A measure to readopt part of the town’s transfer of development rights code annulled by a state court in 2018 was put on hold by the town board last week to allow the town’s farm preservation and agricultural advisory committees to review and comment on the proposal.

The code section, originally adopted in 2014 at the request of a developer, according to town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz, relieved the developer of the obligation to purchase development rights under the town’s transfer of development rights program where the Suffolk County health department requires the purchase of pine barrens credits for approval of the development density sought by the developer.

After the court struck down the town’s TDR code last year due to the town’s failure in 2005 to refer the legislation to the Suffolk County Planning Commission as required by law, the town made the required referral and readopted the TDR code. But the provision discussed last Tuesday had not been acted on.

The chairman of the town’s TDR subcommittee and the Long Island Farm Bureau both objected to the provision because it dispenses with the need to TDRs and hampers the town’s farmland preservation program’s objectives.

“The farm community is opposed to this because of the sensitivity of the TDR program and lack of availbale projects for TDR,” LIFB administrative director Rob Carpenter said. “You have the revitalized TDR committee currently studying the program. This should go to the TDR committee and ag advisory committee for review and discussion, so they understand and can comment on it,” Carpenter said.

Richard Wines, a member of the town’s farmland committee for more than a decade and cochairman of its TDR subcommittee, criticized how the measure was first adopted in 2014.

“I think it was snuck into the code in 2014,” Wines said. “I don’t think either committee was consulted,” he said.

The change came about in 2014 to make increasing development density less “onerous” for developers, Kozakiewicz said.

“In some instances the applicants were able to increased density from one to four units per acre but because of the size of the units they had to purchase pine barrens credits,” Kozakiewicz said. “A decision was made that in those instances those pine barrens credits could be used instead.”

The size of the units, due to wastewater density flow calculations used by the health department, required the applicant to purchase pine barrens credits in addition to development rights, which the applicant said was onerous, Kozakiewicz said.

“Frankly, I’m not in favor of putting this back in again. I don’t understand why it was put in in 2014,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said.

“It was needed because of increased density,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said.

“The argument was it became too expensive, so they were never going to get built,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said. “I think it needs to go back to the drawing board.”

The hearing record was left open for 10 days for written comment, but a majority of the board favored referring the proposal to the TDR and ag advisory committees and rewriting it.

The board favored moving ahead with a second code amendment to Chapter 42, which would allow the planning board to make decisions granting relief from zoning code requirements pertaining to setbacks, parking, lot coverage and the like — which by state law are under the purview of the Zoning Board of Appeals — where an commercial site plan application involves a project that uses transferred development rights.

Both changes were made part of the same public hearing and the town attorney said he had to research the correct way to move ahead with just one part of the code change included in the public notice.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.