United Riverhead Terminal withdraws Northville expansion plans

United Riverhead Terminal in Northville  (Credit: Tim Gannon file photo)
United Riverhead Terminal in Northville (Credit: Tim Gannon file photo)

United Riverhead Terminal owner John Catsimatidis has officially withdrawn controversial plans to expand the Northville facility’s operations.

In a fax to the Riverhead Town Board and Supervisor Sean Walter sent Monday, Mr. Catsimatidis withdrew an application to have a special permit approved for the expansion.

URT had previous approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to build, but needed the Town Board to sign off on a special permit because of the site’s zoning.

The expansion would have converted two of the 20 oil storage tanks on the 286-acre Sound Shore Road property from fuel oil storage to gasoline storage. The proposal also called for two new 19,000 gallon tanks to store ethanol, which is blended with the gasoline.

The message from Mr. Catsimatidis didn’t address why the application was withdrawn, or what would happen next.

In an interview Monday, Mr. Catsimatidis said the permit was withdrawn because he “didn’t want to fight anybody.”

“I was glad to have met with the community members and I was glad to hear their concerns,” Mr. Castimatidis said, adding that the intention of the expansion was to create jobs and lower gas prices.

“The only thing we were doing, contrary to some of the lies that came out, was that we were going to sell gasoline to bring the prices down in Suffolk County,” he said.

He said the company would continue exploring its options and may choose to “spend the money elsewhere,” though he didn’t rule out future attempts to expand at the Northville facility.

“We’ll resubmit a permit if a permit needs to be resubmitted,” Mr. Castimatidis said.

Neighbors, led by the Northville Beach Civic Association, had come out in force against the project at two well-attended public hearings. During the last hearing, several Town Board members said they were convinced to vote against the proposal.

The public comment period was due to end Thursday.

“We’re obviously very, very happy about this,” said Neil Krupnick, the president of the civic group.

The fight over the expansion had grown contentious in recent weeks, with the civic group and the oil terminal recently sparring over who owned a sign on the property. Mr. Krupnick said Mr. Castimatidis, town officials, and other civic leaders finally met for lunch last week to discuss the proposal.

Mr. Krupnick said the terminal owner promised to landscape the property and install a light on Sound Shore Road to alert cars of incoming freight trucks.

Those concessions, Mr. Krupnick said, ignored the more serious concerns the civic group had, such as safety and effects of the expansion on the environment.

“Putting a berm in doesn’t change the fact that it’s an expansion of a non-conforming use,” he said.

Mr. Walter said Monday that he attended the meeting with Mr. Krupnick and Mr. Catsimatidis, and told the oil terminal owner that his application would be rejected as it is now.

Mr. Walter told the News-Review that he cautioned Mr. Catsimatidis about taking legal action and suggested they “sit down and regroup and see if there’s something we can do to make this work … with the civic association and the town.”

He admitted that there may be no solution to address the civic group’s needs.

“I’m very happy the application was pulled,” Mr. Walter continued. “It didn’t make sense as presented.”

But while Mr. Krupnick said he was encouraged by the civic association’s defiance of the plan, he was skeptical that the withdrawal marked the end of expansion plans altogether.

“I imagine he’s going to go back to the drawing board, or … maybe he’ll figure out another way to get into the gasoline business,” Mr. Kurpnick said. “They obviously lost the battle, but who knows if this is a one-battle war or if this is going to go on and on and on. If this comes back, we’ll be prepared to fight them again.”

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