.

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Photo caption: Renderings of proposed Garsten Retail Center on Rt 58 by architect Robert Stromski