Riverside redevelopment plans continue to move at a slow pace

Cumberland Farms in Riverside

Three years before he became Southampton Town supervisor, Jay Schneiderman, then a county legislator, unveiled a proposal to a civic group that showed his vision for the south side of Flanders Road near the traffic circle in Riverside.

The 2013 proposal called for retail stores on the ground floor of three-story buildings with apartments on the upper floors. That vision eventually became part of a comprehensive zoning update adopted into town code.

Now, however, a key property in that plan is being developed in a manner that doesn’t conform to the town’s long-term vision for Riverside.

A 4,786-square-foot Cumberland Farms convenience store with a 12-bay gas station has been proposed for the site of the vacant Getty station on the southeast corner of the traffic circle, where Mr. Schneiderman’s 2013 plans showed a restaurant.

“The community can’t be happy about that,” Mr. Schneiderman said in an interview Monday. “That’s not what we were hoping for. That area was supposed to be part of the whole main street proposal for Riverside.”

Cumberland Farms is not seeking to use the new overlay zoning that would allow three-story buildings with apartments, and is instead applying under the existing zoning.

The project will need a special permit and several variances from the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals to be approved.

Clare Shea, Southampton’s principal planner, said the largest gas station/convenience store the town has approved was about 2,000 square feet, and most are smaller than that.

Harold Mayer, attorney for the applicants, said most of the space is for storage. He said a Cumberland Farms store in Manorville, which was previously a Mobil station, is only about 2,500 square feet.

“The experience there is it is too small for economical and efficient operation,” he said at last Thursday’s Southampton Planning Board meeting.

Asked if Cumberland Farms had considered developing the Riverside property without a gas station, Mr. Mayer said, “This is the business they are in.”

Mr. Mayer feels the proposed development will be good for Riverside in that it will show that companies are interested in building and investing there.

The application is in its early stages and no decisions were made.

Sewer or bust

Although there have been several commercial development proposals for Riverside, none involves use of the new overlay zoning, according to Kyle Collins, the town’s building and planning administrator.

“They can’t do it without sewers,” he said in an interview.

County health department regulations limit the amount of development that can occur in most of Riverside without upgraded sewage treatment, due to the area’s proximity to wetlands and the Pine Barrens.

Mr. Schneiderman says the cost of building a sewage treatment system to serve Riverside could be about $50 million.

One option Southampton Town is considering in the short term is connecting to Riverhead Town’s sewer district, which already serves the county complex in Riverside.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said he and town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio planned to meet with Southampton officials Wednesday to discuss the town’s request that Riverhead reserve up to 30,000 gallons for Riverside.

Southampton will need to draw up a map and plan to see if it’s feasible for Riverhead’s sewer district to take on the added Riverside land. State legislation would also be needed to allow the Riverhead Sewer District to expand into Southampton Town, Mr. Walter said.

The Riverhead Town Board also serves as the sewer district board and Mr. Walter does not wish to relinquish that authority south of the river.

“They would have to pay every single dime it would cost to hook them up,” the supervisor said.

Mr. Schneiderman said he expects the developers will pay the bulk of the cost to hook into Riverhead’s system.

“I’d like to see something developed,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “One project to break ground and set a positive mood so the community can see it’s going in the right direction.”

Big Plans for Peconic Avenue?

Renaissance Downtowns, the company Southampton Town hired as its “master developer” for Riverside, is currently considering two properties along Peconic Avenue for multi-story mixed-use developments.

The Peconic Paddler site, where they envision a four-story mixed-use building with retail on the ground and apartments above, is one of the properties.

Peconic Paddler owner Jim Dreeben said he’s been trying to sell the property for years and is close to a deal with a buyer who would continue in the same business. Nevertheless, Mr. Dreeben said he would consider an offer from Renaissance Downtowns.

The other site is located across the street, where Renaissance Downtowns currently has an office for its Riverside Rediscovered efforts. A three-story mixed use development is being considered for that parcel.

Renaissance Downtowns doesn’t own either property, but has discussed buying and developing them, according to Sean McLean, the company’s vice president of planning.

Slightly to the west, on the north side of Flanders Road, the Goodale family is contemplating a mixed-use development for a 3.5-acre property they own adjacent to McDonald’s. Larry Oxman, a realtor representing the property owners, said the Goodales are first looking into what can be built there. Mr. Oxman said much of that land lies within a state Department of Environmental Conservation wetlands, which limits the amount of commercial development that could take place there.

The new zoning for that property allows a waterfront overlay, which aims to “accentuate Riverside’s maritime character while allowing greater mix of uses and waterfront related businesses than the underlying zoning districts permit,” according to town zoning code.

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Courtesy image:  A rendering of a 4,786-square-foot Cumberland Farms convenience store and 12 gas station bays, which have been proposed for the vacant site of a former Getty station at the Riverside traffic circle. (Credit: Catapano Engineering and Architecture)