The future site of a Costco store along Route 58...

The future site of a Costco store along Route 58 in Riverhead. Riverhead officials say the property will be affected by a new requirement that a landscaped buffer be installed between commercial and residential properties. (Sept. 2, 2013) Credit: News 12 Long Island

A new zoning change requiring large commercial projects that adjoin residential areas to have a 50-foot wooded or landscaped buffer at the property line was adopted Wednesday by the Riverhead Town board.

Drawn up in reaction to extensive clear-cutting along Route 58 for several large “big box” anchor stores in the past few years, the resolution passed 4-0. It requires a minimum 50-foot non-disturbed side and rear yard buffer or -- if the store is less than 5,000 square feet -- a 25-foot buffer.

If the site does not have adequate natural vegetation to screen it from neighbors, the town planning board must approve a separate landscaping plan. A six-foot fence or earthen berm is also required.

Recent community protests have focused on The Shops at Riverhead, a 271,000-square-foot development anchored by a Costco store. Town officials said any summons for violating town regulations would not go to Costco but would likely be issued to the developer or a subcontractor.

The Riverhead Planning Board, at a meeting last week attended by about 50 protesters, said The Shops at Riverhead has not filed an adequate plan for a berm between it and its neighbors. While taking no action, the planning board also said the town’s code enforcement officers will be asked to see if builders are following requirements such as watering down the construction site to reduce dust and dirt.

Supervisor Sean Walter said the zoning change will impact the project, especially future stores near the Foxwood residential development. “It will 100 percent affect that property,” Walter said.

The town is still reviewing plans for the berm to determine if it meets existing requirements. Town Councilman John Dunleavy was absent from the meeting.

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