The site plan application of Georgica Green Ventures to develop a five-story, mixed-use apartment building on West Main Street had a public hearing at Thursday’s Town Board meeting. The proposed development consists of 133 apartments above 5,100 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, parking and an outdoor seating area. The nearly 59-foot tall building would be built on an approximately two-acre site at the corner of West Main Street and Sweezy Avenue.
The proposed development provides 25 studio, 83 one-bedroom and 25 two-bedroom apartments on floors two through five, along with 200 parking stalls both on the ground floor and a basement area.
The site is located in the Downtown Center-3 zoning district and lies within the Railroad Avenue Urban Renewal Area Overlay District, which allows for increased development density as an incentive to revitalize the area surrounding the Riverhead train station.
The Town Board which has site plan review authority in the overlay district last month issued a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, meaning the board determined that the proposed action is not expected to result in any significant negative environmental impacts with the implementation of mitigation measures outlined in Part 3 of the Full Environmental Assessment Form. Those mitigation measures include a signal for the intersection of West Main Street and Sweezy Avenue, with a left turn signal for eastbound traffic pm West Main Street for traffic turning north onto Sweezy Avenue. Other mitigation includes improvements to the Riverhead Water District infrastructure in the vicinity of the project to support new demand.
Barbara Blass of Jamesport raised an issue she’s raised in the past about a requirement in the Railroad Avenue Urban Renewal Area Overlay District code for a Town Board special permit for all uses in the overlay district.
“This district was codified in January of 2021 and says that all uses are by special permit of the Town Board, whether that was the intent or not, and I don’t believe it was,” Blass said. “Nevertheless that’s what it says and it needs to be corrected. This is the second development plan within this district that will violate the town code upon approval,” Blass said.
“Secondly, this district is not in a legally established receiving district and this project, although it’s not using TDRs, I fully recognize that when the board adopts the revised TDR program in the context of the comp plan, update, that this will legitimize it, but three years after the fact is just not an acceptable way to do business,” Blass said.
Her comments received no response from anyone on the board or staff.
Mike Foley of Riverhead said with the applicant planning to obtain property tax and other tax exemptions from the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, the development should provide workforce housing, not market-rate housing, which is Georgica Green Ventures’ plan.
“If you are going to come to this town and this IDA and expect to get tax relief from the taxpayers, people in this town should directly benefit from that. And that’s my problem with the idea of giving tax relief for something that’s a market-rate for-profit enterprise,” Foley said.
Council Member Frank Beyrodt told Foley anyone can apply to the IDA and suggested Foley bring those concerns to the Riverhead IDA “and hopefully some of the concerns you have will weigh in their decision making.”
Council Member Bob Kern, who was a member of the Riverhead IDA board prior to his election to the Town Board in 2021 and now serves as the Town Board liaison to the IDA, defended the agency. “I can tell you the properties like this property here, a lot of these properties were fallow,” Kern said. “And I can tell you that there wasn’t any projects that didn’t start paying more taxes than what’s on the property now, that much I can tell you. So whatever information you’re getting that the taxpayers are subsidizing this is incorrect,” Kern said. “And I would I would highly recommend that you go to the IDA meeting, when this group goes to the IDA.”
A speaker on Zoom who identified herself as Michele Janowitz [Editor’s note: Speaker was not required to spell her name for the record, so spelling here is phonetic.] expressed concerns about environmental issues, school district impacts and traffic impacts on West Main Street, where she said she owns several properties. She said the property is located in a critical environmental area and has three endangered or threatened species on it and one species of special concern. She questioned whether the number of children this development would add to the school district has been taken into account. She also said that area of West Main Street already has traffic flow problems because of an existing restaurant, referring to Farm Country Kitchen, where vehicles entering and exiting the on-site parking area already causes traffic to back-up, she said. “With a traffic light at the corner there of Sweezy and West Main Street, it’s going to be very hard for people that are trying to back out or people that are trying to pass. It’s constantly a problem where we get stopped,” she said.
Riverhead Planner Greg Bergman responded that the project is located within the special groundwater protection area, which he noted encompasses a significant portion of the town, but it will “connect to the Riverhead Sewer District and is not anticipated to contribute significantly to nitrogen loading.” He said the endangered and threaten species identified by the State’s Environmental Assessment Form mapping tool are not actually found on the site. As far as the Northern Long-Eared Bat, which is a species of concern, the DEC restricts the owner from “doing any large-scale clearing during a certain time of year” and those restrictions would be incorporated into any potential approvals that are granted for this project,” Bergman said.
Connie Lassandro, who noted she is a consultant to Jericho-based Georgica Green Ventures, said she was speaking on behalf of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, which she serves as president. Lassandro, said via Zoom that the chamber gets “calls daily for businesses wanting to come into Riverhead when they want new properties. And this site will have retail space. So we’re excited to be able to refer people. And we get also daily calls from people looking for apartments and market rates [apartments] are the ones that they’re asking for,” Lassandro said. “But I certainly hope we can look forward to developing the West Main Street. You know, everybody kind of thinks that at the circle it ends, but Riverhead doesn’t end there. And I’m excited about extending development up through West Main Street, because that’s really the entrance to our town. So I think we should be very conscious on, you know, approving developments in this area,” Lassandro said.
Larry Oxman of East End Commercial Real Estate spoke in support of the proposal. “West Main Street has not seen any investment in a very, very long period,” he said. “I applaud this development,” Oxman said. “Mr. Gallo has an excellent reputation and I hope you support him.”
Mark McLaughlin of Riverhead spoke in support of the proposal. “I just want to say me and my fiancée Jasmine live in Riverview Lofts [Editor’s note: Riverview Lofts at 221 East Main Street was developed by Georgica Green Ventures] and we do love the establishment. If it wasn’t for that building I wouldn’t even be in Riverhead,” McLaughlin said. “So I have the opportunity to live in Riverhead, because me and Jasmine just live in your fine apartments establishment. So just want to say yes.”
Council Member/Supervisor-elect Tim Hubbard praised Georgica Green Ventures developer David Gallo for looking to develop on West Main Street and for his decision to build market-rate apartments.
“I applaud you for looking at this piece of property and building what you’re going to build because we do know what you build and how you build. And we’ve been very satisfied with it so far,” Hubbard said. Noting that Peconic Bay Medical Center “is doing nothing but expanding,” Hubbard said, “This is exactly what young professionals need. So I appreciate your investment in Riverhead. And I’m very happy with the work you’ve done.”
Georgica Green Ventures and RXR Realty were named joint master developers for the transit-oriented development district redevelopment of a town-owned municipal parking lot between Court Street and Railroad Avenue. The initial plan for the site is a mixed-use, multi-story building on the two-acre lot, providing 243 apartments and “podium” parking on an internal portion of the ground floor, lined by perimeter uses. Under a master developer agreement authorized by the Town Board last year, the developer is slated to purchase the two-acre municipal lot from the town for $7.29 million.
GGV/RXR has also proposed building a mixed-use, three-story building with 32 workforce housing condominiums for first-time homebuyers above ground-floor commercial space, according to Community Development Director Dawn Thomas. No site plan application for this project has yet been publicly discussed. The project was awarded $2.7 million by the N.Y. Department of State as part of the Town of Riverhead’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award earlier this year.
The supervisor said the hearing record would be open until 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 24. Planner Bergman noted that the typical comment period for written comments is 10 days, which would mean the record would be kept open until Nov. 20. However, the supervisor responded that she makes the decision and while she accepted his “comment,” did not change the closing date.
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