A proposed five-story apartment building on the corner of Osborn Avenue and Court Street cleared a major hurdle last night when the Riverhead Town Board gave the plan a green light to move forward without further environmental review.
The proposed mixed-use building will have 39 apartments on the four upper stories and ground-floor offices and conference spaces, according to the site plan application filed by Huntington-based G2D Development Corp. It is the first application filed for development pursuant to the Railroad Avenue Overlay District adopted by the town board in January.
The overlay district, adopted after the board adopted a Transit-Oriented Development Plan and the Railroad Avenue Overlay District previously adopted by the town board.
Last night, the town board voted to assume lead agency for purposes of environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act and issued a negative declaration, which reflects the board’s determination that the proposed development will not have significant environmental impacts. The negative declaration terminates the review process under SEQRA and allows decisions on the application to be made.
The supervisor and three council members hailed the plan as a much-needed first step in the revitalization of a long-blighted area of downtown Riverhead.
“This is the first piece of the puzzle for the TOD,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said. “It’s very important,” he said. “I’m glad that somebody elected to develop this property.” Hubbard predicted that “Riverhead’s going to be on the map” because of the TOD.
“This is a great step in terms of getting investment in that area,” Councilman Ken Rothwell said before casting his vote.
Councilwoman Catherine Kent was the lone dissenter. She said she is in favor of investment in the area, which she said “certainly needs to be revitalized.” But the proposed development, she said, is “too big a building — too much in one spot… too much density” between the Suffolk County Historical Society Museum and Riverhead Free Library. Both the museum and the library have voiced opposition to the plan.
“I think that when a building is going for nine variances, and the variances, as was stated earlier, include parking setbacks, buffer zones, lighting, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Kent said.
The developer has an application pending before the Zoning Board of Appeals for nine variances from the requirements of the Railroad Avenue Overlay District code. The ZBA held a public hearing on the variance requests last month. Some residents who spoke at the hearing were critical of the project for requiring so many variances from the just-adopted code.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar last night said the number of variances sought did not trouble her.
“That’s the purpose of the planning board (sic) is to look at and consider input from the public, look at the code, look at the size of the building, look at the aesthetics. And they have some work to do on this building. And we’re going to trust them,” Aguiar said, referring to the zoning board of appeals.
The developer is seeking relief from the code’s requirements for minimum setbacks for front, rear and side yards, for minimum property line setback for off-street parking, for minimum parking stall size, for minimum vegetative buffer, for the minimum number and location of trees in the parking lot, “dark skies” code compliance for type and height of lights.
The project site plan also shows 35 on-site parking spaces, four fewer than the 39 required by code. The developer is seeking to have the parcel added to the Riverhead Parking District and wants to rely on the town-owned parking lot to the east of the property for those four spaces.
Aguiar said moving forward with a site plan so soon after adopting the transit-oriented development plan is “solid progress.”
“They are moderately priced apartments. This is for the youth, the single professionals, the elderly who may not be able to afford or want a big home and just want to be nearby and that’s the purpose,” Aguiar said. “It’s near a train station. That’s why it’s called TOD. They’re small apartments. They’re not going to tax our school, from what I understand, at all. And I vote yes.”
The building will offer four studio, 27 one-bedroom, and eight two-bedroom apartments, as well as a rooftop patio area for residents of the building. The ground floor will be occupied by WorkSmart, a shared workspace company owned by one of the developer’s principals.
The site is currently occupied by a long-vacant former medical office building, which will be demolished to make way for the new construction.
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