One of several large commercial solar production facilities in Calverton in the vicinity of Edwards Avenue, near a LIPA substation that provides access to the electric grid. Photo: Peter Blasl

At its regular meeting last week, the Town Board scheduled several public hearings on topics including proposed code amendments, a proposal to extend the commercial solar moratorium, the demolition of an alleged unsafe structure, and a plan for a new downtown apartment building  

Commerical solar moratorium extension: Sept. 20. The board will hold a public hearing Sept. 20 at 6:25 p.m. on a local law that would extend the moratorium on commercial solar applications for another year. The Town Board adopted the moratorium last October after residents expressed concerns that solar projects were developing too fast in Calverton. Town officials said the pause would allow the town to complete a chapter of the comprehensive plan update focused on commercial solar facilities and where they should be located over the next few decades, although progress on the update has continually stalled.

MORE COVERAGE: Town Board mulls extending solar moratorium 

Unsafe structure: Sept. 20. A second public hearing will be held on Sept. 20 at 6:15 p.m. on an alleged unsafe structure at 168 Creek Road in Wading River. The town board in Oct. 2020 previously determined the structure to be unsafe but the town has been working with the owner to remediate issues, according to a resolution setting the upcoming hearing. Remediation has not been done to the satisfaction of the building inspector. The public hearing on Sept. 20 is scheduled to begin at  6:15 p.m.

Water District extensions: Sept. 20. Proposed extensions of the facilities of the Riverhead Water District to serve two residential developments will be held on Sept. 20 at 6:05 and 6:10 p.m. First up is an extension to serve the mixed-use apartment building at 205 Osborn Avenue, followed by an extension to serve a 10-lot residential subdivision east of Rabbit Run

Zenith Building site plan: Oct. 4. The site plan application for the Zenith Building, a four-story mixed-use building slated for McDermott Avenue opposite Riverview Lofts, will be the subject of a public hearing on Oct. 4 at 2:05 p.m. The board last week also passed a resolution assuming lead agency status for the review of the plan and issuing a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, a finding that the Zenith Building will have no significant negative environmental impact. 

MORE COVERAGE: New four-story building near downtown riverfront to have public hearing

New downtown parking rules: Oct. 4. The board also set a public hearing for Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. on an amendment to the town code to reduce parking time limits on Main Street from two hours to one hour to increase the “flow” of the downtown area. 

MORE COVERAGE: Town Board sets hearing on code to reduce parking time limits from two hours to one hour along Main Street

Purchase of open space: Oct. 4. The town is planning to partner with Suffolk County on the purchase of a 37.4-acre parcel on the south side of Route 58 known as “Saw Mill Creek Addition.” The town would contribute $500,000 toward the purchase. The hearing will take place Oct. 4 at 2:10 p.m.

Fines for confining animals in vehicles: Oct 4. People who lock animals in vehicles during “extreme heat” will be facing much stiffer fines under a proposed code amendment scheduled for a public hearing on Oct. 4 at 2:20 p.m.

Retail marijuana sales and lounges: Oct. 18. A proposed code amendment to regulate retail marijuana shops and lounges will be the subject of a public hearing on Oct. 18 at 6:05 pm.

The proposed code allows marijuana dispensaries and lounges licensed by the state to operate in most commercial zoning districts that allow retail uses, subject to minimum distance requirements to prevent the businesses from locating near schools and other family-friendly places.

MORE COVERAGE: Riverhead to set public hearing on draft code to regulate marijuana businesses in town

At a special meeting on Sept. 13, the town board scheduled a public hearing for the purpose of determining whether the transit-oriented development project’s master developer is a “qualified and eligible sponsor” for purposes of the State Urban Renewal Law.

TOD master developer RXR/Georgica Green Ventures have proposed building more than 270 apartments, shops and a 332-space parking garage in the area of the Riverhead train station, on three parcels currently in public ownership. One is a town-owned parking lot opposite the train station. The other is a county-owned lot on the corner of Griffing and Railroad avenues. 

The qualified and eligible sponsor hearing is set for Sept. 27 at 6.m.

MORE COVERAGE: Town Board to set qualified and eligible hearing for Railroad Avenue master developers
The site of the future Town Square, which has been graded and now has a walkway connecting Main Street to the Peconic River parking lot. Photo: Alek Lewis

In other action at last week’s meeting, the Town Board:

Voted to accept the donation of an evergreen tree for the future Town Square on East Main Street from Warner’s Nursery in Baiting Hollow, which will deliver and plant the tree. The board set aside $3,500 to offset the cost for prevailing wage compliance for the delivery and planting.

Last year the town had two blighted buildings demolished to make way for the Town Square. The contractor, J. Petrocelli Contracting Inc. has graded the site and constructed a walkway connecting Main Street to the riverfront parking lot. The contractor will also seed the site. A related company, J. Petrocelli Development Associates, was designated the master developer of the Town Square earlier this year and is in the process of negotiating an agreement with the town for the project.

Voted to table a resolution authorizing a proposed agreement with Peconic Hockey Foundation to put an ice rink facility at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton. The town is still negotiating with the Wading River nonprofit on the terms of a draft agreement, officials said. A draft agreement made public states the town would accept the bubble dome facility as a donation from Peconic Hockey, and designate the organization manager of the facility and make it responsible for construction.

MORE COVERAGE: Proposed agreement for ice rink at Calverton town park not yet ready for prime time, officials say

Authorized a grant agreement for the Meeting House Creek wetland project. The agreement with the State Department of Transportation provides for a $50,000 reimbursement to cover a portion of the cost of constructing a 1.2-acre wetland to manage stormwater runoff impacting Meetinghouse Creek in Aquebogue. 

Meetinghouse Creek has been identified as an impaired water body with low dissolved oxygen levels and is one of 41 priority habitat restoration projects in a habitat restoration plan produced in 2017 by the Peconic Estuary Program.

The wetland will be built on a 2.6-acre town-owned parcel on the south side of Main Road at the headwaters of the creek and help improve the creek’s water quality and its ability to support marine life. 

Engineering designs and permits for the project are expected to be complete by the end of the year. The total cost of the project is estimated at $650,000, according to the resolution. Peconic Estuary Program, which paid for a watershed management plan for Meetinghouse Creek that was completed in 2006, will pay for the engineering and design costs and will partner with the town on a state grant application for the construction costs.

MORE COVERAGE: Peconic Estuary Program proposes wetland construction in Aquebogue to improve health of Meetinghouse Creek

Adopted a code amendment to provide stiffer penalties for littering. Minimum penalties rise from $250 to $1,000 for a first offense, from $500 to $1,500 for a second offense, and from $1,000 to $2,5000 for a third or subsequent offense within an 18-month period of a prior offense. 

Awarded contracts to a new financial advisor and new bond counsel. The board approved a contract with Munistat of Port Jefferson Station to serve as  the town’s financial advisor. There was one other respondent to a request for information and quotes posted in July. 

The town’s current financial advisor firm, Capital Markets Advisors, was named as a defendant in a civil federal fraud suit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission in June. The SEC alleged the firm knowingly misled investors in a $119 million municipal bond sale for the City of Rochester in 2019. The firm has denied all charges. Riverhead had used the firm for six years. The town employed Munistat prior to signing with CMA.

The board also tapped the law firm of Hawkins, Delafield and Wood as its  bond counsel. There was also one other respondent to a request for information and quotes posted in July. Riverhead’s current bond counsel, Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, will continue in that role on certain projects that were listed in a separate document referenced in the resolution, but not  attached to the copy distributed to the public.

Copies of the agreements with both consultants were also not released with the agenda. 

Held a public hearing to designate a blighted property and house at 330 Baywood Drive in Calverton a “nuisance” and authorize the town to remedy the property and bring it up to code at the expense of the property owner. The property is in foreclosure, according to an attorney for mortgage lender Deutsche Bank, who testified at the hearing. He said he will recommend that the owner remediate the property in accordance with the violations issued by code enforcement.

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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: [email protected]