Rendering by Martin Sendlewski of proposed apartment building on the east side of McDermott Avenue in Riverhead.

The Riverhead Town Board is ready to set a public hearing on the site plan application of a new four-story mixed-use apartment building on McDermott Avenue opposite Riverview Lofts.

The development, called the Zenith Building, would be the latest in the downtown area to receive approval from the board. The building would have nine market-rate rental apartments above two ground-floor commercial spaces totaling more than 2,100-square-feet.

The board will also likely assume lead agency and issue a declaration of no significant environmental impact for the purposes of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, on the recommendation of town planning officials. All involved agencies have submitted comments, Planner Greg Bergman told the Town Board during its work session last week.

The building is proposed on a one-eighth acre parcel improved with a two-story, single-family residence. It would stand 49 feet tall with a total height of 58 feet including architectural elements. The development does not include any on-site parking, as the site is within the Riverhead Parking District and is not required to provide off-street parking for tenants.

Planner Greg Bergman, left, with architect Martin Sendlewski at a Town Board work session to discuss the Zenith Building plan for McDermott Avenue. Photo: Alek Lewis

The developer will need to obtain access easements across adjacent properties to the site’s north, in order to provide access to a dumpster for garbage collection, Bergman said. The developer, Zenith Group NY, owns one of the lots, a vacant lot on the southeast corner of East Main Street and McDermott Avenue, which it acquired last year. The other lot, owned by a third party, is improved with a two-story commercial building occupied by Shadees Jamaican Restaurant. 

Plans to develop the site have been in the works for more than 16 years, according to Bergman’s planning report. A site plan application for a four-story building at the site was approved by the board in 2006 and extended for a year in March 2009, valid through February 2010, with the condition that no further extensions would be granted. Nevertheless, the board gave another one-year extension in February 2013, valid through April 2014, with the condition that no further extensions would be granted. The Town Board is now considering a new application.

The developer will have to pay $27,000 in recreation fees — $3,000 per unit. The developer will also have to pay fees associated with the Riverhead Water District.

Martin Sendlewski, an architect for the project, expressed concerns about the water district fees the developer needs to pay for the development. 

“If you read the code, it says the purpose of the fee is to provide funds for the impact that these projects will have on water infrastructure,” Sendlewski said. “Now that it still applies, you will still pay an impact fee. But in addition to the impact fee, we’re now paying a fee to assess that and there may be additional improvements that are required to be paid out of pocket…. Should the impact fee then go away and you judge each project, we just do the engineering fee and pay for the improvement, and get rid of the impact fee?”

Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini said Sendlewski was referring to key money fees. “It’s a relatively small amount of money for these types of projects,” he said, adding the town is “in the process of reviewing that and changing that. But it doesn’t prohibit us from asking you to do improvements that benefit only your project.”

“It’s not legal for me to ask you to do something to benefit the district that doesn’t directly benefit you,” Mancini said. “The developer needs to pay for an engineering report if an improvement to the water district is necessary for the development.”

“If key money was bigger in the past and more improvements were made, perhaps we wouldn’t need to do this. But the fact is, we’ve got really old, small infrastructure. We’re going from single-family homes to multiple-story buildings,” Mancini said. “And there really is no other option for us and the district understands you need our water availability letter. So whether we disagree on this, we have the leverage right now.”

Sendlewski said it is an “unknown” how much the developer may pay for infrastructure improvements. “The developer going in doesn’t have any idea whether he’s going to pay a $50,000 fee for water, or $500,000. We still don’t know that,” he said. A cost like that could “kill” the project, he said.

“That’s why we do the engineering report up front so that the developer, the water district, knows everything upfront and they could factor that in rather than a surprise cost at the end, which catches everybody by surprise,” Bergman said.

“Understood. So, I get it. I just wanted to bring that up to your attention,” Sendlewski said.

The applicant has met with the Architectural Review Board and Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Landmarks Preservation Commission recommended against the white brick proposed by the developer and suggested red brick with gray trim. The Town Board members at last Thursday’s meeting recommended the developer use white brick.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: