Town officials look to speed up process of bringing Lidl store to town

The Riverhead Planning Board is recommending it “fast track” its review of a proposal to convert the former Toys “R” Us building on Route 58 into a Lidl store, since the building was originally a supermarket.

Lidl, a German discount grocer, purchased 27 Best Market stores earlier this year, including 24 on Long Island. 

The existing Best Market store totals 15,000 square feet and is located on the north side of Route 58, in the TJ Maxx shopping center.  After a plan to convert the vacant Toys “R” Us store into a Raymour and Flanigan furniture store fell through, Lidl sought to move into that building instead. The Toys “R” Us building is 35,167 square feet, according to planners. The building is currently owned by Raymour and Flanigan. It has been vacant since Toys “R” Us closed in 2018, shortly after the entire chain went bankrupt.

Kristen DeLuca of Bohler Engineering, representing Lidl, told the town Architectural Review Board Wednesday that the existing Best Market site will be closed.

Planning Board chairman Stan Carey said Thursday that the building was originally built as a supermarket before being converted to a Toys “R” Us in the early 1990s. Gamaldi’s Meat Way originally occupied the site, he said. 

“I don’t see the need for a public hearing,” Mr. Carey said. “It was a supermarket already.” 

Planning Board members agreed informally. 

The other issue the Planning Board is hoping to get the applicant to agree on is a proposed cross easement on the eastern side of the property, so that the parking lot can link up to the existing traffic signal that connects Target with the office complex to the east of the Toys “R” Us lot. 

Ms. DeLuca said they will propose the cross easement, but said they are “unsure if the other property owner will agree.”

There is already a cross easement on the western border with Wendy’s, which allows cars to travel from one store to another without having to go back on Route 58. 

Ms. DeLuca said it would be beneficial to Lidl to have the cross easement on the east end of the property. 

“Let’s fast track this and get this building occupied,” Mr. Carey said. 

Planning aide Brian Cunningham said the planning department also will work with the property owner to have a wetland cleaned up behind the property. 

An empty 55-gallon drum, concrete and other litter were found in that spot, Mr. Cunningham said. 

The Architectural Review Board has also reviewed the application at its last two meetings, but did not have a quorum present Wednesday and could not officially vote on the application. 

Lidl’s web site says it has about 11,200 stores in 32 countries and that its own private label constitutes about about 80% of products. The nearest Lidl store is in Moriches. 

The application does not call for any additional construction to the building, or any addition to its footprint, and anticipates completion in 2021.

Sonic discussed again

The Planning Board also reviewed plans for a Sonic drive-in restaurant at the corner of Route 58 and Osborn Avenue.

Among the concerns discussed was the possibility of initial traffic chokepoints along the busy corridor due to the novelty of the restaurant, which has no current locations closer than Smithtown. It’s proximity to ambulance headquarters is also of concern.

Planning Board member Ed Densieski also said he’d like to see more than 15 feet of landscaping front Route 58.

The application has still not been the subject of a Planning Board public hearing.

— With Grant Parpan