Photos courtesy of Riverhead Patch
The stated mission of the Riverhead Planning Department is to provide expert town planning, zoning and environmental assessments for the Town and Planning boards, ZBA and Conservation Advisory Council to assist them in decisions that promote a well arranged, physically integrated and an environmentally sustainable community. Interestingly, the Town’s official website also currently states Planning is also there to “provide guidance to property owners with respect to land subdivision and site plan applications to result in the timely approval of construction projects which will provide significant tax ratables to the Town.”
The Planning Department is primarily administrative and advisory in nature and thus doesn’t make many of the key final land use decisions: the three aforementioned boards make those. One exception is the Planning Director’s role as a zoning officer, which vests authority to “make, issue and render determinations regarding compliance with the provisions of the Zoning Code for site plan, special permit and subdivision applications,” according to Section 26-20 of Riverhead Town Code. The process in which Planning plays the most integral role is site plan review, (covered in the Planning Board section in next column).
Forms and applications you may need to submit to the Planning if you are building, can be found on the Document Center.
The Planning Department holds meetings they call work sessions at 10:30AM on Tuesdays. Pre-submission conferences for development projects are held during these work sessions and are open to the public, although it may be difficult to know when one is occurring because the agenda is not made public.
Riverhead's Planning Department consists of directors, planners and clerks. All are Town employees hired by the Town Board.
Anyone can request to review or acquire a copy of a map or document retained in the Planning Department using the Application for Public Access to Records(commonly referred to as a F.O.I.L.) submitted to the Town Clerk.A number of key documents can be accessed via the official Riverhead Town Planning Department page. These include town zoning maps, the adopted Riverhead Comprehensive Plan and zoning use districts, and dimensional regulations for residential and commercial properties.
The purpose of the RNPC’s “Government 101” pages is to give you a better understanding of the processes and areas of government most related to land use and how you might interact with them to achieve positive results.
Riverhead Town government is headed by the Town Supervisor and Town Councilpersons. It also consists of a number of appointed, decision-making boards (and an agency), departments staffed with Town employees who get the work done and advise the boards, and volunteer committees that also advise the boards.
Riverhead Town Hall is located at 200 Howell Avenue in Riverhead, New York, 11901 (directions). The main phone number is 631-727-3200. All official public hearings are held in the main meeting room at Town Hall.
Online Town Calendar
Sign Up for Notifications (of meetings and more)
Application for Public Access to Records
Town Clerk (click here)
The Planning Board guides land-development and growth within Riverhead Town. It reviews and approves commercial and residential site plans and subdivisions in close cooperation with the Town’s Planning and Engineering departments. It also reviews and recommends revisions to land use ordinances to the Town Board including subdivision regulations, zoning laws and maps, as well as capital improvements.
The primary function of the Planning Board is review and approval of commercial site plans and subdivisions. We will focus on commercial site plans. The process starts with a pre-submission conference and then moves to preliminary site plan application, Planning Department review, public hearing, decision on preliminary site plan, final site plan application, circulation of site plan to involved departments and agencies, Planning Board site plan review, SEQRA determination, and approval (or denial). No building permits can be issued before a decision is rendered. The Site Plan Review process is spelled out in Section 108-131 of the Riverhead Town Code. Read more about the site plan review process.
Planning Board meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month at 7:00 pm and the third Thursday at 3:00 pm. (Get online agenda). The public may comment on any matter that is or will be in front of the Planning Board at the start of the meeting. Public hearings on site plans and subdivisions are also held during these meetings. Read tips for participating in meetings.
Meeting agendas and resolutions voted upon during a meeting are posted on the Planning Board Agenda & minutes page on the Town’s website. Hearing notices are posted in the official newspaper, the Riverhead News-Review. The Town's main planning page contains helpful information including zoning maps, dimensional requirements for development, the Comprehensive Plan, and links to forms.
Contact the Planning Department with any questions about site plans or any other planning matter. You may be asked to submit a F.O.I.L. request for a particular document or to see the entire file. Submit your Application for Public Access to Records to the Town Clerk. The Town is required to respond to your F.O.I.L. request within five business days.
The Planning Board consists of five members appointed by the Town Board to five-year terms. The Town Board appoints the Chairman and Vice-Chairman on an annual basis. Currently, the Town Board does not require any particular experience or minimum qualifications for the Board members it appoints (see RNPC initiative). Once they begin serving, State Law requires they undergo four hours continuing education each year.
The bulk of a typical meeting is spent on the items on the Planning Board Agenda called Discussion Items. These discussions are between the applicant, the Planning Board and the Town staff including those from the Planning Department and Engineering Department. The audience does not generally participate in these discussions but can attend and listen.
Be prepared to be patient whenever you attend a Riverhead Planning Board meeting. Planning Board meetings often start late and issues are often discussed in a different order than they appear on the official agenda. The conversation between the Board and applicant is often barely audible so you might consider sitting in one of the front rows. Complicating matters is the fact that you cannot view the drawings they’re discussing from your seat so you might want to bring your own. (A copy of the plan should be posted in the meeting room but if not, it will be on the bulletin board in the main hallway.)
There are one to two opportunities for public input at Riverhead Planning Board meetings: public comment on Planning Board business and public hearings.
All those participating in the public hearing are sworn in before addressing the Board from the podium. As long as you are on point, your remarks may range from suggestions for improvements to the site plan, to raising environmental concerns about a project, to objecting to some perceived failure of the process. Remember to maintain a reasonable level of respect in speaking with officials and responding to other testifying members of the public.
If you have objections to some aspect of a project, or the project in its entirety, some of the common issues you might raise are:
*All requests for information can be made via the Application for Public Access to Records.
Refer to Getting Info section above for more tips on getting what you need.
When commenting, consider preparing a script if the issue is particularly complex or sensitive—of if you anticipate that it might become the subject of a future action, such as litigation. You might want to submit these comments to the Board after you speak so they enter into the formal public record. You have ten days in which to submit all comments to the Planning Board. Submit comments to the Planning Board through the Town Clerk. Planning Board meetings are broadcast on Cablevision. Formal minutes are not taken but you may request a DVD containing the taped meeting via an Application for Public Access to Records.
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