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Riverhead may set deadline for building applicants to adhere to planning process

A view of Riverhead Town Hall at 200

A view of Riverhead Town Hall at 200 Howell Ave. in Riverhead on June 5. Credit: James Carbone

Riverhead officials are considering altering the town code to set six-month deadlines for applicants to meet all conditions in the preliminary planning process or face cancellation of their projects to deal with instances of building proposals that have languished for months or even years because of unmet requirements and incomplete applications.

Town building and planning officials are calling for changes to the town’s preliminary site plan application process under the town code’s zoning and land development guidelines. The changes, if adopted, would mean applicants submitting preliminary site plan applications to the town’s Planning Department must address all problems or issues officials find with the application within six months.

If applicants fail to respond within that time frame or to a warning notice planning officials would send them 30 days before the six-month deadline expires, the proposed code changes state that “the application shall automatically be deemed abandoned.” That means the department would be able to dispose of any documents related to the application.

Jeff Murphree, the town’s building and planning administrator, told the Riverhead Town Board at its Aug. 1 work session that there had been several such building applications that had been held up because they were incomplete or did not meet site plan requirements.

“As an example, we have a major subdivision on Edwards Avenue that has literally been sitting on my shelf for two years,” Murphree said. Adding a six-month deadline, Murphree noted, would be sufficient time for applicants to either move on or complete the application.

Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said that since Riverhead’s planning staff is small, it was important to streamline the building applications process.

“There’s no mechanism right now to take those off the table,” said Jens-Smith. “If the applicant needs to reapply, they can reapply once they’re ready for the project. This is to have a definitive time so they don’t stay as active files when there’s no more activity on them.”

The board will vote on whether to set a Sept. 4 public hearing on the proposed building application procedure at its regular meeting Aug. 6.

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