In a 3-0 vote, with Chairperson Joann Waski and Member George Nunnaro absent, the Riverhead Planning Board last week voted to adopt the final scoping statement for the 641,000-square-foot Riverhead Logistics Center on Middle Road in Calverton.
The final scope details the required environmental review for the project. The applicant’s draft scoping statement was revised by the planning department, with the assistance of planning consultant Sam Schwartz, following public scoping sessions held Sept. 1 and 15. The final document incorporates many of the comments made by community members during the scoping meetings and in writing.
The expanded scope requires industrial developer NorthPoint to analyze potential cumulative impacts of the the logistics center on local roads, air quality, water supply and wastewater management in its draft environmental impact statement. It also requires a more extensive traffic analysis, with the inclusion of more intersections and the examination of traffic impacts specific to distribution and logistics facilities.
NorthPoint attorney Christopher Kent of Farrell Fritz asked the Planning Board to reduce the number of intersections required to be studied from the 15 identified in the final scope to “nine pertinent intersections,” beyond which such study would be “superfluous,” he said.
He also said assessing traffic volumes and seasonal variations in traffic volumes in existing e-commerce facilities on Long Island is not necessary.
“The applicant believes that the facility it proposes to construct is different than those operating facilities identified in the scope,” Kent said. “Last-mile facilities are built to suit, meaning that they have a highly specialized building and site plan to meet their specific needs,” he said. “The spec building proposed by the applicant for the proposed site does not provide such specific last-mile amenities.
Kent also asked for changes to the final scope regarding noise monitoring at the proposed site, located on Middle Road at Twomey Avenue and abutting the cloverleaf at L.I. Expressway exit 73.
Middle Road resident Danielle Kilfoyle said the final scope still came up short in a number of ways. Traffic analysis should look at the physical construction of the intersections being studied, she said. Air quality impacts from the operation of the building and traffic coming to and from the building must be analyzed, she said.
“I’ve had a lot of discussions with community members and neighbors on this distribution center. People who’ve heard about the project don’t believe that it could ever happen because it sounds so outrageous, the impact too horrific,” Kilfoyle said.
“People keep saying to me, ‘Oh, the town would never allow that.’ They’re honest and hardworking taxpayers who rely on you to protect them. Community members think that you’ll look out for their best interests,” she said. “Not one community member has spoken out in support of this distribution center. Allowing this application to inch forward is to turn your back on the community,” Kilfoyle said.
“If this facility is constructed, no amount of mitigation is going to lessen the blow and no amount of mitigation will take back what we’re at stake to lose,” she said.
Baiting Hollow resident Claudette Bianco followed Kilfoyle to the podium. “I’d like to know how you could possibly approve anything built anywhere without knowing what who the tenants are,” she said. “And how could you study traffic that doesn’t exist yet?”
Chris Reiter of Calverton said he grew up in Riverhead and has lived in Calverton his entire life. “Why do people come to Riverhead?” he asked. “They come here to see this,” he said, pointing to the mural hanging on the meeting room wall depicting an agricultural scene.
“What is this warehouse bringing Riverhead,” Reiter asked. “You’re going to cut them a 10-year tax break,” he said.
“You’re ruining this landscape. You’re ruining everything — to see what? A building? I don’t want to see Ronkonkoma. If I wanted to see Ronkonkoma, I’d move to Ronkonkoma,” Reiter said.
Sonny Kilfoyle of Calverton told the Planning Board members the community needs them to look out for it.
“Look at all these people who come out. I’m one of them. We’re Riverhead taxpayers. We’re passionate about where we live. We love it. Right? It’s a tight-knit community. People know one another,” Kilfoyle said.
“And I just fear for what might happen in the future. You guys are in a unique position. And you have some control of how things are laid out for the future in the years to come. And really, we rely on you,” he said. “You’re the voice of the taxpayers and you’re here to represent us. And we really hope you do. We can’t compete with corporations like NorthPoint,” he said. “It’s a David and Goliath battle. But we have you to look out for us. And I just want to say thank you for all you do. And I hope that you do look out for us because we need you.”
Jacqueline O’Donnell of Calverton said the local roads are not built to handle the heavy traffic such a large logistics center will produce. “A warehouse greater than 600,000 square feet will generate thousands of tractor-trailer trips each week,” O’Donnell said. In addition, there will be 1,000 employee vehicles daily and that will “turn Middle Road into a large driveway,” O’Donnell said. It will make local roads unsafe, she said.
Barbara Blass of Jamesport, a former councilwoman and former Planning Board member, urged the Planning Board to recommend the Town Board adopt a moratorium while the comprehensive plan update is being completed.
“None of these projects are vested,” she said, referring to new industrial development proposals in Calverton. Even the EPCAL site is not vested,” she said, referring to the Calverton Aviation & Technology plan for 10 million square feet of industrial development at the former Grumman manufacturing plant. “This is all really changing Calverton in a way we never expected,” Blass said.
“Please, at the very least, make a recommendation to the Town Board that maybe we do need a timeout. There’s so many projects that are happening, they’re all happening at the same time. I could sit here talk about cumulative impacts. You’ve got to recognize it’s all the same resources — in the same place, same air, water, traffic,” Blass said. “There’s a better way to to handle all of this and that is to take a reasonable timeout, so that we can really wrap around our arms around what we’re up against.”
In the end, the Planning Board did not modify the final scope before adopting it.
Vice Chairperson Ed Densieski, who presided over the meeting in the chairperson’s absence said before calling the vote that the board was “up against a time frame and the applicant has not given us permission to extend it.”
Had the board failed to adopt a final scope last week, the draft scope prepared by the applicant would have by default become the final scoping document — absent the revisions made by the planning department, which took the public comments into consideration.
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