The owner of a vacant commercial building on Elton Street where an indoor shooting range and gun shop has been proposed has amended his site plan application to remove gun retail and gunsmith services on the site.
Signature Partners, owner of 680 Elton Street, filed a revised site plan application with the Riverhead Planning Department on July 25.
Berlin/Niosi Firearm Academy, one of three proposed tenants in the sprawling 73,100 square foot building, “will have virtual reality classrooms, training and practice, [simunition] (paint ball like) training and practice, and real shooting [arms] training and practice,” according to documents filed by the owner’s attorney, Charles Cuddy.
The amended request indicates that there will also be equipment rentals and ammunition sales associated with the use of the facility. But “there will be no gunsmith services offered and no gun sales or gun transfers.”
The other two tenants are HVAC warehouse and office use, depending on demand.
Last night Cuddy asked the Planning Board to schedule the matter for discussion and hold a public hearing on the revised application.
“It’s a matter of procedure,” Cuddy said. “We’re just asking you to hold the hearing so we can make our case” for the site plan. “There is no concern about the use because the use is permitted use,” Cuddy said.
“It’s a use that has been accepted,” he said, referring to the determination of building and planning administrator Jefferson Murphree, the city’s zoning officer, that a field Indoor Shooting Range is an indoor athletic and recreational facility licensed as of right within the Commercial/Residential Campus (CRC) Zoning Use Area.
The published agenda for last night’s planning board meeting initially included for discussion a resolution calling for a public hearing on the site plan application.
When Supervisor Yvette Aguiar learned on Tuesday that the agenda for the August 4 planning board called for planning a public hearing on the Elton Street site plan, she called Planning Board Chair Joann Waski and asked him to take it off the agenda, Aguiar said in a phone interview. Tuesday evening.
Aguiar told RiverheadLOCAL that the code review proposal will be taken up by the code review committee “in its place”, and when it is revised, “there will be a public hearing”.
Waski did not respond to a request for comment. But the talking point regarding 680 Elton Street was removed from the August 4 Planning Board’s final agenda.
“I think it was a mistake,” Cuddy told the Planning Board last night. “The reason it was removed was because the supervisor was concerned there was retail use on the site by Niosi Firearms. That’s not true.”
Retail uses are permitted in the Commercial/Residential Campus (CRC) Zoning Use District only as “ordinarily incidental” to as-of=right or specially permitted uses.
Cuddy provided council members with copies of the revised application he filed on July 25, which “makes it very clear that there will be no gun sales on this site,” he said. -he declares.
“It’s very difficult when someone tries to fix a building and finds tenants and then gets turned off,” Cuddy replied. “I’m not sure it’s good for the community either.”
Waski said she wanted to speak to Planning Council legal counsel Eileen Powers before scheduling a new court date, but Powers was unavailable.
Cuddy said he was told the Planning Board attorney was unavailable for the entire month and asked Waski to speak with the town attorney, who he said was there for a meeting Cuddy said she had with the town supervisor yesterday afternoon.
Aguiar “has, by the way, no objection to the council proceeding and pointed it out to me and also talked to Mr. Murphree,” Cuddy told the Planning Council.
On Tuesday night, Aguiar was unaware of the revised request when she spoke to RiverheadLOCAL about the Planning Council’s Aug. 4 agenda.
Earlier on Tuesday, the planning department did not respond to requests for information on the site plan put back on the Planning Board’s agenda for Thursday’s meeting.
On Wednesday morning, planner Greg Bergman provided RiverheadLOCAL with a copy of the revised site plan request that Cuddy filed on July 25.
Anthony Niosi, director of Niosi Firearms, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he had not spoken to the owner and was unaware that the site plan had been revised to exclude gun sales to retail fire. He said he would follow all regulations. If gun retail is not permitted at the Elton Street site, he said, he will seek to rent a zoned retail space somewhere nearby, but will operate the indoor shooting range and training academy at 680 Elton Street.
Confusion over the arms sales offered on the Elton Street site has permeated the application process.
At the April Planning Council meeting where the request was first discussed publicly, Waski asked Niosi directly if he would sell guns there and he said yes. His company has the federal license required to sell almost any type of firearm, he said. He described his license and business in detail.
A hearing on the site plan was then scheduled for June 2. By this time, community opposition was growing to the proposed use and, with a crowd at City Hall to voice their concerns, the Planning Board adjourned the hearing just before it was due. does not begin.
Bergman later said the hearing was adjourned because the planning department was unaware there would be retail gun sales at the site.
By then, Niosi Firearms had already obtained the required approvals from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to move its Federal Firearms Dealer License to 680 Elton Street and left its former location in an industrial park in Westhampton Beach.
The company had also announced the move on its website, which even stated that it was open to the new location. (Niosi told RiverheadLOCAL this was an error. All content has since been removed from the website except for the company name and logo and “COMING SOON.”)
Also at that time, city code enforcement officials had previously 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 city issued a stop work order requiring Niosi to vacate the premises. Code enforcement also issued four tickets charging Niosi with occupying the premises without city approval, including a certificate of occupancy.
On June 6, Riverhead Police received a report of a burglary at Niosi Firearms in which two handguns, gun ammunition, clothing, bags and gun accessories were stolen from the building. On June 7, police arrested three Riverhead men in connection with the burglary.
Niosi told RiverheadLOCAL a week before the burglary that he used the site to store devices moved from his previous location and also received orders for people who buy guns online, something federal law requires. be shipped to a licensed firearms dealer in the state where the buyer resides. He said he does not engage in any sales on the site.
On July 12, after Riverhead code enforcement officers conducted a compliance inspection and determined that Niosi had left the building, Niosi pleaded guilty to two of the charges and paid a $1,500 fine to the Riverhead court on July 12.
While the Elton Street site plan application was pending, the City Council considered legislation to regulate the location and operation of gun businesses in Riverhead. He held a hearing on the measure on June 21, drawing a crowd to City Hall, after which city council members decided the code needed more work, as no council member agreed to it. supported as written.
Aguiar said in an interview Tuesday that the draft is with the city council’s code review committee “in its place” and that after being reviewed and discussed by the council, a new public hearing will take place.
The code project began as an effort to ban retail gun stores along part of Main Street, which the entire city council seemed to support. But the code that was drawn up for a public hearing went much further, specifying where gun shops would and would not be allowed throughout the city, as well as minimum distances for certain types of uses, hours opening, etc. It would also have banned the retail sale of firearms on the same premises where the shooting ranges are located.
After the hearing, which drew a mix of comments supporting and opposing the measure, some council members said they thought the proposed code “went too far” and needed more work.
The supervisor later said the bill did not have the support of the board and would be discussed again if any of the board members raised it. Asked about the status of the proposed code at the July 6 city council meeting, Aguiar was evasive. “You can have a public hearing to hear from the public, but that doesn’t mean you have to act on it,” she said.
With the status of the proposed code unclear, a group of civic organizations and residents sent an open letter to the city council on July 31 urging it to move forward with regulating gun businesses. . The group suggested that the council create a firearms advisory committee to help the city develop bylaws and, in the meantime, put in place a moratorium until the code review is complete.
At last night’s planning board meeting, board chairman Waski told Cuddy, “Our intention at this time is to put this on the agenda as soon as possible.”
The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family business. You rely on us to stay informed, and we rely on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to provide this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.