Residents, including at this home in Calverton, have voiced fears about...

Residents, including at this home in Calverton, have voiced fears about the effect large warehouses might have on their community. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Riverhead is hitting pause on new industrial development in Calverton until the town updates its master plan.

The town board approved a six-month moratorium to halt applications for projects in the hamlet, bypassing a three-month recommendation from the Suffolk County Planning Commission. The board voted 4-1 on Jan. 3.

Fueled by concerns about large warehouse proposals, residents have called for a moratorium for more than three years. Town officials said halting development will buy time to complete the new master plan, a policy document that’s expected to make recommendations about industrial zones, among other land use goals.

“To me it made perfect sense to wait for that to be finished until we move forward and make decisions on big projects, especially in the Calverton area,” Supervisor Tim Hubbard said.

Hubbard pushed for a moratorium as a councilman, but failed to garner support on the all-Republican town board to pass the proposal. A supermajority of four votes was required since the county planning commission rejected the six-month proposal.

The commission recommended a three-month freeze, noting that moratoriums are "the most extreme land use action" a town can take and that extensions can be granted, according to a staff report.

Councilman Bob Kern, who voted against the measure, said Wednesday he would have preferred a three-month pause. He said a shorter pause would pressure the town to complete its master plan without burdening developers. “I’m a land rights person,” he said.

Town planners have estimated 12 million square feet of new industrial projects could be developed in the hamlet under the current zoning, a mix of three industrial districts. A vast majority of undeveloped industrially zoned land is located in Calverton.

Much of the existing industrial development in Calverton is within the Enterprise Park at Calverton. Developer Jan Burman purchased nearly 500 acres at the site in 2001 and has since subdivided plots for warehouses and manufacturing buildings.

The master plan, on track for completion this spring, will include recommendations to limit the most intense industrial uses and lessen visual impacts through added setback requirements. BFJ Planning, consultants hired to update the town master plan, suggested a new "Calverton Industrial" zoning district that would allow light industrial development and overall reduced size of projects.

The town is also considering revamping its transfer of development rights program to allow developers to purchase farmland preservation credits in exchange for overriding restrictions on the size of industrial projects in areas deemed more appropriate by the town. Funds generated from that program could be used to protect farmland.

Several pending projects could potentially be stymied by the moratorium, including a self-storage facility and a 641,000-square-foot logistics center on Middle Road.

One large project, a 412,659-square-foot complex on Route 25 that includes eight warehouses, will not be impacted. 

Great Neck-based developer HK Ventures already has site plan approval, but cannot begin construction until the state Department of Transportation completes a reconfiguration project at the intersection of Route 25 and Edwards Avenue.

That proposal was the impetus for the Greater Calverton Civic Association to first call for a moratorium in 2020, according to civic president Toqui Terchun.

“Since then, we’ve only been more stunned by mega warehouses” and logistics centers, she said, adding the board should have acted earlier.

Riverhead is hitting pause on new industrial development in Calverton until the town updates its master plan.

The town board approved a six-month moratorium to halt applications for projects in the hamlet, bypassing a three-month recommendation from the Suffolk County Planning Commission. The board voted 4-1 on Jan. 3.

Fueled by concerns about large warehouse proposals, residents have called for a moratorium for more than three years. Town officials said halting development will buy time to complete the new master plan, a policy document that’s expected to make recommendations about industrial zones, among other land use goals.

“To me it made perfect sense to wait for that to be finished until we move forward and make decisions on big projects, especially in the Calverton area,” Supervisor Tim Hubbard said.

Hubbard pushed for a moratorium as a councilman, but failed to garner support on the all-Republican town board to pass the proposal. A supermajority of four votes was required since the county planning commission rejected the six-month proposal.

The commission recommended a three-month freeze, noting that moratoriums are "the most extreme land use action" a town can take and that extensions can be granted, according to a staff report.

Councilman Bob Kern, who voted against the measure, said Wednesday he would have preferred a three-month pause. He said a shorter pause would pressure the town to complete its master plan without burdening developers. “I’m a land rights person,” he said.

Town planners have estimated 12 million square feet of new industrial projects could be developed in the hamlet under the current zoning, a mix of three industrial districts. A vast majority of undeveloped industrially zoned land is located in Calverton.

Much of the existing industrial development in Calverton is within the Enterprise Park at Calverton. Developer Jan Burman purchased nearly 500 acres at the site in 2001 and has since subdivided plots for warehouses and manufacturing buildings.

The master plan, on track for completion this spring, will include recommendations to limit the most intense industrial uses and lessen visual impacts through added setback requirements. BFJ Planning, consultants hired to update the town master plan, suggested a new "Calverton Industrial" zoning district that would allow light industrial development and overall reduced size of projects.

The town is also considering revamping its transfer of development rights program to allow developers to purchase farmland preservation credits in exchange for overriding restrictions on the size of industrial projects in areas deemed more appropriate by the town. Funds generated from that program could be used to protect farmland.

Several pending projects could potentially be stymied by the moratorium, including a self-storage facility and a 641,000-square-foot logistics center on Middle Road.

One large project, a 412,659-square-foot complex on Route 25 that includes eight warehouses, will not be impacted. 

Great Neck-based developer HK Ventures already has site plan approval, but cannot begin construction until the state Department of Transportation completes a reconfiguration project at the intersection of Route 25 and Edwards Avenue.

That proposal was the impetus for the Greater Calverton Civic Association to first call for a moratorium in 2020, according to civic president Toqui Terchun.

“Since then, we’ve only been more stunned by mega warehouses” and logistics centers, she said, adding the board should have acted earlier.

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