The circa 1855 Norton house at 331 E. Main Street. Photo: Denise Civiletti

A third apartment building on Main Street gained approvals from the Riverhead Town Board last week.

The board voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday to grant a special permit and preliminary site plan approval for the proposed building at 331 East Main Street.

The developer plans to build a four-story, 36-unit building on the .36-acre site. The units will all be market-rate apartments — in other words, they will not be workforce housing apartments restricted to tenants whose incomes are under certain thresholds.

The developer will provide 34 parking spaces for tenants — a reduction of two spaces from its original proposal to accommodate a town board request for ground-floor retail space. The original plans called for ground-floor display windows only and board members felt that does not meet the zoning code’s requirements for “active ground-floor uses.” The plan has been amended to add an 812-square-foot retail space on Main Street at the expense of two ground-floor parking spaces.

An existing building on the site — built around 1855 by blacksmith Richard Norton — may be moved off-site if the town can find a suitable location. The developer will contribute $70,000 to the cost of moving the building.

The town Landmarks Preservation Committee suggested moving it across the street, to an area of the municipal parking lot between the Tuthill-Mangano Funeral Home and the Howell House. The Landmarks committee said relocating it there would “fill a large gap in the row of historic houses that grace the entrance to Riverhead’s downtown.” Discussions about a possible new location are ongoing.

The developer must still obtain final site plan approval from the town board, after it meets conditions imposed by the preliminary approval, including submission of engineered drawings and building elevations.

The other two apartment buildings on Main Street — as well as one on Peconic Avenue — were built as workforce housing projects.

Peconic Crossing on West Main Street has 45 rent-controlled apartments. It was completed and occupied in 2018.

Riverview Lofts is located on East Main Street and McDermott Avenue and is nearing completion and slated for occupancy this fall. It will have 116 workforce housing rental apartments plus ground-floor restaurant uses and parking.

Summerwind Square, the first apartment building constructed downtown under zoning adopted after the 2003 master plan was approved, is a four-story mixed-use building on Peconic Avenue, with 52 workforce housing apartments and commercial uses on the ground floor. The building was occupied in November 2013.

Nineteen workforce housing apartments were developed on the second floor of the former Woolworth building. The apartments have been occupied since February 2015. The ground floor has 25,000 square feet of commercial space, currently occupied by a fitness center, a hair salon, a flower shop, a mobile phone store and a bagel shop.

Plans for at least three other apartment buildings are in the pipeline: a 170-unit apartment building adjacent to Riverview Lofts; 28 apartments on the upper floors of a proposed extension to the Suffolk Theater; and 45 apartments on the upper three floors of a four-story building on the site of the former West Marine building.

The construction of the Peconic Crossing and Riverview Lofts buildings, along with the 170-apartment building proposed for the former Sears site adjacent to Riverview Lofts sparked controversy in the community, with residents complaining about the height and mass of the apartment buildings. The town hired a planning consultant to develop a pattern book for downtown development. It also hired another planning firm to update the 2003 comprehensive plan. Both of those planning projects are in progress.

The DC-1 zoning use district, which applies to the Main Street corridor, allows multi-family apartment buildings, up to five stories tall, by special permit of the town board. The code puts a cap of 500 new dwelling units in the Downtown Center-1 zoning use district.

The DC-1 district is within the Riverhead Parking District. Developers of properties within the town parking district are not required to provide off-street parking for their projects. Instead, properties within the district pay a special tax intended to fund parking facilities.

The town board held a public hearing in March 2018 on a proposed code amendment to require developers to provide on-site parking for new residential units built own property within the parking district — or in the alternative make a “payment in lieu of parking,” or PILOP, when on-site parking is not practical. The proposal drew opposition from downtown property owners, who objected that it adversely impacted their property rights.

The proposed code has since undergone some revision and the revised draft will be presented to the parking district committee at its next meeting, Councilman Tim Hubbard, the town board liaison to the parking district, said today.

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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.