Main Road in Aquebogue, looking west from Edgar Avenue, in August 2018. File photo: Peter Blasl

The town board on Wednesday denied a special permit application for a two-story medical office building on Main Road in Aquebogue.

The vote, following a July public hearing during which residents lambasted the plan, was unanimous.

“I don’t think the two-story building fits in this area,” said Councilwoman Catherine Kent before casting her vote. “And it really was quite impressive how many people turned out to speak up on this,” she said, citing both the July 7 public hearing and the dozens of letters and emails sent by residents objecting to the plan.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said she agreed. “You should maintain the charm, the bucolic look and this was not going to do a service to that area in Aquebogue,” the supervisor said.

Applicant Chernoff Realty sought a town board special permit to build a two-story building with a footprint of 5,340 square feet on just under two acres of land on the south side of Main Road about 188 feet west of Union Avenue. The site is located in the Rural Corridor zoning use district, where professional offices are one of several special permit uses.

The proposed development would house an orthopedic doctor’s office, including rehabilitation and MRI facilities, Chernoff Realty attorney Charles Cuddy of Riverhead told the board during the hearing.

The applicant in May had obtained variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals to exceed code limits on floor area ratio and impervious surface area.

The plan before the board — which had gone through a number of iterations, including two approvals that subsequently expired —depicted a 32-foot-tall, building that would house 34 exam rooms in six suites on two floors, each suite also having two rest rooms, an office, a waiting room and reception areas. There were also designated supply closets and break rooms on both floors. The plan provided 76 parking spaces.

Residents raised concerns about the size and mass of the building, which would be the first two-story commercial construction east of County Route 105, as well as the proportion of the currently wooded site that would be developed or paved.

Those who spoke in opposition said the type of construction proposed had no place in the Rural Corridor Zoning Use District, which was adopted as a result of Riverhead’s 2003 comprehensive plan, but belonged in commercial districts on Route 58.

“The intent of the Rural Corridor Zoning Use District is to allow a very limited range of roadside shops and services that are compatible with the agricultural and rural setting along major arterial roads, such as New York State Route 25, leading into Downtown Riverhead and areas zoned Hamlet Center or Village Center,” the zoning code states.

The Rural Corridor Zoning Use District was applied to large segments of Route 25 in Aquebogue, Jamesport and Calverton and was controversial since its adoption. Land owners and developers bristled under the newly adopted restrictions from the beginning, with developers seeking approvals for projects community members saw as “an assault” on the rural character the new zoning was intended to protect. The proposals led to the formation of a new group called “Save Main Road” and some civic activists advocated forming an incorporated village to stop projects the town board was then favoring.

The Rural Corridor Zoning Use District prompted several lawsuits. One challenged the validity of the entire master plan and the new zoning codes adopted under the plan. The master plan was eventually upheld by the state’s highest court just last year, after a long and convoluted legal challenge lasting 16 years, initiated by a Smithtown developer that sought to restore its rights under pre-master plan zoning along Route 25 in Calverton, where it wanted to build a complex of seven buildings totaling 152,275 square feet of retail uses — including a 125,000-square-foot “big box” store — on 41 vacant acres.

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.

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.