Photo: Adobe Stock

The locations and operations of firearm businesses in the Town of Riverhead would be limited and regulated under new legislation being considered by the Town Board.

A proposed new code would make firearm businesses allowed only by special permit of the town board and would limit their locations to certain zoning use districts.

Firearm dealers and gunsmiths would be allowed only in the Business Center and Shopping Center zoning use districts, which are primarily located along the Route 58 commercial corridor. 

Firing ranges would be confined to the Commercial Residential Campus, Planned Industrial Park, Industrial C and Industrial B districts, which are mainly located off of Route 58, at the Enterprise Park in Calverton, and on West Main Street and Pulaski Street west of Sweezy Avenue. The proposed code would also ban the sale of guns at a firing range, making businesses that combine the retail and recreational use prohibited.

The code would also prohibit firearm businesses within 1,000-feet of any K-12 school, daycare center, preschool, child-care facility, college or university, public park or playground, place of worship, library, nursing home or existing firearm business. It also prohibits the businesses 150-feet from any property with residential use. Although the code also allows the board to grant a special permit skirting these proximity regulations if it finds the location is “sufficiently buffered by existing conditions” so that the firearms business would not adversely impact any of those uses.

Firearm businesses would not be allowed to display graphics, symbols or images depicting firearms, ammunition or firearm accessories at the business. “The Town Board may impose additional restrictions on signage to mitigate impact on the immediate neighborhood,” the code reads.

The businesses would also need to submit a security plan to the Riverhead Police Department that outlines provisions for security, including details of how firearms will be stored in locked containers after hours and the number of employees. The security plan would be subject to approval annually. The business would also be required to do background checks on all employees and maintain records that can be spot-checked by the police department.

Firearm businesses would also be banned from operating within a building containing a residential use.

A public hearing on the proposed code has been scheduled for June 21 at 6:10 p.m., during the Town Board’s next regular meeting at Riverhead Town Hall.

Town Board members at their May 26 work session had discussed a ban on firearms businesses only in downtown business districts — the focus of downtown revitalization efforts that have recently produced a $10 million state grant award. Board members — because they are not “family-friendly” establishments, board members said. The code was still being written and a copy of it was not available for board members or the public to review at the work session.

[See prior coverage: Riverhead considering ban on firearms businesses downtown]

Without further public discussion, the scope of the code was expanded and was finalized Tuesday. A version of the code published with the meeting agenda banned all types of firearm facilities in the Commercial Residential Campus district — the zoning use district that covers 680 Elton Street, where a firearms facility, including a firing range, training facility and retail gun shop are already proposed. The version of the proposed code accompanying the public hearing notice did not list the CRC district among those where all firearms facilities would be prohibited.

[See prior coverage: High-tech firearms training facility planned for vacant factory building on Elton Street]

Niosi Firearm Development, which previously operated a gun shop in a Westhampton Beach industrial park, is proposing a firearm training facility, shooting range and gun shop at 680 Elton Street. Planning Board Chairwoman Joann Waski asked during an April 21 meeting asked gun sales at the location and business principal Anthony Niosi said both sales and rentals would be offered there. But town planning staff at the planning board’s June 2 meeting said retail gun sales was not part of the application, and the application would have to be amended. The proposed site plan indicates a retail shop at the site, but planning staff believed the shop would be accessory to the firing range, selling items customarily used at the range, such as ammunition, gloves, and hearing protection — but not firearms, according to Planner Greg Bergman.

[See prior coverage: Elton St. firearms hearing tabled, intent for retail gun sales had not been disclosed & application to be amended, planner says; outcry from residents]

If the proposed code is adopted, Niosi Firearm Development would only be allowed to operate a firing range and training facility at the Elton Street site, since gun dealers would be prohibited in the CRC zone.

Niosi said in a phone interview Tuesday he had not seen the updated code or talked to Signature Partners’ attorney about the law, and said he could not comment on it. 

Asked whether a ban on retail sales at the facility was a dealbreaker, Niosi said not necessarily. He said the business has the ability to sell to federal, county and law enforcement agencies, which are some of its biggest customers, and most of the sales are made off-site.

“If it’s merely restricted to selling civilian weapons on site, who knows? We might be able to live with that,” Niosi said. “But if you tell me you can’t sell any weapons — which I’m not sure you have the right to do — but nevertheless, if you said that, obviously I’m not in business.”

Charles Cuddy, the attorney for Signature Partners, did not return a call requesting comment before this article was published.

Joseph Oliver outside the basement shop he’s leased at 48 West Main Street, where he plans to open a gun shop.
Photo: Peter Blasl

If the code is adopted as proposed, it would be a dealbreaker for another firearm business looking to open up shop in town.

Joseph Oliver, the owner of an online business named JJ Armory based in his home in Riverhead, has leased a retail shop at 48 West Main Street. He said town building department employees in December told him that since the site is zoned for retail uses, a retail gun shop is an allowed use as of right. He has paid rent for the store and submitted an application to the town for a use permit. After that he was notified by a town employee of the proposed legislation. Oliver is afraid his investment will be lost if the code passes before the town issues his permit.

“My entire life savings is put into this project. And the only reason why I went 100% is because the officials told me that it was proper and there would be no issues,” Oliver said in a message.

“I will literally have to start from scratch,” he said.

Denise Civiletti contributed reporting.

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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]