A view of the general area being considered by the town board for potential outdoor auto storage. Image: Google Maps

A proposal to allow outdoor storage of new motor vehicles on certain industrially zoned property in Calverton has been scuttled.

The Town Board was set to go to public hearing Tuesday on the proposed zoning code amendment to allow the new special permit use, but the meeting was postponed to Wednesday and the hearing was canceled.

At Wednesday’s meeting, citing opposition from residents in the area, board members decided not to proceed with the hearing.

The proposed zoning code change would apply only to properties in the Industrial A zoning use district within a relatively small — under 100 acres — geographically defined area, specifically land north of Middle Country Road/Old Country Road, east and south of Manor Road, and west of Twomey Avenue in Calverton.

Image from Riverhead Town zoning map. Parcel information from Riverhead Town 2020-2021 tax roll.

About 57 acres within the defined area are currently undeveloped. There is one large industrial use, Coastal Pipeline Products, on a 16.6 acre parcel and several single-family homes in the area within the defined boundaries set out in the proposed code.

The Riverhead Planning Board in May 2019 approved a four-lot industrial subdivision of one of the parcels, an 8.8-acre site on the northeast corner of Manor Road and Middle Country Road, owned by RGR Ventures of Riverhead.

The town board never publicly discussed a proposal to site outdoor auto storage on any specific lot. Various Riverhead automobile dealers have asked the board to consider allowing offsite outdoor vehicle storage because they are required by manufacturers to maintain inventory they cannot accommodate on their lots.

Councilman Tim Hubbard brought the proposal forward in July. It had been recommended by the code committee in 2019 and the town board discussed it in August of that year. But there was disagreement at the time over whether to allow the use in the Industrial C zone also, which then-councilwoman Jodi Giglio advocated.

Hubbard said the proposed use would be a benign use — the storage of “factory fresh” vehicles. He noted that uses already allowed in the Industrial A district are much more intense — the code allows “all industrial uses” except a list of certain heavy industrial uses.

The proposed auto storage use would be limited to established new car dealers in Riverhead and would not be available to out-of-town dealers in need of a place to store excess inventory.

Board members yesterday said they had received numerous phone calls and emails from residents objecting to the proposal and some said it had changed their minds about even proceeding to a hearing on the proposal.

Hubbard thanked community members for letting the board know how they felt about the idea.

“And I think when you look at the big picture, I believe they’re possibly correct with this,” Hubbard said. “I think we need to look at another location and see where we can find that might be better suited for car storage that won’t occupy a — should I say — a pristine view, because that view down Manor Road there, with the lavender farm on the one side of the farm open farm space on the other, it’s absolutely gorgeous. So we don’t want to do anything to change that,” Hubbard said.

Kent said she did not want to go forward with a public hearing and “never liked this from the beginning, for lots of reasons” Kent said — despite having brought a proposal to allow the use in the Industrial A district to the board in 2019 as liaison to the code committee.

“I want to mention a few of the reasons why I think this was inappropriate,” she said.

“First of all, it’s inconsistent with our existing comp plan and plus we are in the midst of a comp plan,” Kent said, noting that car dealers would be “the only industry in town to have offsite outside storage.”

The location in question doesn’t have access to public water, she said, which would cause “site plan problems because there’s no water there for fire suppression, or for the vegetative buffers,” Kent said. There would also be problems with stormwater management at the site, she said.

“Let’s not amend our zoning to allow car storage on what is prime farmland in Riverhead,” Kent said. “We could try to work with our car dealers but not in this location. So I’m happy that we will not. I hope we don’t move forward with it.

Councilman Frank Beyrodt agreed to table the public hearing on the proposal but said, “I thought this was a perfect spot for it.” He said the agricultural land there is “marginal at best.”

“To put those industrial properties back on the tax roll as industrial would have been very helpful,” Beyrodt said. “But I understand the plight of the community around it. And that’s why I’m voting to not move forward with it, but I think it would have been a good solution for a very necessary problem and we should go back to the drawing board and work with the car dealers.”

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said yesterday the town board should consider other ways it could address the dealerships’ needs because they are a large and important business segment in Riverhead Town.

“The car dealerships here in Riverhead are one of the biggest businesses out here — I think in the entire eastern part of New York — and we need to make sure that if they have a need that that need is taken care of,” Aguiar said. “They are taxpayers also.”

The town should try to identify locations for the use, Aguiar said.

“I know today, we were looking at the map to try to identify locations. And, you know, we need to address this because there is a need — and not necessarily due to their business operations but manufacturers are now forcing car dealers to take an excess amount of cars upfront, before they’re sold,” she said. “So there is a need not caused by their operations and I’m hopeful this is going to be resolved,” she said.

“This application took about two years to get to,” the supervisor said, though the proposal was made on the board’s own motion and not on any property owner’s application for a zoning change.

“Hopefully it’s not going to take two years. I think we have enough understanding of what’s going on, that we can try to do this as quickly as we can,” Aguiar said.

Editor’s note: This article was amended to add statements board members made at the Feb. 3 town board meeting, which were not included in the original version of the article due to a recording device malfunction. Other edits were made to provide context for the statements quoted.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.