Riverhead BID member requests moratorium on five-story buildings

Former Sears building Riverhead

Bobby Hartmann of the Riverhead Business Improvement District, who was appointed to the town’s parking district advisory committee Tuesday night, is calling for the Town Board to enact a temporary moratorium on all building applications in the BID “until we can come up with a well thought out solution to address the parking problems and traffic congestion.”

Mr. Hartmann made his comments at the end of Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, during which he expressed concern about “a rush of five-story buildings” downtown.

A formal application was filed just this week to build a five-story mixed-use apartment building at the site of the former McCabes/Dinosaur Walk Museum. Another five-story mixed-use apartment building is planned right next to that, on the former Sears site, although that application hasn’t been filed.

Mr. Hartmann, who lives downtown, also expressed concern about two shootings that have occurred downtown in the past three weeks.

“Some business owners have said to me that they are ready to leave downtown over issues such as the lack of security, parking and foot traffic,” he said.

In interviews after the meeting, Mr. Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten both said the town’s 2003 Master Plan update specifically recommended five-story mixed-use apartments downtown as a means of generating foot traffic that will lead to more commercial development. Both said they would support updating the Master Plan for downtown in the future. Mr. Wooten feels the town should consider scaling back the maximum building height on the south side of Main Street.

“I’m taken aback that he would say this is some sort of rush,” Mr. Walter said. “This is a 13-year rush to get one five-story building.”

Because plans for the five-story Georgica Green building at the McCabes site have been filed, that project would not be affected by a moratorium, but plans for the Sears site have not been formally submitted and could be impacted, Mr. Wooten said.

Neither plan provides a parking space for each apartment, although the Town Code doesn’t require it because the projects are located in the public parking district and pay a special tax to maintain downtown parking lots.

Mr. Wooten said he believes the town will eventually need to build a downtown parking garage.

Mr. Walter said having more foot traffic downtown would also reduce crime.

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Courtesy rendering: The former Sears property in downtown Riverhead could be developed with a five-story, 170-unit apartment complex that would feature a mix of affordable and market-rate rentals.