Despite a number of controversies over the past year, the Riverhead Costco store was issued a temporary certificate of occupancy in time to meet its announced June 26 opening date on Thursday.
And it was greeted by large crowds of shoppers.
“We are thrilled to be bringing Costco’s low warehouse prices to the residents of Riverhead,” warehouse manager Jon Jovel said in a press release. “They have been asking us to open here for a long time, and we already have made an impact on the local job market. We look forward to contributing to the community in many ways.”
Town officials had previously said the store would not be issued a CO, allowing it to open to the public, unless it met all of the conditions of a May 15 amended site plan approval issued by the town Planning Board.
The approval required the developer of the site, Brixmor Property Group, to replace a wooden fence around the property with a chain link fence with privacy slats, and to plant all of the trees buffering neighboring properties that had been previously called for in the earlier approval — and, lastly, to replace trees that have since died.
It also required them to spread out excess sand on the property over a 20-acre portion of the site, resulting in the grade of the land being raised by 3.5 feet over the prior Planning Board approval from the fall of 2012.
Residents in the Foxwood Village development to the north and the Millbrook Community development to the east had complained about the lack of screening between their homes and the shopping center after Brixmor, with Town Board and Planning Board approvals, clearcut the entire 41 acre site, even though the builders only planned to develop a portion of it.
According to Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, the store was issued a temporary CO and not a permanent one because the traffic light, which it shares with another shopping center across the street, had not been fully accepted by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, and because the developer needed to sprinklers and hydroseed — a type of fast growing grass — on a 20-foot section of lawn around the parking lot.
Mr. Walter said both were being done, and he doesn’t anticipate the store will have any problems getting the permanent CO.
He said all the other requirements of the amended site plan approval have been met.
The Costco site is actually separately owned from the rest of the shopping center, which is called The Shops at Riverhead and is owned by Brixmor. However, another part of the amended site plan allowed the developers to build just the Costco store initially, since they didn’t have any tenants yet for the rest of the project.
Robert Hall, a Foxwood Village resident who has represented the homeowners there at planning meetings on the development for several years, was not happy that the town granted the CO.
“They said that unless they completed everything on the amended site plan, they wouldn’t get a CO,” he said. “I don’t believe they’ve completed everything.”
Although new spruce trees were planted along the border with the Foxwood and Millbrook communities, he said the builders never removed the arborvitae trees that were previously planted. He said he and many other residents agree the trees “look like junk.”
Caption: Neighbors have complained about these arborvitae shrugs. (Credit: Tim Gannon, file)