Six weeks after public outcry at a packed Riverhead Town Board hearing appeared to shift town board opinion on its special permit application, United Riverhead Terminal notified the town it’s withdrawing the controversial application.
In a one-sentence letter signed by URT chairman John Catsimatidis and faxed to town hall today, the company notified Riverhead Town it is withdrawing the application to expand its pre-existing nonconforming use in Northville. URT had sought approval to construct two new ethanol storage tanks in order to store and distribute gasoline at its Sound Shore Road facility. The plan sparked protests from community residents and civic groups, who argued that the tanker trucks used to transport gasoline would have serious traffic impacts local roads and pose significant safety risks.
But the company can resubmit the application at a later date and that’s exactly what civic activists worry may happen.
“We have definitely won the battle but it remains to be seen whether the war will continue,” Northville Beach Civic Association president Neil Krupnick said this afternoon.
Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Associaiton president Angela DeVito said today she believed Supervisor Sean Walter “told them to withdraw the application and resubmit it after the election.”
Walter acknowledged this afternoon he “suggested that they withdraw the application and resubmit it at a later date with a lot more information.” But, he said, he did not make any suggestions as to the timing of the resubmission.
“It was very clear after the hearing that they had a lot more work to do,” Walter said.
At the conclusion of the March 18 town board hearing, it appeared that a majority of the board no longer supported the application. Councilman John Dunleavy stated directly that, after hearing residents’ concerns, he would vote to deny the application. Councilman James Wooten told residents, “We hear you.” And the supervisor, who, like Dunleavy, prior to the hearing was supportive of the application, said there was “a consensus building on this board” against it.
The hearing record was kept open for written comment until Wednesday, April 30.
“I suggested that [URT] pull it and take the time to meet with residents, put together more information and come up with a plan that works for everyone,” Walter said this afternoon.
Was he trying to shelve a controversial topic until after an election which finds him fending off potential challenges by a fellow Republican board member, Jodi Giglio and a longtime political advisor, Anthony Coates, a Democrat?
“How long it takes United Riverhead Terminal to do what I suggested is up to them,” Walter said. “That was not my motive. What I was trying to accomplish was to give them the opportunity to satisfy the community’s needs and provide us with all the information we need to make the decision.”