The site plan for the former Trutech property at 680 Elton Street gained preliminary approval from the Riverhead Planning Board on Thursday.
The application, first filed in April, drew objections from area residents because it included a firearms training facility/shooting range, with retail gun sales and gun-smithing services in a portion of the 73,100-square-foot commercial building. Other proposed uses at the site include an HVAC company and offices.
After the Town Board took steps to regulate retail gun sales with a proposed code that would eliminate that use in the zoning district governing the Elton Street site, the applicant removed retail gun sales and gun-smithing from its proposed uses at property. The Town Board held a public hearing on a proposed code to regulate gun shops on June 21, but has not voted on the legislation.
The Planning Board vote granting preliminary site plan approval came after a public hearing on the site plan application that concluded Oct. 6.
The massive commercial building on the 11-acre site has been vacant since early 2018. Luxfer Magtech, a subsidiary of Luxfer Holdings, a global materials technology company, bought the Riverhead-based Trutech in 2014. The family-owned Truetech was founded in 1929 as Chemical Compounding Corporation. The business changed its name to Truetech Inc. in 1988. Luxfer closed the site in March 2018.
The proposed tenant that would operate the firearms facility at the site, Niosi Firearms, was issued a stop-work order on June 1 for occupying the premises without 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. Two of the suspects subsequently pleaded guilty to burglary charges.
Niosi Firearms principal Anthony Niosi told RiverheadLOCAL a week before the burglary he was using the site to store fixtures moved from his prior location in Westhampton Beach 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.
On July 12, Niosi pleaded guilty to charges of occupying the premises without a certificate of occupancy or use permit and was fined $1,500 in Riverhead Justice Court.
Niosi told RiverheadLOCAL in August he would look to locate a retail gun shop in a separate location zoned for retail near the Elton Street site where he would operate the shooting range.
A database of federal firearms dealer licenses updated monthly by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms still lists the 680 Elton Street address as the location of Niosi Firearms. Riverhead Town code enforcement officers confirmed in July that Niosi Firearms had vacated the Elton Street premises.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar commented at a meeting of the Heart of Riverhead Civic Association last month that Niosi Firearms would be locating in Calverton, but she did not provide specifics.
Last week, Niosi declined to directly answer a question about whether he was planning to locate the shooting range/training facility and gun shop in Calverton.
“I don’t know how the town deliberations will go, however I’m sure they heard the opposition from the community,” Niosi said. “I have a long list of folks who, in opposition to a range on Elton, suggested everything from an underground facility to agricultural land away from housing. However the most often suggested alternative …is Calverton,” he said, adding “Vox populi, vox Dei,” a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people is the voice of God.”
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