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ZBA approves ‘gun container’ as accessory use at Baits & Barrels

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals voted Thursday to allow a 10-by-50-foot “gun container” as an accessory use at a hunting and fishing store on West Main Street.

Zoning Board of Appeals members Otto Wittmeier, Leroy Barnes and Lisa Worthington voted to approve the use with members Frank Seabrook and chairman Fred McLaughlin absent.

Tom Newman and John Looney, who own Baits & Barrels, had been seeking an interpretation from the ZBA on whether the gun container can be considered an accessory use to the store.

The store opened at the site of the former Fisherman’s Deli in 2016 and is zoned Riverfront Corridor, which limits allowed uses to dwellings, river-related retail and non-motorized open space recreation.

In March, the owners sought a building permit to install the gun container but were met with a denial from the Building Department, which claimed the proposed use was not “customarily accessory to a pre-existing nonconforming retail use.”

At a ZBA hearing held earlier this month, Mr. Newman argued that the store is a river-related use since they sell equipment used on the adjacent Peconic River.

Charles Cuddy, an attorney for the applicants, told the ZBA in July that future plans for the property include a canoe-launch.

The approval was granted on the condition that the gun container, which will be used to test firearms that are sold at the store, will not be open to the public.

Mr. Newman said after the meeting that they would comply, as it was never their plan to open the gun container to the public.

It would be used by store personnel to test firearms, often purchased at estate sales, to ensure they work, and be locked unless it’s being used.

“You have to know how it feels, how it shoots,” Mr. Newman said Thursday, explaining why it’s needed.

He said it will allow him to streamline some of their business operations.

“We’d have to take [the guns] to different ranges and the time consumption … it’s much more safe and convenient for us,” he said, to have an on-site facility.

The proposal was met with some opposition from neighbors at an earlier public hearing. Ruth Pollack, who lives nearby on West Main Street, said that while she supports the Second Amendment, she was concerned about the types of weapons being sold at the store.

Mr. Newman noted that civilians are barred from purchasing assault weapons.

In addition to a gunsmith license from the Suffolk County Sheriff, Mr. Newman is licensed to sell arms by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which inspects the store regularly.

The ZBA also adjourned a discussion and public hearing regarding Vinland Commons in Aquebogue to Sept. 12.

Those applicants are seeking a variance that would allow retail uses in the complex — but those plans  no longer include a 7-Eleven, according to Vinland Commons attorney Patricia Stern.

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