Buildings on Railroad Avenue and Depot Place in Babylon Village can now increase their heights to three stories, as village officials hope to encourage development there.
The village trustees voted unanimously Feb. 12 to allow the buildings on Depot Place and Railroad Avenue from Deer Park Avenue to N. Carll Avenue to go up to 40 feet in an effort to revitalize an area with vacant storefronts.
“The idea here … is to encourage development and to put entrepreneurship first in an effort to attract reasonable development into an area that the village is focusing on revitalizing,” village attorney Gerard Glass explained before the public hearing on Feb. 12.
The Babylon Beautification Society also turned an eye to the area in December and planted half a dozen trees there.
A developer recently approached village officials about renovating one of the buildings to house retail on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors. Mayor Ralph Scordino said no applications have been filed yet for that building, which currently has apartments, but he wanted to get the zoning changed to encourage development.
“This is one of the areas that we’d like to try to create some young entrepreneurs to come in,” he said.
On Railroad Avenue and Depot Place, there are eight single- or two-story buildings with about 15 businesses.
Around the corner on Deer Park Avenue, there are mixed-height buildings, from one to three stories.
“We’ve been trying to do something in that area for a long time and we haven’t been getting anywhere,” Deputy Mayor Kevin Muldowney said. “I think this is an opportunity to do a lot for that street, that area.”
Resident and developer Ken Rogers spoke in favor of the change for Railroad Avenue and Depot Place but was frustrated that his project on West Main Street to construct a two-story mixed-use building has been unable to get village approvals.
He said he doesn’t have enough space to comply with village requirements of providing 2 ¼ parking spaces per unit, while buildings on Railroad Avenue have no parking requirements.
“I was short only a couple parking spaces – this building has apartments with zero parking spaces,” Rogers said. “It has been a very frustrating process.”
The Town of Riverhead is also weighing a proposal to allow increased heights on its Main Street area, allowing up to three stories with the transfer of development rights or four stories with the purchase of development rights.