Where should new breweries be located in Riverhead?

The Second Street firehouse was obtained by Riverhead Town in 2011 in a land swap with the Riverhead Fire District. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)
A brewery might not be possible in the former Second Street firehouse based on a proposal that microbreweries would need to be 1,000 feet from residential homes. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

Riverhead already has three breweries — and more are said to be interested in coming here. Town officials want to help that growth along, but they also want to figure out where in town those breweries should be located. And, if they should be set back a ways from homes.

The Town Board discussed proposed zoning for microbreweries last Thursday in Town Hall. 

A draft zoning code for microbreweries, drawn up by deputy town attorney Anne Marie Prudenti and senior building inspector Brad Hammond, would allow microbreweries only as a special permit use and only on downtown’s Main Street, a portion of Roanoke Avenue and in parts of Polish Town.

Since current town code doesn’t address breweries at all, those that have opened have had to take different approaches to get approved.

“This legislation seeks to stimulate growth of small-based manufacturers and promote the town’s agricultural heritage,” the proposed zoning states.

“I see this as a destination [for microbreweries]” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

Obtaining a special permit means a new beer business would need approval from the Town Board and must meet certain conditions. For example, it must meet the definition of a microbrewery, which, according to Ms. Prudenti, is a brewer that produces less than 10,000 barrels — or 310,000 gallons — of beer annually.

The board members must also decide which parts of town currently under consideration could host a microbrewery. Some expressed reservations about allowing breweries in areas zoned Commercial/Residential Campus, or CDC, which tend to be more residential.

Another issue the board is considering, which it also hasn’t reached a verdict on, is a proposal to require microbreweries to be at least 1,000 feet from homes, a move that would eliminate the former Riverhead firehouse property on Second Street from consideration.

The firehouse was purchased earlier this year by Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi, who said he’s talked with breweries that are interested in locating there. Mr. Castaldi could not be reached for comment.

A 1,000-foot buffer requirement is also being considered because breweries sometimes give off an odor, said Ms. Prudenti, who likened the smell to that of yeast.

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