The proposed industrial development would be located on the south side of Middle Country Road, 570 feet east of Fresh Pond Avenue. RiverheadLOCAL illustration. Image: Google Earth

A proposal to develop a 425,464-square-foot industrial complex on 30 acres off Middle Country Road in Calverton should be subject to comprehensive review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, according to the Riverhead Town planning department.

“Far and away, this is one of the largest industrial developments that the town has seen in quite some time,” planning aide Greg Bergman told the town board on Thursday.

Hicksville-based HK Ventures LLC proposes to develop eight buildings on the vacant site, located on the south side of Middle Country Road, 570 feet east of Fresh Pond Avenue. The property adjoins the Tractor Supply/Sky Materials site on the west, farmland on the east and the EPCAL property on the south. The buildings proposed by HK Ventures range in size from 49,000 square feet to 56,672 square feet with divided tenant spaces.

The site is zoned Industrial C. Permitted uses in the Industrial C zoning district include offices, warehouses, greenhouses, wholesale businesses, manufacturing, commercial sports and recreation facilities and laboratories. As-of-right accessory uses include: retail, as accessory to wholesale business, limited to 10% of the gross floor area of the wholesale business; and cafeteria for the purpose of seeing employees and their guests.

There are significant concerns about the proposal that need to be addressed through the SEQRA process, Bergman told the town board. The concerns include traffic impacts and the availability of public water to serve the proposed development, he said. Accordingly, the planning department is recommending a “positive declaration” for the proposal, which has already been classified as a Type I action under SEQRA, he said. The plan would therefore be subject to an environmental impact statement.

The planning board, which has jurisdiction over most commercial site plans in Riverhead, on May 21 determined the proposal to be a Type I action and is requesting lead agency status. The lead agency, under SEQRA, is responsible for the coordinated review of the proposal.

Bergman went to the town board on Thursday to discuss the planning board’s lead agency request. The town board is an “involved agency” for purposes of SEQRA review because the town board is the governing agency of the Riverhead Water District and the proposed development will require a water district extension. As such, the town board can also seek lead agency status.

“Currently, only the front approximately 500 feet of the site is located within the water district. Approval of the action will require the town board to extend the water district to serve the entire parcel,” Bergman told the board. The cost of the extension would be borne by the applicant, he said.

The town board must decide if it wants to challenge the planning board’s lead agency request, he said.

Town board members were unanimous in deferring to the planning board on lead agency, despite their authority over the water district, citing planning board chairman Stan Carey’s expertise in water supply issues. Carey has had a 30-plus year career in municipal water supply. He has served as superintendent of the Massapequa Water District for nearly 10 years, is a member of the state water quality council since 2017, when he was appointed to the position by the governor, and is board member and past president of the Long Island Water Conference, an organization of public water supply organizations on the island.

Ultimately, the decision whether or not to extend the water district to serve the project will still rest with the town board, but the planning board, through the SEQRA review process, will examine the sufficiency of public water to serve the development.

“I think it would be better off in their hands because of the situation with the water,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said. “We’re not looking to put water in jeopardy for the people in the area, so — we want to know that that’s going to be sufficient supply for them.”

Board members discussed concerns about traffic in the area as well.

It’s already difficult to turn onto Middle Country Road from Fresh Pond Avenue, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said, questioning why a traffic signal was not required by the State Department of Transportation at the intersection of Middle Country Road and Fresh Pond Avenue, when the Tractor Supply development was approved. The retail development was required to have its entrance on the south side of the state road align with Fresh Pond Avenue on the north side.

The town board, as an involved agency, will receive copies of all studies and correspondence and will still have opportunities to comment on the traffic impact statement and environmental impact statement when they are prepared and being reviewed, building and planning administrator Jefferson Murphree told board members.

New York State DOT, the State DEC, the State Office of Historic Preservation, the Suffolk County health department and planning commission, the town fire marshal’s office, the water district, the ZBA and the Long Islan Power Authority/PSEG-LI are also involved agencies. Each involved agency has 30 days from the June 10 notice issued by the planning board to challenge the planning board’s lead agency assertion.

The application for preliminary site plan approval was reviewed by the planning board on May 21 with HK Ventures’ attorney, Keith Brown of Melville, who attended by telephone since Town Hall is still closed to the public except for limited purposes due to the COVID crisis.

The applicant proposes developing the site in two phases. Phase I will consist of 226,844 square feet of development on in four buildings and a 1,500-square-foot cafeteria on the southern half of the site. Phase II, to be developed after the first phase is completed and operating, will consist of four buildings totaling 197,120 square feet.

The project as proposed will require a variance for impervious surface coverage, as well as 26.3 Pine Barrens credits for the development of Phase II, Bergman said. The site is in groundwater management zone III, which limits sanitary discharge to 300 gallons per day per acre. That limits sanitary discharge to 9,076 GPD for the whole site, which is only sufficient to cover the phase I development, Bergman told the planning board last month.

While town board members expressed concerns about traffic impacts and water usage, they also expressed support for the concept.

“There is a tremendous need for smaller warehouse spaces,” Giglio said. “There’s a greater need for manufacturing also, but for smaller spaces,” she said.

Councilman Frank Beyrodt said most projects developed in Industrial C “have gone to solar. So this is one of the few that is actually trying to use the industrial zoning.”

“What it should be for — what it was intended for,” Hubbard said.

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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.