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Concerns raised on proposed five-story building at ZBA hearing

Representatives of the Riverhead Free Library and the Suffolk County Historical Society were among a number of speakers who opposed granting a series of zoning variances sought by the developers of a proposed five-story, mixed-used building on the corner of Osborn Avenue and Court Street.

The proposal was before the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals Thursday night. 

G2D Development of Huntington, which is already constructing a similar building in downtown Riverhead, has proposed the 50-foot building that will have 39 residential apartments. It is the first project to be considered under a recently adopted Railroad Avenue Overlay District. 

The proposed construction would replace the vacant building that once housed Long Island Diagnostic Imaging.

The application needs nine zoning variances in order to comply with the zoning.

Former Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, who said she a member of the historical society, complimented G2D Development for the work they are doing in downtown Riverhead, but said the variances being sought for this project equate to more than a quarter of the property size.

She said it would have “an undesirable impact on adjacent properties.”

Janet O’Hare, the president of the Riverhead Free Library Board of Trustees, expressed concern about the size of the proposal. She urged the ZBA to deny the request.

Former Councilwoman Barbara Blass said the proposal is what was envisioned by the overlay zone, but added, “if it takes no less than nine variances, something is wrong.”

She said the project is too large for the site. 

Juan Miceli-Martinez, who is a candidate for town council, said the building is too large and is not consistent with the scale of neighboring buildings like the former Henry Perkins hotel (now called Concern Riverhead), the Suffolk County Historical Society and the library’s Yellow Barn.

A total of six people spoke and all were in opposition. 

Chris Kent, the attorney for the applicant, said the current building is built right up to the property line on Osborn Avenue. 

“We’re not proposing something different than what’s already there,” he said. 

The proposal would be built close to the sidewalk and the street in order to provide a buffer from the library.

“Something is going to be constructed on this site,” he said. “The property owner is not going to leave a vacant building here. It’s a detriment to the community.”

He said that when he was taking pictures of the building, there were homeless people living in the stairwell. 

The ZBA did not take any action because the proposal is before the Town Board on a separate issue.