Architect's rendering of HK Ventures' proposed industrial complex on Middle Country Road in Calverton. Image:BLD Architecture

The developer of a proposed 412,000-square-foot industrial park in Calverton has been granted height and impervious surface variances by the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals.

The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-0 on June 8, with one member absent, to grant the applicant’s request for relief from the zoning code’s 30-foot height limit and 60% impervious surface limit in the Industrial C zoning district.

The ZBA granted permission for buildings on the site to be up to 35 ½ feet tall and for an overall impervious surface coverage of 60.72%. Impervious surfaces are those which don’t allow water to pass through and generate surface runoff that can cause drainage issues and flooding problems if not properly planned for.

The height variance granted by the ZBA amounts to approximately 2,250,000 cubic feet of additional building volume. The impervious surface variance equates to 9,409 square feet.

Developer HK Ventures of Great Neck initially sought a maximum building height of 38 feet and maximum impervious surface coverage of 65.51%. ZBA Vice Chair Otto Wittmeier said the developer agreed to reduce its variance requests after being informed that the ZBA was not willing to grant those it was seeking.

One of several controversial industrial developments in the Calverton hamlet, the HK Ventures project consists of eight proposed warehouse buildings on a 30-acre property on the south side of Middle Country Road, just east of Fresh Pond Avenue.

The developer’s site plan application is currently before the Riverhead Planning Board. The developer was required to prepare an environmental impact statement and the Planning Board, after completing its environmental review, recently voted to require that the State Department of Transportation complete the reconstruction of the Edwards Avenue/Middle Country Road intersection before any town permits will be issued. The intersection is subject to “significant congestion” that activity at the development is expected to make worse.

HK Ventures objected to that requirement and last month filed a lawsuit against the Planning Board seeking to annul the findings statement over the imposition of that condition. Work on the intersection has been delayed by the state a few times and now it is not expected to be completed until early 2025.

MORE COVERAGE: HK Ventures sues Planning Board over condition tying permits to state fixing Edwards Avenue intersection

The Planning Board has not yet made a decision on the HK Ventures site plan application. In November, the Planning Board — citing HK Ventures and other industrial projects proposed in Calverton — approved a resolution calling for the Town Board to impose a moratorium on industrial developments outside of the Calverton Enterprise Park while the town updates its 20-year-old comprehensive plan. The Town Board rejected the Planning Board’s recommendation and a majority of the board voted against holding a public hearing on a moratorium law to the concern of local civic leaders and residents, who have long advocated for a moratorium while the comprehensive plan is being revised.

Town planning department staff last summer proposed an amendment to the town’s transfer of development rights code that would would allow developers of warehouses in certain industrial zones to purchase farmland development rights — providing farmland and open space preservation — in order to increase the maximum height of warehouse beyond the height permitted as-of-right. However, town officials halted the project after they were informed they could not amend the transfer of development rights code without conducting a lengthy environmental review process and updating the town’s comprehensive plan.

Town officials and consultants working on the town’s comprehensive plan update said the reinvigoration of the town’s transfer of development rights program is a top priority. The projected timeline for the comp plan update predicts a completion date of about March of next year. Then the code changes to implement the plan’s recommendations have to be adopted, following public hearings. The code adoption process will likely require an additional period of several months at a minimum.

The town would lose the opportunity to require development rights purchases for extra height on warehouse plans approved prior to completion and implementation of the comprehensive plan update. It is not clear that any code amendment to imposing a transfer of development right requirement would apply to projects already under review by the town when the code amendment is enacted, or whether pending applications would be exempted.

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.

Avatar photo
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: alek@riverheadlocal.com