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Traffic, environmental impacts raised as concerns for proposed industrial complex

Increased traffic, environmental impacts and the decimation of Calverton’s rural character were among the top concerns raised by speakers during a scoping session for a proposed new industrial complex at a Riverhead Planning Board meeting Thursday.

The Planning Board is currently conducting an environmental review of an application submitted by HK Ventures. The group is seeking to develop a vacant 30-acre site along Middle Country Road in Calverton with 423,964 square feet of industrial space across two phases. A total of eight buildings ranging in size from 49,000 to 56,672 square feet, plus an additional 1,500 square-foot commissary space reserved for use by tenants of the complex.

“In addition to becoming the solar capital of Long Island, Calverton continues to experience significant development pressure,” former councilwoman and longtime Planning Board member Barbara Blass said during the hearing, also noting that the Enterprise Park at Calverton is a more appropriate location for this project.

Ms. Blass also took issue with a marketing analysis listed as part of the draft scope prepared by David Zere, a real estate broker associated with the HK Ventures team. “[The board] should seek a more objective source for this information,” she said.

Speaking specifically about the draft scope, Ms. Blass said it must clarify the zoning uses, include soil testing because of previous mining activities, consider renewable energy and minimize the view from the road in an effort to preserve the rural landscape.

“The sheer size of this project…is enormous,” said Greater Calverton Civic Association president Toqui Terchun, echoing those concerns. “People have said to me that they moved here for the rural character of our area.”

Water availability, Ms. Terchun added, is a “dear concern” to residents, one shared by Planning Board chairman Stan Carey, who asked if the Riverhead Water District could supply a facility of this magnitude. “That really needs to be analyzed,” he said.

Many resident comments aligned with points raised by two Planning Board consultants studying the environmental and traffic impacts of the project.

Michael Harrigan, vice chair of the Wading River Fire District, urged the board to look at the impacts on the community of 55-and-over residents on Fresh Pond Avenue, dangerous proximity to the intersection and also weigh the impacts of future development at the EPCAL site.

Ray DiBiase of LK McLean Associates said the intersection at Fresh Pond Avenue is of special concern. “It’s only 400 feet away from Fresh Pond Avenue,” he explained Thursday.

Project alternatives could include cross access with the adjacent Tractor Supply site as well as installing a traffic light at the intersection to aid those who want to turn left into the site or make a left turn out of the complex, Mr. DiBiase said.

The intersection of Route 25 and Edwards Avenue is also listed in the draft scope. 

Mr. DiBiase said a state Department of Transportation project is currently in the works for the Edwards Avenue intersection to create left turning lanes at all approaches.

The intersection will also be redesigned so the south and north side of Edwards Avenue match up. 

Work on that project is not expected to begin until at least 2023 and as a result, Mr. DiBiase said the intersection at Edwards Avenue and Nugent Drive should also be factored into the studies.  

In addition, he noted that trip generation estimates should include estimates for the most intensive permitted uses, which, in the case of Industrial-C, could include office uses, commercial sports and recreation facilities.

Planning Board consultant Nora Brew of Walden Environmental Engineering noted that the scope should also include alternatives to traditional wastewater septic systems in order to protect groundwater quality.

Kim Gennaro, an environmental consultant for the applicant, said that in light of recent changes approved by the Suffolk County Legislature last month, they are abandoning plans for on-site sanitary systems and instead considering a sewage treatment plant.

Ms. Brew’s recommendations also included a community air monitoring plan, more details about the volume of natural material to be excavated and developing the site in one phase instead of two to lessen construction-related impacts.

Mr. Carey said soil and materials management is another concern and cited a “very bad experience” the board had when the Costco shopping center was developed.

“They severely miscalculated how much material needed to be removed. We don’t know if that was done intentionally or unintentionally but it should be studied if that’s going to be required,” he said, in addition to environmental impacts associated with storing soil.

Keith Brown, an attorney for the applicant, said they would take all of these issues into consideration as the review moves forward.

He said they were aiming to build the “most beautiful industrial park Long Island has ever seen,” and that the project would fill a need in the area. “There really is nothing like this on Long Island,” Mr. Brown said.

Comments received Thursday will be incorporated into the final scoping document which will guide the preparation of the final environmental impact statement required as part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

The Planning Board faces a 60-day deadline from Sept. 21, when the draft scope was submitted, to adopt the draft environmental impact statement and Mr. Carey said members of the public will have additional opportunities to comment on the project as it moves through the process.