The developers of the Costco site gained approval yesterday of an interim site plan that will allow the warehouse retailer to open with a temporary certificate of occupancy before the rest of the site is developed as shown on the site plan approved by the town in 2012.
Costco hopes to open its 150,000-square-foot warehouse store in Riverhead by the middle of next month, according to the site developer Brixmor Property Group Inc.
Earlier this month Brixmor representatives hashed out an agreement on an amended interim site plan with the town planning board and angry neighbors who have been upset with the town and the developer since the clear-cutting of the 41-acre Shops at Riverhead site last June.
The May 1 meeting came after the town issued a stop-work order April 24, halting all work on the site. The town decided the site could not be completed in accordance with the original site plan approval because of excess materials excavated pursuant to the “balanced cut and fill” plan approved by the planning board in October 2012. The town had issued summonses to truckers it said were caught illegally hauling material off-site.
The “balanced cut and fill” allowed the developer to clear-cut the northern 11 acres of the site, which is not being developed, so it could excavate sand and dirt for filling low-lying areas on the southern acreage, which is slated for development.
The clear-cutting, which shocked neighboring residents other community members, touched off a maelstrom of controversy in Riverhead. The berm and fence erected on the site’s border with the Foxwood Village community to the north also became a focal point of community anger. Emotions rose even higher when the developer sought variances from the town’s “dark skies” code to build taller, brighter lights on the site. Neighbors packed planning board, zoning board and town board meetings to protest the development, and even joined union members on a Route 58 picket line in front of the construction site.
The amended site plan approved yesterday allows the developer to spread 86,000 cubic yards of excess excavated materials across the northern portion of the site, raising the elevation in that area by about three feet. Since the 271,000-square-foot shopping center approved by the town allows the developer to concentrate all allowed development on the southern 30 acres, the northern 11 acres cannot be developed unless the property owner buys development rights through the farm preservation program — at a cost of about a $1 million. The northern portion of the site is supposed to be planted with a “wildflower field.”
The amended site plan also allows the developer to grade and plant cover grasses across the rest of the site which, though approved for development with four additional buildings, totaling 120,350 square feet of gross floor area plus parking, will remain undeveloped until tenants for those buildings can be found, the developer’s attorney, Peter Danowski, told RiverheadLOCAL May 1. About 13 acres will be planted in cover grasses in the interim.
The new approval requires the developer to replace a wooden fence along the northern boundary line adjoining Foxwood Village with a chain-link fence and to increase evergreen plantings and install an operating irrigation system to water the berm’s plantings.
“All this work will have to be completed before we will issue a temporary C of O,” Riverhead planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree said yesterday.
The planning board unanimously approved the amended site plan.
Peter Blasl contributed reporting.