Library, school district and residents voice their objections to the Osborn Avenue apartment building project

A five-story mixed-use building project at the corner of Osborn Avenue and Court Street sparked opposition and concerns from several neighborhoods during a city council public hearing on the project’s site plan on Tuesday .

The $ 19.6 million project at 205 Osborn Avenue includes 37 market-priced rental apartments on four floors above the ground-floor office uses, as well as above-ground parking on the site. ‘about half an acre.

The building is the Railroad Avenue Urban Renewal District’s first proposal adopted earlier this year. The 41,867-square-foot, 50-foot-tall building would offer 24 one-bedroom units, 10 two-bedroom units and three studios, with a rooftop terrace for the building’s residents.

Susan Berdinka, an Aquebogue resident and administrator of the Riverhead Free Library, said administrators were happy the property was improved, but expressed a long list of concerns about the potential impacts of the proposal.

Berdinka said administrators were concerned about the potential negative impacts of the development on the sewage system and water supply, the shading potential of the library’s solar panels due to the height of the building, the need to the library to engage additional security to ensure its parking is not used by tenants of the building and reduced visibility at the intersection of Osborn Avenue and Court Street.

She also disputed the potential adverse effects of the construction process, such as rodents escaping during the demolition of the existing dilapidated building, the environmental impacts of toxic materials like asbestos and the potential impacts of vibrations during construction on the building. structural integrity of the library and its yellow barn, a historic structure.

“And we are especially concerned about how all of the above will ultimately affect those who pay property taxes in the Riverhead Library District to fund our wonderful library,” she said.

Chris Kent, a lawyer representing G2D, responded to the library’s concerns. He pointed out that the building will be served by public water and the Riverhead Sewer District. He said the development will also provide more property taxes and income for the library district.

Kent added that the trees on the library property “will have a bigger impact on solar panels than our building ever will.”

On parking, Kent said the development will have its own parking spaces and will also use the underutilized municipal parking lot across the street for overflow parking.

“To members of the Library and Historic District, I would be happy to meet with them to personally discuss any concerns they may have,” said G2D nominee Greg DeRosa. “Because I think we can respond to them and make them feel comfortable that we’re doing what we say we’re going to do and we’re going to treat them with integrity and fairness and make sure that if it goes forward, and that’s what i think it could be for the town of riverhead and this site, in particular, that they’ll be happy with the outcome, ”DeRosa said.

Van Howell of Riverhead disputed the city’s failure to conduct a comprehensive environmental review of the project. He said the building, which was previously a doctor’s office, should be given a closer look at its environmental impact due to potential medical waste.

In September, city council assumed leadership of the environmental review under the State’s Environmental Quality Review Act and, determining that the project would not have significant impacts requiring mitigation, issued a negative statement under SEQRA, waiving further environmental review. The proposal is located in the Overlay District of the Railroad Avenue Urban Renewal Zone, which has undergone a comprehensive environmental review and its potential impacts do not exceed those being considered for the adoption of that district, according to the city ​​officials.

Howell, who was at the IDA meeting the night before, said he thought the rent for the apartments in the building would be too expensive.

“I think if I were one of those types of people who was going to rent a nice apartment in a nice neighborhood and take the Long Island Railroad for a short, convenient ride to New York where it does some kind of art or high on a tech job that gives me the money to rent a place like this, I’m not sure that’s where I’m going to want to live, ”he said.

During the IDA hearing, DeRosa said estimated rents would be about $ 2,000 for two bedrooms, about $ 2,000 for one bedroom and about $ 1,600 for a studio. “I think we’re really going to need this for this project to be successful, which I think we will have,” he said on Monday.

“Everything we do is pretty, pretty high end,” he added. “So we spend a lot of time on the design and the finishing, and we’ve tried to deliver a project that’s going to last a long time. ”

Diane Burke, Executive Director of East End Arts, spoke in favor of the development. She said her organization had partnered with G2D and the developer was “very community driven and focused on bringing good things to Riverhead.”

Brian DeLuca, the executive director of the Long Island Aquarium, also praised the developers. He said they have been very responsive and accommodating to requests from the aquarium in relation to another apartment building they are building on East Main Street. G2D even helped install a piece of art in Grangebel Park, DeLuca said.

“They have been good neighbors so far,” he said. “Just here to say I’m happy to embrace what they’re doing in town.”

Former city councilor Barbara Blass gave no opinion on the project as a whole, but said city council made a procedural error in failing to require a special permit for the mixed-use building, which, According to her, was one of more than a dozen uses in the Railroad Avenue urban renewal area overlay district, according to the code, is “specially authorized” with city council approval. The city council did not respond to his comments.

Comments written on the site map are open until December 17 and can be submitted to the city clerk.

The project’s tax incentive request was the subject of a public hearing before the Industrial Development Agency at its meeting on Monday evening. The developers are seeking a mortgage tax exemption of $ 117,562 on a $ 15.7 million mortgage over 10 years and a sales and use tax exemption of approximately $ 702,294 on approximately $ 8.1 million. dollars in the cost of goods and services subject to these taxes. The applicant is also requesting a subsidized property tax allowance over 10 years.

The IDA audience attracted few people. Intervenors during the hearing commented on aspects of the project beyond the scope of the application for financial assistance from the IDA. IDA President Jim Farley urged residents to attend City Council’s public hearing on the site plan the following afternoon and address those comments to City Council.

The Riverhead Central School District sent a letter opposing some of the benefits. The proposed PILOT payments – payments in lieu of taxes – “present imminent and critical concerns for the school district” because they represent a decrease in revenue, according to the letter from Michael Raniere to Ingerman Smith, district legal counsel.

The PILOTS also remove the growth factor from the district tax base, as the calculation of the tax base growth factor must make PILOT payments, explained Raniere. The tax base growth factor is part of the calculation of the tax cap. The reduction in the tax base growth factor by PILOT payments will “have long-standing negative consequences for the district that will never be recovered and will increase exponentially over time,” Raniere wrote.

The projection of school district enrollments in the G2D economic report prepared by Camoin Associates is “misleading and inconsistent with previous experience in the school district,” Raniere wrote. The report says the development will result in fewer than three new students attending district schools. “This is not consistent with what has happened in other developments in the school district and it is not clear why the report indicates that there will be a deviation from such previous experience,” said Raniere in the letter. He did not provide registration numbers for the other developments he referred to or specify which developments he was citing. The proposed building is in the attendance area of ​​Roanoke Avenue Elementary School, which the district says is already at full capacity.

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