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Four-story apartment building likely taking step forward despite objection from councilwoman

A proposed four-story apartment building at the site of the former Subway on East Main Street will likely take a major step forward at next Tuesday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting, but at least one council member wants to pump the brakes.

Based on a recommendation fro the town’s planning staff, the board will vote on a resolution Tuesday to issue a “negative declaration” on the 36-unit market rate residential apartment building at 331 East Main Street.

The negative declaration means that the applicant is not required to do any further environmental impact studies on the project, which does still require both site plan and special permit approval from the Town Board.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent, the board’s lone Democrat, opposed that declaration, and said the applicant should be made to study the cumulative impact of having this project so close to two other large apartment complexes, one under construction and the other in the proposal stages.

The applicant, 331 East Main Street LLC, is headed by Gregory DeRosa of G2D Development of Huntington.

The attorney representing the applicant is former Town Councilman Chris Kent, Ms. Kent’s former husband.

At one point in the meeting, when Ms. Kent and Supervisor Yvette Aguiar were engaged in an argument over who could speak, the supervisor said “You have a personal interest in this, you should recuse yourself.”

Ms. Kent said she did not have a personal interest in the application and asked what Ms. Aguiar meant.

“You just threw over an accusation, I can’t imagine what you meant,” Ms. Kent said.

Other board members broke up the argument before it went any further.

At Thursday’s Town Board work session, Ms. Kent went over a litany of issues she felt have not been addressed regarding the project.

“I take this very seriously,” she said. “This is a project that will impact our community for years to come.”

The lack of a study of the cumulative impact of all three large apartment projects was one of her main concerns.

Ms. Kent said the applicant should be made to study the effect of this project along with the impact of the 116-unit Riverview Lofts and the proposed 170-unit Metro Group project on the site of the former Sears property.

State law prohibits a “segmented” review of multiple projects in the same area, she said.

But town building and planning administration Jeff Murphree disagreed that the review is segmented.

There is no common ownership of the three projects, he said.

Ms. Kent said the Metro Group was made to do an environmental impact study of their project.

“The scale and magnitude of the Sears project is greater than 331 East Main Street,” he said. “We’re talking about 36 apartments vs. 170.”

He said the Planning Department has addressed all of the issues Mr. Kent raised.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the board discussed 331 East Main Street last year and the board agreed with the proposal.

Another issue that has been raised regarding the application was whether the building, built in 1855, had historic value.

A May 29, 2020, letter from the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation determined that the existing structures located at 331 East Main Street “are not eligible for listing in the State and National Registers of Historic Places,” but are adjacent to two federally recognized Historic Districts.

Despite this, the state said “the proposed project as currently designed will have no adverse impact on historic resources.”

Another issue Ms. Kent brought up was the potential impact the project would have on neighboring properties during construction.

When Riverview Lofts was under construction, two historic buildings across the street sustained damage that their owners attributed to the pile-driving work required to stabilize the building.

Ms. Giglio said this project won’t use pile driving methods and will instead use “vibro-aggregate piers.”

Ms. Giglio said that if that method doesn’t work, the town can require the developer use another method, and she said the applicant has agreed to pay for any damage they might cause to neighboring properties.

“I’m not against this project,” Ms. Kent said. “I’m against moving forward without properly studying the application.”

When Ms. Aguiar said it was time to move the meeting forward, Ms. Kent said, “I have every right to be present. I won’t be silenced on these topics.”