The vacant former Truetech facility on Elton Street. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead Planning Board will hold a public hearing Thursday evening on a site plan application for improvements and change-of-use for the Elton Street building where a firearm training facility and gun range are proposed.

The site plan application was most recently revised on July 25 to remove the retail sale of guns and gunsmith services at the site. The prospect of gun sales at the building drew flak from some community members. There will be equipment rentals and sales of ammunition and accessories associated with the use of the facility.

In addition to a live firing range, the firearms business will have a virtual reality build that can allow local police to virtually train for different scenarios, including an active shooter situation, the owners have said. The building will also house an HVAC supply warehouse and distribution operation, and offices.

The public hearing is on the agenda for the 6 p.m. meeting of the board and residents are able to comment in person and online through Zoom.

The one-story, 73,100-square-foot commercial building, a former Trutech manufacturing and warehousing facility, is being purchased by applicant Signature Partners, which is proposing façade renovations and site improvements, including parking, landscaping and drainage upgrades.

The 11-acre site is located in the Commercial/Residential Campus “CRC” zoning-use district, which allows indoor sports and recreation facility and office uses as of right. The applicant obtained a special exception from the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals last December that allows the replacement of one pre-existing nonconforming warehouse use with another. 

The site plan application has had a rocky history since it was introduced to the Planning Board in April. A site plan hearing was scheduled for June, but the hearing was adjourned by the Planning Board as quickly as it started, as town planning officials said it was not initially made aware that the proposed firearms business tenant planned to operate a retail gun shop there. 

The CRC zoning use district does not allow retail uses, except as “customarily incidental” to a use allowed by the code.

At that point, proposed tenant Niosi Firearms had already obtained the required approvals from the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau to move its federal firearm dealer license to 680 Elton Street and vacated its former location in a Westhampton Beach industrial park. It also advertised the move on its website, which even stated it was open at the new location, although a principal in the business, Anthony Niosi, told RiverheadLOCAL that was an error. 

The Planning Board in early August was scheduled to vote to set a public hearing on the application but the item was taken off the agenda after concerns were expressed by Supervisor Yvette Aguiar about retail gun sales at the location. The hearing was set at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 18.

While the Elton Street site plan application was pending, the Town Board took up consideration of proposed legislation to regulate the location and operation of firearm businesses in Riverhead. The board held a hearing on the measure June 21, drawing a crowd to Town Hall, after which Town Board members decided the code needed more work, as no board member supported it as drafted.

During the site plan application process, town code enforcement officials also visited the Elton Street building on May 28 and June 1 and found people inside who identified themselves as working for Niosi. On June 1, the town issued a stop-work order requiring Niosi to vacate the premises. Code enforcement also issued four tickets accusing Niosi of occupying the premises without town approvals, including a certificate of occupancy.

On June 6, Riverhead Police received a report of a burglary at Niosi Firearms in which two handguns, firearm ammunition, apparel, bags and gun accessories were stolen from the building. Police on June 7 arrested three Riverhead men in connection with the burglary.

Niosi told RiverheadLOCAL a week before the burglary he was using the site to store fixtures moved from his prior location and was also receiving orders for people who purchased firearms online, which federal law requires be shipped to a licensed firearm dealer in the state where the purchaser resides. He said he was not engaging in any sales at the site.

But on July 12, after Riverhead code enforcement officers conducted a compliance inspection and determined that Niosi had vacated the building, Niosi pleaded guilty to two of the charges and paid a $1,500 fine in Riverhead Justice Court on July 12.

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.

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: alek@riverheadlocal.com