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Riverhead Town Board approves 116-unit apartment complex proposal

Riverview Lofts, the five-story, 116-unit, mixed-use apartment complex planned for the southwest corner of East Main Street and McDermott Avenue in downtown Riverhead, was granted final site plan approval Wednesday in a split vote of the Riverhead Town Board.

It had previously received preliminary site plan approval and special permit approval in July, and still needs approvals for water and sewer hookups, which were the subject of two public hearings Wednesday.

As with the prior votes, Councilman Tim Hubbard voted no and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio abstained.

Riverview Lofts also is awaiting a decision from the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, before which it had previously requested a 30-year partial property tax abatement. The IDA meets Monday at 5 p.m.

The issue is tentatively on the IDA agenda, according to IDA executive director Tracy Stark-James.

Drawing of Riverhead Lofts mixed-use development

The board held public hearings Wednesday on Riverview Lofts’ application to construct a lateral water main to connect the apartments to the town sewer district, and on its application to construct improvements to the town sewer district needed to provide sewer service to Riverhead Lofts.

Carolyn Zenk, an attorney representing downtown business owner Dee Muma, called on the Town Board to not vote on the site plan approval Wednesday during the sewer connection hearing.

Ms. Zenk, a former Southampton Town Councilwoman, argued that the public notice of the sewer hearing was not adequate, and that the town was doing a “segmented” review of the project, which is illegal under state environmental law.

The public notice for the project was a two-page summary of the project.

“It doesn’t tell the residents it has 116 apartments or how tall it is, that it’s going to be a major hookup to the sewage treatment plant, that there’s 30 years of tax deferment that really could impact everybody’s taxes,” she said. “There’s no detail.”

She said case law on this subject says that “residents are required to know something about the project.”

Ms. Zenk also said the board should have required an environmental impact study, rather than just allow the developer to submit a voluntary impact study.

Supervisor Sean Walter said the environmental study for Riverside Lofts does address the sewer issue, and he said this was the third hearing the board has had on the subject.

He said the town owns the most sophisticated sewage treatment plant in the state.

Ian Lyons, a Riverhead resident and small business owner who said he is the interim chairman of the newly formed group called “Riverhead Business and Citizens for Sustainable Development,” also opposed the project.

He urged the board to carry out an “independent environmental impact study” not financed by the developer.

He said the town is opening itself to “article 78 lawsuits” by not doing so, and he also urged the board to delay approving the site plan until a new environmental study is done.

Mr. Lyons has also opposed the IDA tax abatements being sought by Georgica Green Ventures.

David Gilmartin Jr., the attorney for Georgica Green Ventures, the developer of the project, said the property is already within the water district and is permitted by zoning.

The only reason the special permit was required was because the developer proposed more parking than required.

The developer is proposing 55 parking spaces, but says that they are not required to provide any, since the property is in the public parking district, where businesses pay a special tax and are permitted to use the public parking for their businesses.

Mr. Gilmartin said the environmental study they did was not required but was done voluntarily. He also threatened to sue anyone who sues to stop the project.

“There’s been some veiled threats this afternoon and maybe some not-so-veiled threats that somebody is going to bring an Article 78 (lawsuit),” Mr. Gilmartin said.

“I want those people to fully understand that when they do that, they may jeopardize funding the developer has received from governmental entities, and our remedies, if somebody interferes with that process, will be to look for those damages.”

He said anyone bringing a lawsuit against the project will be required to put up a bond in the neighborhood of $50 million, the cost of the project.

Mr. Hubbard has opposed the project based on concerns about lack of parking, the potential for a 30-year IDA tax abatement, and the impact the project may have on the school district.

Ms. Giglio abstained on the advice of the town ethics board, since she partially owns an apartment building in downtown Riverhead, Summerwind Square.

David Gallo, president of Georgica Green Ventures, thanked the board for its support.

“We appreciate the board’s confidence in us,” he said. “We started over three years ago where we started envisioning the downtown redevelopment and we will continue to work hard.”

He said they will try to reach out and address some of the concerns people have with the project.

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Photo: Ian Lyons, of the Riverhead Business and Citizens for Sustainable Development, speaks against Riverview Lofts Wednesday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)