The owners of the Peconic Paddler site on Peconic Avenue, who plan to eventually build a 100-room hotel there, pitched a two-phase plan to the Riverhead Town Board today, hoping to gain its blessing for a limited sewer district hookup.
Property owners Brendan Fredette, Tom Fredette and Jim Svendsen last June asked Riverhead Town to allow a temporary hookup for the proposed hotel — until Southampton Town builds a wastewater treatment plant to handle anticipated development in Riverside.
Southampton is pursuing the design and construction of a treatment plant so that revitalization plans it adopted several years ago can be implemented. The town’s plans call for high-density development in the area of the Riverside Circle and a portion of Flanders Road in Riverside. But the plans can’t be built out without access to a sewage treatment facility.
Fredette, Svendsen wants to build an interim project on its four-acre site, which adjoins Grangebel Park. Phase one would consiste of a 4,000-square-foot building to house Peconic Paddler and a coffee shop or “light-fare restaurant,” Brendan Fredette told Riverhead Town Board members Thursday.
Fredette said the building and uses being proposed are allowed as of right by Southampton’s current zoning and can be built with a commercial septic system under Suffolk County health department regulations, which allow a sewage “flow” of 600 gallons per day.
Their design connects the site to the park, creates new public space and would enhance the park, he said.
If the project can’t be served by the Riverhead Sewer District, the site would have to be fenced in so people visiting the park during events don’t “over tax” the building’s septic system, Tom Fredette said.
But Riverhead officials, who did not embrace the idea of connecting the proposed hotel to the town sewer district, were not enthused about hooking up the phase-one development either.
They had a host of concerns, including monitoring of actual sewage treatment plant usage and guarding against future development being patched in to the town’s treatment plant against the town’s wishes.
Councilman Tim Hubbard told the developers.
“The downtown business owners are opposed to it,” said Councilman Tim Hubbard, who serves as town board liaison to the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association. The group sent the town board a letter of opposition, which Hubbard distributed to board members.
“For me, it’s about the Town of Riverhead,” Hubbard said. “We are trying to rebuild out town. They kicked Riverside to the curb year after year,” he said, referring to Southampton Town. “They sat at this table and said they’d have a sewer plant up and running by 2020. They’re nowhere near having a shovel in the ground.”
Hubbard said allowing an out-of-district commercial hook-up would be “opening up a Pandora’s box.” He noted that the town was in court with Suffolk County over sewer fees for the county center under an expired 20-year contract.
“This may be a nice addition to the Town of Riverhead,” Hubbard allowed, “but not at the expense of our sewer district.”
Brendan Fredette said the project is beneficial to the Riverhead community and a sewer hookup is the best thing for the environment.
“We don’t see this as zero-sum. We see it as a rising tide,” Fredette said. “We can’t see how you can see it as zero-sum.”
He told the board his company would do whatever the town wants to limit the site to 600 gallons per day in sewage flow. “Covenants, a bond — whatever it is, we will gladly provide it,” he said.
Board members suggested the developers meet with the BID Management Association and the members of the parking district advisory committee. They also asked to be kept informed about the application’s progress with the Town of Southampton.
This story is free to read thanks in part to the generous support of readers like you. Keep local news free. Become a member today.