All was quiet outside Riverhead Town Hall this afternoon. Photo: Peter Blasl

The town board will hear public comments on three proposed changes to the Riverhead Town Code at Tuesday night’s meeting.

First up is a proposed change to the Business CR (Rural Neighborhood Business”) zoning use district to add “coffee shops” as a permitted use and allow drive-through windows for restaurants, coffee shops and cafés.

Currently drive-through windows are only allowed for banks and pharmacies in the Business CR district.

The Business CR district covers most of the commercial areas of Route 25A corridor in Wading River and a small a portion of Middle Country Road, on the south side of the road opposite Fresh Pond Avenue.

Wading River residents objected to the idea of drive-through windows during hamlet studies completed in 1987 and 2012. Their objections prevailed over developers advocating for drive-through windows for restaurants, such as the McDonald’s that was eventually built on the corner of Route 25A and Wading River-Manor Road.

Officials hope lifting the ban on drive-thru restaurants would expedite re-occupancy of the former McDonald’s restaurant building that’s been vacant since September 2020. Photo: Alek Lewis

The Wading River McDonald’s franchise closed in September 2020. The property owner blamed the lack of a drive-through window for the franchisee’s decision not to renew its lease. The building remains vacant.

Town officials have proposed adding drive-through windows as an allowed use because they believe drive-through windows make fast food restaurants more viable. Town board members also said they do not believe the residents of Wading River remain opposed to drive-through windows.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 6:05 p.m.

The second hearing on tap at Tuesday’s town board meeting is on the controversial subject of firearms.

The proposed code amendment would add a new article to the town code that would regulate the operation of firearms businesses in Riverhead.

The code would specifically exclude firearms businesses from the definition of retail sales, services and manufacturing and would require a special permit of the town board to be a legal use.

Firearms dealers and gunsmiths would be allowed only in the Business Center and Shopping Center zoning use districts. Those two districts are located along Route 58.

Firing ranges would only be allowed in the Commercial Residential Campus, Planned Industrial Park, Industrial C and Industrial B zoning use districts.

Firearm business uses would be prohibited in any building containing a residential use.

Firearm business uses — including firearm dealer, firing range and gunsmith — would be prohibited within a radius of 150 feet of any property containing a residential use.

Firearm business uses would also be prohibited within 1,000 feet of a K-12 school, daycare center, preschool, child-care facility, college or university, public park intended for passive or active recreation, playground, land or structures used for religious purposes and observations, library, nursing home, or an existing firearm dealer or firing range at another location.

“In appropriate circumstances,” the proposed code says, the town board would be able to essentially waive the setback requirements and grant a firearm business a special permit anyway if the board determines that “the proposed location is sufficiently buffered by existing conditions such that the” school, preschool, childcare facility, college/university, public park, playground, place of worship, library, nursing home or existing firearm business “will not be adversely impacted” by the firearm business seeking a special permit.

All firearm business uses would be required to submit a security plan as well as an operation and management plan to the Riverhead Police Department for review and approval.

The proposed code would require criminal background checks for all employees of firearm businesses. It would also require firearm dealers to videotape the point of sale of all firearm transactions and to maintain the recordings for a minimum of six months.

The proposed code would ban entry to a firearm business by anyone under the age of 18, except that a minor age 14 to 17 may enter the premises of a firearm dealer when accompanied by an adult.

The proposed code, if adopted, would impact two pending firearm business proposals in Riverhead.

A firearm dealer planning to locate on West Main Street would be disallowed in that location because it is not in the Shopping Center or Business Center zoning use districts.

The building at 680 Elton Street on June 10. Photo: Peter Blasl

A firearm business use — consisting of a shooting range, firearms dealer and gunsmith — proposed for 680 Elton Street would be prohibited from including firearm retail sales at that location because it is not within the Shopping Center or Business Center zoning use districts.

The building in which the proposed shooting range would be housed, according to the applicant’s site plan on file with the Riverhead Planning Department, is located less than 50 feet from a residential property. More than a dozen residentially developed lots on Phillips Street abut the property where the firearm business uses are proposed, the site plan shows. The rear property lines of six of those lots are less than 150 feet from the building where the shooting range would be located, according to the site plan.

For the site plan to be approved for the shooting range, the town board would have to determine that site conditions provide sufficient buffer from the shooting range.

The hearing on the proposed firearm business code is scheduled for 6:10 p.m.

The Quantum Biopower anaerobic digester plant in Southington, Connecticut.

The third and final hearing on the board’s agenda Tuesday night deals with the subject of anaerobic digesters. A proposed code amendment defines an anaerobic digester as a facility that accepts, treats or processes various types of wastes, including food waste, for the purpose of producing bio-gas.

The proposed amendment would also prohibit the siting of an anaerobic digester in the Industrial A zoning use district. It would change the language of the Industrial A code to allow only “non-nuisance” industrial uses in the district with the exception of a long list of uses — to which it adds anaerobic digester.

An anaerobic digester for processing food wastes is currently proposed for a site at 200 Scott Avenue within the Calverton Enterprise Park. The zoning there is not Industrial A, but Planned Industrial Park. However the PIP zoning incorporates by reference the list of prohibited uses spelled out in the Industrial A code. So adding “anaerobic digester” to the list of prohibited uses in the Industrial A district would make the use likewise prohibited in the PIP district.

The application for site plan approval for development of the site on Scott Avenue with an anaerobic digester is currently before the Zoning Board of Appeals for a determination on whether the use is allowed there.

The public hearing on the anaerobic digester regulation is scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m.

The hearings will take place in the meeting room at Riverhead Town Hall, 200 Howell Avenue, Riverhead.

Interested persons can participate in the public hearings via Zoom at this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83385554186?pwd=dEdDTlBlYnpCSXZaZWRQbTVHdkRxZz09#success

or by calling : +1 929 205 6099.

Webinar ID: 833 8555 4186 Passcode: 431491

The town board meeting will be livestreamed on the town’s website here. A recording of the meeting will be available for viewing on demand at the same link beginning Wednesday. Optimum cable television customers can watch the meeting live on Channel 22.

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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.