File photo: Quint Nigro

The Riverhead Town Board this week unanimously approved a measure to dramatically expand the businesses allowed as tenants at Tanger Outlets. 

Once the zoning law goes into effect, general retail stores, interior design and furniture showroom and specialty grocery stores will be allowed at Tanger, in addition to manufacturer’s outlet stores. 

The law also expands accessory uses to allow a sit-down restaurant as an alternative to a food court, as well as indoor and outdoor recreational uses. It also allows theaters built at the site to offer food and beverage service, including alcoholic beverages.

READ MORE: Riverhead seeks to amend outlet center zoning to expand allowed uses beyond outlet stores

The amendment was made in consultation with Tanger executives. Town officials said the law is intended to provide increased “flexibility” for the outlet center, which is the town’s largest taxpayer. 

During the public hearing on the law, a prominent local real estate developer warned that expanding the types of businesses allowed at Tanger Outlets would disrupt Riverhead’s commercial economy, harming the rest of the Route 58 corridor and downtown Riverhead. 

In addition to the properties owned by Tanger, the zoning amendment also applies to a vacant property wedged between Tanger I and Tanger II. The property, owned by William Dries and Anthony Specchio, obtained a special permit and preliminary site plan approval from the town last year to develop 31,000 square feet into outlet stores independent of Tanger, but has not received final approvals.

In other action at the Feb. 6 meeting, the Town Board:

  • Ratified the appointment of a special counsel to defend the town, its community development agency and the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency against the lawsuit brought last month by Calverton Aviation & Technology. The lawsuit seeks to enforce the $40 purchase agreement for town-owned land at the Calverton Enterprise Park between the town and CAT, which was canceled by the Town Board in October. Read more here.
  • Approved the special event application for the Polish Town Street Fair and Festival on Aug. 17 and 18. The fair is making a comeback this summer after a four-year hiatus. Read more here.
  • Authorized the town’s Community Development Department to apply for the U.S. Department of Transportation RAISE grant. Town officials said they are pursuing roughly $25 million to partially fund several downtown revitalization projects including a flood resilience project on the Peconic Riverfront; the amphitheater and playground elements of the new town square; new streetscape lighting and signage improvements downtown; and a parking garage on the First Street municipal parking lot. The Town Board has also pledged $5 million in matching funds if the town receives the award, according to the resolution. The town has applied for the grant, formerly known as BUILD, several times in the last few years, but has yet to receive the award. Read more about the previous RAISE application here.
  • Authorized an agreement with Cousins Paintball Inc. to use part of the wooded area at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton for paintball sport. The agreement requires that the company create a dirt and gravel parking area adjacent to the wooded area and behind the baseball fields, the resolution states. The Town Board previously authorized an agreement, but it was not signed. The location of the paintball area was changed after concerns were raised about the original area’s proximity to the dog park.
  • Adopted resolutions amending several local laws that increase the recreation fees for new developments from $3,000 per unit to $5,000 per unit. The recreation fees are contributed to a recreation fund in lieu of a developer providing recreational facilities on-site, which are spent on community parks projects. The change also allows the fees to be used to improved designated “flagship parks” in the town: Veterans Memorial Park, Stotzky Park, Police Officers Memorial Park, Wading River Beach, Iron Pier Beach, and South Jamesport Beach, which are utilized by the entire community, and eligible for use of the fees as provided by state law. Read more here.
  • Authorized a $60,625 budget transfer for emergency repairs at Reeves Beach. The money is coming from a community benefits agreement with NextEra, which built a solar power facility in Calverton. A heavy rainstorm in January caused a washout at the beach that damaged the structure surrounding the gazebo at the popular town beach. Read more here. 
  • Appointed the Raynor Group, P.E. & L.S. PLLC, as the town’s consulting engineers and land surveyors.
  • Reappointed the town’s financial advisor, Munistate, and its bond counsel, Hawkins, Delafield and Wood, LLP.
  • Held a public hearing on an amendment to the town’s procurement policy that increases the cost of contracts for which the town must require a contractor to have a union apprenticeship program. The written comment for the hearing is open until the end of business day Feb. 17.
  • Held a public hearing on an amendment to the town code to add a section regarding the towing of vehicles from private property owners with a publicly accessed parking lot. The law would require that the parking lot have signage at every entrance warning that illegally parking vehicles will be towed, and the contact information of the towing company contracted by the property owner. The law would also cap the fees charged for obtaining a towed vehicle to $375. The written comment for the hearing is open until the end of business day Feb. 17.

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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: alek@riverheadlocal.com