Featured Story

Planning Board grants approvals for retail building currently under construction

A partially-constructed building at the corner of Kroemer Avenue and Route 58 in Riverhead may be moving forward after the Planning Board approved amendments to its site plan Thursday night.

In a split vote, the board granted administrative approval for the plans, which call for construction of a 14,400-square-foot retail building currently underway on the vacant 1.5-acre lot.

The amendments included increasing the number of parking stalls from the 58 required by code to 75 as well as changes to the drainage plan.

In addition, the applicant also proposed relocating a handicapped-accessible sidewalk and eliminating all landscaped areas within the parking lot, thus reducing the total amount of landscaped area, according to a review of the plans by town planning aide Greg Bergman.

In September, the town Zoning Board of Appeals granted two variances for impervious coverage and contiguous landscaped area. According to Mr. Bergman, the maximum impervious area allowed by code is 75% and the applicant proposed 81% and they also proposed 18.3% landscaped area where the minimum required by code is 20%.

“I’m not sure why we want to do that,” Planning Board member Ed Densieski said during Thursday’s discussion, adding that the building has become an eyesore. “I think we have to make things look better on Route 58.”

Philip Butler, an attorney for property owner Barclay Ehrler, said he understands the concern over the overall reduction to landscaping and explained that part of the reduction stems from the elimination of a landscaped median at the entrance over visibility concerns.

Mr. Butler assured the screening around the property would be “robust,” and argued the amendments are a fair trade off for offsite drainage improvements the applicant has agreed to do on the roadway.

“I also understand that this property has sat fallow for a long time. Trust me, no one more than my client is itching to get this project underway and finished,” Mr. Butler told members of the board.

He added that his client has been approached by a furniture store—one reason he’s seeking additional parking lot space. He did not specify which store has expressed interest in the Route 58 location.

“We can all agree that what is going to go there sooner than later is going to be a vast improvement over what has been there over the last 10 years,” Mr. Butler said.

Mr. Densieski and Richard O’Dea ultimately voted no on the site plan amendments, citing concerns over the reduction in landscaping.

But board chair Stan Carey said the amendments are necessary to move the project forward. “[If we don’t approve this,] the site will sit there for another three years and look horrible,” he said.