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Jamesport Center variances rejected, expansion still possible

Jamesport Plaza

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday night rejected Jamesport Plaza LLC’s request for two variances that are part of an overall plan to nearly triple the size of the Main Road shopping center. 

“The intent of the Hamlet Center Zoning Use District is to provide small clusters of shops and professional services in a rural setting, with a residential character,” ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin said in reading the decision.

“The proposed improvements [would] result in a development scheme which does not conform with the purpose or intent of the Hamlet Center zoning district and does not conform with the character of the area.”

The resolution to deny the request was approved with Mr. McLaughlin and ZBA members Leroy Barnes and Lisa Worthington voting yes to deny the application, and with ZBA member Frank Seabrook abstaining, and Otto Wittmeier absent. Mr. Seabrook said he abstained because he had briefly worked under Jim DeLucca, a representative for applicant Alan Cardinale, when both worked as professors at Farmingdale State College.

The proposal was to build a 28,379 square-foot addition to the south of the existing 16,394-square-foot Jamesport Center shopping center. The 4.4 acre site is located on the south side of Route 25, just east of Washington Avenue.

The application was opposed by numerous speakers at a Dec. 10 ZBA hearing. Many of them were Washington Avenue residents who opposed the plan to create an entrance to the stores on their residential street.

Others said it was too big and wasn’t in keeping with the nature of the area, and that the existing shopping center is usually more than half-vacant.

The application before the ZBA requested zoning code variances to allow the project to have an 83 percent impervious surface, whereas the town code limit is 60 percent.  It also sought to have 166 parking spaces instead of the 171 parking spaces required in the Town Code.

Mr. DeLucca emphasized at a second public hearing on Jan. 10 that the project could still move forward without the ZBA variances by reducing the size of the addition to 27,000 square feet.

The application would still need site plan approval from the town Planning Board before it could move forward.

Members of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association and other civic and environmental groups have asked the Town Board to conduct a joint environmental impact study on Jamesport Plaza plan and a proposal across the street from the Elbow Room, where an assisted living center is now proposed.

The civic association, along with Group for the East End, the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and Save Main Road sent a letter to town officials saying they did not want a corridor study of permitted uses on Route 25 from Aquebogue to Laurel, as Supervisor Sean Walter had suggested. Instead, they want the impacts of the two big projects studied together.

Mr. Walter said at a recent Town Board meeting that a corridor study can result in changes to permitted uses along the corridor, while an environmental impact study can only require ways to mitigate impacts from specific projects, but cannot result in a change in the permitted uses in an area.

Nevertheless, Mr. Walter said if residents don’t want the corridor study, he won’t pursue it.

Mr. DeLucca had previously said a Dunkin’ Donuts will be a tenant in the existing Jamesport Center and that stores like Trader Joe’s and Key Food have expressed interest in the proposed expansion.

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