Firearms dealer Anthony Niosi, who proposed an indoor shooting range and gun shop on Elton Street, pleaded guilty today to unlawfully occupying the building in violation of the Riverhead Town Code.
Niosi entered guilty pleas in Riverhead Justice Court this afternoon to two code violations for occupying the building without a certificate of occupancy or use permit, and was ordered by by Town Justice Sean Walter to pay fines totaling $1,500.
A compliance inspection earlier in the day determined Niosi’s business had vacated the premises in compliance with a June 1 order issued by the code enforcement division, the prosecutor told the court.
Niosi, appearing in court without an attorney, asked Walter whether a guilty plea would affect his federal firearms license. The judge said he could not give him legal advice.
Appearance tickets and a stop-work order were issued to Niosi in early June after code enforcement officers, in response to a telephone complaint, inspected the premises and determined that Niosi’s business was open for retail sales on May 28 without the required approvals, according to an investigative report filed by Riverhead Town Investigator Richard Downs.
After today’s court appearance, Niosi told a reporter that the situation was an “unfortunate misunderstanding between me and the landlord, and it’s on me.”
Niosi said the business had been out of the building for a month.
A week after Niosi was issued tickets, three men were arrested and accused of burglarizing the building and stealing two handguns, ammunition, apparel and accessories from the building on June 6, police said.
Niosi said in an interview after the incident that the building was storing display cases and safes from when the business moved out of its location in Westhampton Beach, and was being used as a location to receive orders for people who have purchased firearms. He also said none of his business’ guns were stolen, and those stolen were owned by a gunsmith who shared the space with his business.
The landlord of the vacant commercial building at 680 Elton Street, Signature Partners, was previously in front of the Riverhead Planning Board seeking site plan and change-of-use approvals to allow for the firearm facility to operate. A hearing on the site plan application was adjourned by the planning board during its June 2 meeting because, a planner said, the planning department and planning board had not been initially aware that Niosi Firearms planned to sell firearms at the building. Niosi disclosed to the board during a presentation in April that his company would offer firearm sales. The zoning district where the building is located does not allow retail uses, except as customarily accessory to a use allowed by the code.
Niosi refused to comment today when asked if he would still pursue town approvals to operate his business at the Elton Street facility.
Building and Planning Administrator Jefferson Murphree said in an email last week that the applicants at 680 Elton Street have not yet filed a new application with the planning department, nor an application for a zoning interpretation with the Zoning Board of Appeals.
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