The implementation of moratoriums on industrial development and battery energy storage facilities will wait until 2024.
Council Member and Supervisor-elect Tim Hubbard announced the delay at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting.
Council Member Frank Beyrodt, one of the two other votes Hubbard was counting on to pass the moratorium resolutions, was absent from the meeting.
Hubbard made the announcement in response to an inquiry by John McAuliff of Riverhead, who asked about it when resolutions to adopt the moratoriums did not appear on Tuesday’s meeting agenda.
Hubbard said at the last Town Board meeting Nov. 9 that the resolutions would be on the Nov. 21 agenda. He explained I response to a resident’s inquiry at that meeting that the resolutions required “some changes… based on some recommendations from the planning commission.”
With Beyrodt absent from last night’s meeting, however, Hubbard lacked the three-vote majority needed to pass the resolutions.
“If you notice, we don’t have a full board up here tonight,” Hubbard told McAuliff. “And in order for me to get those resolutions passed, I needed that individual who was not here tonight,” he said.
“And I can tell you that at this point in time with the holidays coming up and I’m not sure who was going to be here and who’s not, I will put those moratoriums up for the first meeting in January when I have guaranteed support for them,” Hubbard said.
Both of the incoming new council members, Denise Merrifield and Joann Waski, said during the campaign they support the moratoriums.
Hubbard had introduced a resolution for a six-month moratorium on industrial development and a three-month moratorium on commercial battery energy storage facilities. Both Beyrodt and Council Member Ken Rothwell said they would vote to pass those measures.
But the Suffolk County Planning Commission on Nov. 1 declined to support the six-month industrial moratorium proposal. The planning commission authorized a three-month moratorium instead. The planning commission supported Riverhead’s proposed three-month BESS moratorium.
For the Town Board to act contrary to the planning commission’s recommendation, it needs to muster a four-vote supermajority. With Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and Council Member Bob Kern opposed to the industrial moratorium, Hubbard would not be able to muster the supermajority vote.
If Rothwell remains willing to support Hubbard’s original six-month industrial moratorium proposal, with the two new council members in office come Jan. 1, Hubbard would have the four-vote supermajority he needs to adopt the six-month moratorium proposal.
Hubbard did not say last night whether he intends to put his original six-month moratorium up for a vote with the new board in place.
In October 2022, after the Planning Board unanimously came out in support of an industrial development, Hubbard advocated for an 18-month moratorium on new warehouse development in Calverton, pending completion of the town’s comprehensive plan update. But none of the other board members supported it.
The community — particularly residents of Calverton, where most of the town’s industrially zoned land is located — came out in force to demand action on the industrial moratorium, with residents bearing signs packing the Town Board meeting room last fall.
But in January, a split Town Board declined to schedule a public hearing on a scaled-back, six-month industrial moratorium proposal offered by Hubbard. Beyrodt was the only other board member to support it.
Rothwell said at the time he opposed a moratorium because he does not believe it’s “proper” for the town to take away the property rights of land owners. Rothwell also questioned whether a six-month moratorium would serve any purpose, since the long-delayed comprehensive plan update would take longer than that to complete. The town had just hired a new planning firm to complete the update, after terminating its contract with a the prior consultants hired in 2019.
If the planning consultants hit targets set forth in a 15-month timeline for the update process, a final plan could be adopted by the Town Board in April.
Then the plan’s recommendations for any zoning changes would have to be implemented with code revisions, which require public hearings prior to adoption. The code revisions are not part of the contract with the planning firm. The implementation of the plan’s recommendations with new adopted codes will likely take some time. The codification process took a few years to complete after the 2003 comprehensive plan was adopted.
The Greater Calverton Civic Association in 2020, citing what it called the “ongoing onslaught of major industrial development” in Calverton, began demanding an industrial moratorium for the duration of the comp plan process.
The proposal for a three-month moratorium on commercial battery energy storage facilities — to allow time for the governor’s safety working group to look into the cause of recent fires at commercial BESS facilities in New York State and make recommendations — was accepted by the Suffolk County Planning Commission and does not need a supermajority vote for adoption by the Town Board.
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