Representatives of the company that owns the shopping plaza vacated by Walmart in January 2014. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Plans to convert 65,000 square feet of the vacant former Walmart store into a Restaurant Depot were reviewed by the Riverhead Planning Board on Thursday.

Restaurant Depot would be occupying space in the eastern part of the vacant building, according to the site plan application.

The site plan includes, in addition to facade, parking lot and lighting improvements, the removal of an existing outdoor sales area behind the building and construction of exterior loading docks and trash compactor areas in the rear of the building.

The site plan also includes the installation of new retaining walls and the installation of sound walls, ranging in height from 8 to 16 feet.

Planning Board Vice Chairman Ed Densieski said he was concerned about the sufficiency of noise mitigation along the southern border of the site, which adjoins residential properties on Kings Drive. There is no sound wall proposed in that area, and tractor-trailers making deliveries at the loading docks or idling there at night would disturb residents, Densieski said.

Riverhead planner Greg Bergman said the applicant stated all the delivery and loading dock activities will take place during the day.

The applicant’s noise study evaluated noise impacts based on the applicant’s representation that all the delivery and loading dock activities will take place during the day, Bergman told the board. He said the noise study demonstrated that if the activities at the loading dock were taking place at night, it would violate the town’s noise ordinance.

Densieski said he thinks “a sound barrier along Kings Drive and maybe Oliver Street” are necessary.

“I’m sure this is going to be a very busy place,” he said. “I’m concerned about the neighbors in the back yard.”

Bergman said the town’s “dark skies” code, which went into effect in 2008, required the property owner to bring the site into compliance with its provisions by Dec. 31, 2017, but it was never done for this site, which long pre-existed the code.

“I don’t see that there’s any way that we don’t have the applicant address the current onsite lighting. So they do need to provide a lighting plan and demonstrate compliance with” the code,” Bergman said.

A representative of the property owner said the company had not
“factored into the economics of this deal” the costs of replacing the lighting on the site to comply with the town’s dark skies code.

“It’s a very big undertaking,” he said, “because it’s all underground, trenching, conduits, wires, all the pole bases, and it’s probably going to double or maybe two and a half times the amount of poles that are there now.” He suggested that the owner make the upgrades in two segments — first, the eastern portion of the site, to correspond with the portion of the building that will be occupied by Restaurant Depot, and later the rest of the site. He said the owner has “another big tenant that is seriously interested in taking this port of the space because they saw the restaurant people signed up.”

Densieski, who sponsored the town’s dark skies code when he was a councilman, noted that only the zoning board of appeals has the authority to grants variances from the requirements of any town code.

Bergman noted that the shopping center, though it’s operated as one commercial site, consists of several separate tax map parcels and perhaps the board could deal with the lighting issue separately for that reason. He suggested the planning department speak with the planning board attorney to discuss it. “We’re kind of dealing with the eastern portion of the site to begin with. If they come in for the western portion, we’ll address it at that point,” he suggested.

In a resolution passed Thursday, the planning board classified the application as a type I action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act and initiated coordinated review among involved agencies.

In other action at the meeting, the planning board:

Granted administrative site plan approval for facade, lighting and landscaping improvements to the existing KFC restaurant on Route 58;

Closed the public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement and ordered the preparation of a final environmental impact statement in connection with the site plan application of Breezy Hill Group IV to establish an asphalt and concrete crushing and screening facility at a 6.683 acre parcel at 1792 Middle Road, Calverton.

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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.