This coming Monday, May 20, is the last chance the public will have to weigh in in person on Riverhead Town’s Comprehensive Plan Update before it is finalized.

The final draft of the Comprehensive Plan Update released April 25, available online here, includes several changes to a draft document released in March. 

The Comprehensive Plan Update process began in 2020, and suffered several setbacks during the Covid-19 pandemic that eventually led the town to hire a new consultant, BFJ Planning, in late 2022 to finish the project, in the midst of much public concern over development pressures in Riverhead.

Much of the meat of the plan’s recommendations is in its final chapter, Future Land Use, which begins on page 189 of the 209-page document.

One of the most significant aspects of the plan is a series of recommendations for changes to the town’s industrial zoning districts, many of which are in the hamlet of Calverton, where residents have been asking for change for more than a year after proposals for several “high-cube” warehouses. A six-month moratorium on development in that area was passed by the Town Board in January.

The plan recommends creating a new “Calverton industrial” zoning district that would comprise districts currently called Industrial A and Industrial C, and rezoning other industrially zoned land to a “Light Industrial” district. 

The new district “would be based off of allowable uses in Ind. C but not heavy industrial uses allowed in Ind. A,” according to the draft. “It would require a larger front yard setback of 100 feet to help protect the rural appearance and to minimize views of development from adjacent roads.”

It also recommends increasing the allowed height of industrial buildings, which is currently 30 feet, allowing for buildings up to 40 feet tall with the use of Transfer of Development Rights credits (TDRs), and instituting a ‘pyramid height law’ to limit the visual impacts of the buildings.

The final draft of the Comprehensive Plan Update also calls for the zoning code to differentiate between modern distribution and logistics centers and historical uses like warehouses in the definitions section of the town code.

It also recommends that the town do a future study on the zoning at the Enterprise Park at Calvertion (EPCAL), calling the existing Planned Development district there “fairly liberal with regard to land uses, and it may be appropriate to limit some activities which the community did not support such as a cargo airport.”

BFJ has also recommended the town make changes to its Transfer of Development Rights program, which allows developers to preserve land elsewhere in town in exchange for increased development in already developed areas.

The consultants recommend making several residentially zoned districts that contain large tracts of farmland eligible for preservation under the TDR program, and allowing increased development in areas like Downtown Riverhead and along West Main Street in exchange for a development rights transfer.  

The consultants also recommend expanding the existing hospital zone at Peconic Bay Medical Center to include properties surrounding the hospital that are already owned by PBMC, and to allow for “housing for hospital staff,” and allowing assisted living and continuing care facilities in parts of Route 58 near the hospital.

The plan also recommends that vertical farming be a permitted use in industrial zones, and create guidance for vertical farming on agricultural land, and says “it may be reasonable to provide some flexibility in allowing farmers to incorporate renewable energy facilities… as an accessory use to the primary agriculture use.:

The final draft also recommends several measures to make it easier for property owners to build accessory dwelling units, including changes to the maximum size of units, requiring less off-street parking and giving amnesty to property owners who have existing illegal accessory dwelling units.

Another change to the final document is a recommendation to allow private schools in industrial zones, after public backlash earlier this year over the Riverhead Charter School’s proposed high school building project on farmland on Sound Avenue.

After the public hearing, BFJ is expected to respond to the public comments in a Final Environmental Impact Statement, which must be approved, along with the Comprehensive Plan, by the Riverhead Town Board. The board can then go about making the code changes, which would also require future public hearings.


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Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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