The Riverhead Town Board will hold public hearings on two moratorium proposals — one on industrial development in Calverton and another on commercial battery energy storage facilities town-wide — starting on Tuesday.
The town posted notices for the hearings in this week’s Riverhead News-Review after Council Member Tim Hubbard and two other council members agreed last week to support both moratoriums.
The hearing will start at the Town Board’s regular meeting at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Resolutions ratifying the notices are also scheduled to be voted on during the meeting.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar asked during today’s work session that the public hearings be rescheduled to allow for them to occur during an evening meeting, in order to spur more attendance. The other two board members at the work session meeting, council members Ken Rothwell and Bob Kern, agreed.
“These are very important decisions that we as a board make,” Aguiar said. “And we’d like to open it up further for the public.”
Town Attorney Erik Howard, who responded to Aguiar, said the board had already noticed the hearing. He advised that instead of rescheduling the hearing, the board should keep the hearing open to allow for more comments at the subsequent meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 17 at 6 p.m.. Town Board members appeared in agreement.
After the meeting was adjourned, both Aguiar and Rothwell said every board member “wants the hearing.”
In January, Aguiar and Rothwell — along with Kern — voted against holding a public hearing on an industrial moratorium proposal, supported then only by Hubbard and Council Member Frank Beyrodt.
The moratorium proposal on industrial development, which was revived by Hubbard this month, came after town officials and planning consultants working on the new comprehensive plan presented preliminary recommendations for amending industrial zoning districts, including decreasing the “bulk” of future developments. The recommendations also include allowing increased bulk if the developers purchase development rights, which are used to preserve farmland. The town’s current transfer of development rights program is widely considered to be ineffective, and its reform is one high priority in the comprehensive plan.
Hubbard has the support of Rothwell and Beyrodt for the industrial moratorium, which would be for six months.
The moratorium on the development of battery energy storage facilities, also proposed by Hubbard, was in response to three fires at battery energy storage facilities across New York State, including one in East Hampton. A state inter-agency working group is in the process of identifying best practices for the facilities, addressing potential risks to public safety, and ensuring energy storage sites across New York are safe.
There has been one application to build a commercial battery energy storage facility filed with the town since the adoption of the zoning: a 60-megawatt facility proposed for 104 Edwards Avenue, according to town Planner Matt Charters. A town code allowing the facilities as a use was unanimously adopted in April.
Hubbard has the support of Kern and Beyrodt for the battery energy storage moratorium, which would be for three months.
Both moratorium proposals include exemptions. The industrial moratorium includes exemptions tied to certain town approvals and environmental reviews and would exempt at least one major project: the 412,000-square-foot industrial park proposed by HK Ventures on Middle Country Road. The battery energy storage moratorium allows the Town Board to exempt certain projects after a public hearing.
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