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Does a proposed shopping center on Route 58 need a sound wall?

At its meeting last Thursday, the Riverhead Planning Board discussed whether Long Island Cauliflower Association’s proposed 42,058-square-foot retail project should be required to have a sound wall to protect residents in the adjacent residential community to the north from noise.

The proposal, located on a mostly vacant lot on the northwest corner of Route 58 and Mill Road, would consist of three one-story buildings — with sizes of 17,922 square feet, 10,904 square feet and 13,232 square feet — as well as a 4,935-square-foot fast-food restaurant with a drive-thru window.

The restaurant would be located on the southern portion of the property, closest to Route 58. The other three buildings would face Mill Road. North of the LICA property is Millbook Communities, a manufactured home community that’s separated from the LICA property by a row of trees. 

Planning aide Greg Bergman brought up the subject of whether the board supported a sound attenuation wall on the north part of the property to protect neighbors from noise.

He noted that Stop & Shop, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Shops at Riverhead all installed sound walls in response to noise concerns.

“There is precedent for sound attenuation to protect the quality of life of the neighboring residential parcels,” Mr. Bergman said. 

The Town Code requires a 50-foot minimum non-disturbed transitional yard to buffer commercial uses with residential districts, according to Mr. Bergman. That requirement was approved following the clearing of the Costco site, which angered neighbors in the nearby Foxwood Village community. 

“We are absolutely going to have to do something about noise abatement,” said Planning Board member Ed Densieski. “I suggest some kind of wall like the other applications have done throughout town.”

Mr. Bergman said the proposed site plan calls for 17 parking stalls and lighting improvements that are within a required buffer area, which does not comply with the town code and would require a variance from town Zoning Board of Appeals. The site plan shows 70 parking stalls more than the 220-stall town code requirement, Mr. Bergman said. 

“I don’t think we have a noise problem in reference to what you’ve seen at other sites that have been a problem within the town,” said Richard Israel, representing LICA.

“We have taken into consideration trying to see if we can leave the 50-foot buffer so that maybe we won’t need to go for a variance.”

LICA is not proposing to remove trees.

“I’m not sure if a 50-foot buffer, especially in the winter time, is going to shield those homes from the constant headlights and vehicles moving about,” said Mr. Densieski, who was the only board member to address the sound wall issue. 

“If you want us to start building walls and stuff, I guess we can consider that,” Mr. Israel said. “I don’t think these walls are so nice. I know we’re doing them because we have close proximity to residences … I just don’t believe these structures are nice and I’m not sure how effective they truly are. If you’re going to hear a truck that’s 200 feet away, that particular retention wall, I don’t believe, is going to change that. If you hear the traffic on Route 58, your sound wall is not going to protect your people from that.”

A traffic study the applicant commissioned said the proposal would not have a significant adverse impact on traffic in the area, according to Mr. Bergman. However, the study says there would be a slight increase in trip generation as a result of the proposed development and recommends that the northbound Mill Road approach be restriped to have a left-turn lane, a through lane and a right turn lane, he said. 

The board took no formal action on the application last Thursday. 

Mr. Israel indicated he would make changes to the plans. 

“Let us come up with a plan that is a little more decorative and desirable that these 15-foot walls that block the world,” he said. 

“We’re waiting for you to impress us,” Mr. Densieski said.