The town board is looking to crack down on litter-strewn commercial properties and poorly maintained trash receptacle areas. File photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead Town Board is considering increasing the fines for littering violations in an effort to crack down on neglect from commercial property owners.

A draft amendment from the Code Revision Committee proposes proposes increasing the fee for retail and commercial establishments failing to keep their pedestrian walkways, parking areas, landscape and curbsides clean — and for violations for inappropriately maintaining a dumpster — from $250 minimum and no maximum to $1,000 minimum and $1,500 maximum for the first violation; $500 minimum and no maximum to $1,500 minimum and $2,500 maximum for the second violation; and from $1,000 minimum and no maximum to $2,500 minimum and $3,500 maximum for the third and subsequent violations within the same 18-month period.

The proposal also includes raising fines for people littering on public and private property, littering while on the road, and private property owners failing to clean their properties and the sidewalk in front of it, from a $50 to $250 minimum fee. 

“A lot of these people that own these strip mall places don’t live here and they’re not picking up the litter,” said Councilman Bob Kern, the town board liaison to the town’s Anti-Litter Advisory Committee. “So the purpose of the fine is to get it so that the cost of the fine is a cost to the business, not a cost of doing business.”

“There’s some commercial establishments that have been called ‘problematic’ properties up on Route 58,” Town Attorney Erik Howard said. “This will, through a little more obligation — a little more leverage — in terms of the issue and notice of violation, or call the property manager and ask him to clean something up. The prospect of this level of fine will hopefully put a little pressure on the property owner to make sure that they have a responsive property manager to get out there and clean it up.”

Howard said code enforcement typically issues a notice of violation or attempts to contact the property manager before issuing a violation. 

Kern asked Howard if there was a way the town building and grounds crew could pick up the litter and charge the property owner for the cleanup. Howard said it is possible and the process would be similar to Article 251-25 of the town code, which allows the town board to authorize the removal of overgrown vegetation or yard waste if a property owner fails to abate a violation. At the request of Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, Howard said he would go back and amend the proposal to include something similar to what is in Chapter 251.

During the discussion, Councilman Tim Hubbard proposed that the board recognize commercial property owners throughout the town that go out of their way to maintain their properties with proclamations throughout the year.

“I would like to introduce something like a hall of fame that like, say quarterly, we would honor and do a proclamation for a business that goes above and beyond to keep their properties looking pristine, and I can name a half dozen right off the top of my head,” Hubbard said.

Kern said the Anti-Litter Advisory Committee has also brought that up and would be in favor of seeing something like that within the town.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]