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Buffer zoning sought for commercial areas in Riverhead

Riverhead Town Hall on May 23, 2013.

Riverhead Town Hall on May 23, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday

Responding to complaints that large commercial developers along Route 58 have taken down all the trees and bushes on their property, town officials are proposing modifying their zoning code to require large natural buffers between commercial stores and residential neighborhoods.

The code changes, called transitional zoning, call for 50-foot buffers on new projects greater than 5,000 square feet, and 25 feet if they are smaller. It would impact shopping center, retail center, business center and some industrial use districts.

In some cases, landscaped earthen berms and 6-foot fencing would also be required to reduce the noise impacts of those new businesses.

At a public hearing Tuesday, the changes drew broad support, both from town residents and people like Bob DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End. “Visual blight follows development,” he said. “You can’t screen a Costco with a couple of shrubs, any effort you can make to protect this community is well worth it.”

Town officials said only a handful of properties are still undeveloped and large enough to be impacted by the new transition zoning.

But August Groeber of Aquebogue, a former member of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, said the proposed code change would have a devastating impact on him. “My land is 130 feet deep,” he said, adding that with a 50-foot rear yard setback and now a 50-foot buffer in front, it left him just 30 feet to build on. “You’re stealing my land and giving it to my neighbors,” he said.

The town board asked its planning staff to see what kind of buffer requirements have been set by other towns, and kept the hearing open for written comments until Oct. 11.

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