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Retail uses to be allowed at Vinland Commons in Aquebogue

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals voted to allow retail uses at the Vinland Commons complex in Aquebogue on the condition that no “formula retail” or chain stores can be located at the Main Road property. 

The resolution was approved 3-0 at a meeting Thursday evening with members Leroy Barnes and Lisa Worthington absent.

Vinland Commons, headed by Clete Galasso of Jamesport, had been seeking an interpretation from the ZBA after a proposal for a retail use was denied by the building department, which argued that retail is not permitted in the Rural Corridor (RLC) zone.

Town Code does permit retail uses in the RLC zoning district on Route 25 between South Jamesport and Washington avenues.

Vinland Commons attorney Patricia Stern testified at an August ZBA hearing that retail was an allowed use when the site plan for the complex was approved in 1987. Retail was later restricted when the property was rezoned to Rural Corridor in 2005.

Limited restaurant uses — defined as bistros and cafes in town code — could also be permitted under a special permit.

Mr. Galasso declined to comment after Thursday’s meeting.

He had once sought to open a 7-Eleven at the site in 2016, but Ms. Stern said earlier this year that plans for the site no longer include a 7-Eleven. Riverhead Town has since passed legislation to ban 24-hour operations in Rural Corridor zones.

In August, residents submitted a petition with 72 signatures to the Town Board in opposition to the zoning change.

The ZBA hearing continued at a meeting Sept. 12, during which one resident spoke out against the proposal.

Lisa Poyer, who lives just north of the property in Aquebogue said that even though a 7-Eleven is no longer planned, the zoning change could make way for more intense uses.

In addition to concerns about potential increased strain on the sanitary system, Ms. Poyer said she worried about things like a liquor store or chain stores, like Starbucks, moving in. “That’s not a good use for the site,” she said, adding that she’d prefer to see a dry-retail use on the property.

“I have no objection to a hat shop or a shoe shop or a small clothing boutique shop,” she said. “[Mr. Galasso] has a livelihood that he has to make money off the shop, but we also live right there and I don’t want people driving all hours of the night up and down our streets and doing crazy things.”

Vinland Commons attorney Patricia Stern argued that offices and retail are “the only practical use” for the site, since it’s located on a main thoroughfare.

In response to Ms. Poyer’s concerns, she said a liquor store would not be permitted since it would be located in too close proximity to a school at the site, which recently renewed a 10-year lease.

Ms. Poyer asked the ZBA to think not only of the immediate plan, but consider future possibilities.

During the Sept. 12 hearing, Ms. Stern urged the board to not place a blanket restriction on chain stores.

“That really does limit them to what they can and can’t put in there,” she said, pointing out that chain stores exist along the Main Road less than a mile east of the site. “It seems kind of unfair that they would be limited to no chain stores when other people right across the street are not,” Ms. Stern said.

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