Firearm testing range approved in Riverhead, despite concerns from Planning Board chair

The Riverhead Planning Board on Thursday approved Baits & Barrels’ proposal to locate  an 8-foot by 50-foot portable self-contained firearm testing range at the West Main Street business. 

The vote was 4-1 in favor, with Planning Board chairman Stan Carey casting the lone no vote. 

Baits & Barrels is located at the former site of the Fisherman’s Deli and sells hunting and fishing-related items along the Peconic River. The town Zoning Board of Appeals ruled last year that the gun container is permitted as an accessory use to the store, which previously sold bait and tackle and rented boats from the same location when it was Fisherman’s Deli. 

But the ZBA put a condition on the approval that the gun testing container not be open to the public as a shooting range and can only be used as an accessory to firearms sales. 

Mr. Carey felt the resolution should state the hours of operation for the container. 

Martin Sendlewski, the architect for the applicant, said the store is currently operating during normal business hours, and open late on a couple of evenings. 

“We really prefer not to have a limit on the hours because it was determined that there was no impact on any of the neighboring properties,” Mr. Sendlewski said.

While there were two speakers opposed to the project at the ZBA, there was only one speaker at the Planning Board hearing and he testified that he lives next door to the proposal and cannot hear any noise. 

“I don’t know if you’re aware, but there’s a big uptick in firearm sales and they would rather not limit the time frame because a lot of times, you’re so busy during the day, sometimes they burn the midnight oil and they have to do some of the testing” at night, sometimes in hours when the store is not open,” Mr. Sendlewski said. “So they would prefer not to have any limits on operation.”

“I would not want to see limits either, because I don’t see any public benefit in limiting a local business,” board member Ed Densieski said. 

“This isn’t a typical local business that sells food or clothing or something,” Mr. Carey said. “This is a firearms place and a shooting range, so I disagree with that.”

He said he doesn’t agree with allowing people to carry guns on site in the dark.

“The neighbor didn’t object,” board member George Nunnaro said. 

“The neighbor isn’t going to live there forever,” Mr. Carey said. 

Asked if there is light in the backyard area, Mr. Sendlewski said there is light which is dark skies compliant. 

“It’s really private property and there is a fence at the access point on the driveway,” Mr. Sendlewski said. There is adequate light to go between the store and the spot in the back where the container is. 

“I think the guys are pretty safe when you go from the back of the building to the firing range,” Mr. Sendlewski said. “I don’t know of too many people who are going to want to tangle with them during that little trip.”

In voting against the proposal, Mr. Carey said, “I’m just going to go on the record and say that I’m a bit astonished at how this application morphed from a bait and tackle shop 30 years ago on Main Street in Riverhead to an accessory use to sell firearms and now to put in a shooting range. I just don’t like how it morphed and I don’t think it’s appropriate and I just want go on record saying that. I am opposed.”