Neighbor appeals to ZBA over building permit for Sound Avenue ag plant

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The former Blackman Plumbing warehouse on Sound Avenue could be ready to open this summer as a processing plant.

The owner of a nursery next to the site of a proposed agricultural processing and warehouse plant on Sound Avenue has filed an appeal to overturn a zoning-use permit granted by Riverhead Town last week.

J. Kings Food Service Professionals, a Holtsville-based food wholesale company, has purchased the former Blackman Plumbing Supply warehouse at 2711 Sound Avenue and received a zoning permit for agricultural processing on May 15 — the same day the company applied for the permit.

But Austin Warner, owner of Warner Nursery, filed an appeal with the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday, disputing the building department’s decision that food processing was permitted under current zoning laws, according to the appeal.

“There is no basis for ‘agricultural processing’ under the [Agricultural Protection Zone] code or under any prior determinations of the Town Zoning Board or Planning Board,” the motion states.

Mr. Warner filed the motion as an “aggrieved party” since the proposed warehouse is next to his nursery.

The motion — which calls for the ZBA to examine the building department’s decision — also makes mention of a discrepancy in ownership of the property.

The permit approved by the town lists John King, owner of J. Kings, as the owner of the Sound Avenue property, but Suffolk County real property records list Sound Realty Co. as the current owners.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said he supports the building department’s decision to approve the permit, noting that the site was previously used as a potato chip processing facility.

“A lot more goes into agricultural production than just growing crops,” Mr. Walter said. “We need to be able to produce the products to [take to] market.”

However, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she was approached by two constituents, the Warner family and another nearby resident, who raised concerns over the working hours at the processing plant and whether the plant’s production was proper use within zoning law.

“Agricultural production means growing of crops,” Ms. Giglio said Tuesday. “Otherwise, up and down Sound Avenue we can be putting warehouses and greenhouses to process produce. I don’t think that was the intent of the [Agricultural Protection Zone] legislation.”

The ZBA will hold a hearing to discuss the matter at a yet to be determined date.

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Read more in Thursday’s Riverhead News-Review.