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Riverhead Town will again not sell beach passes to non-residents

Riverhead Town will not be selling one-day or seasonal beach passes to nonresidents this year, a practice it discontinued last year when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, according to Supervisor Yvette Aguiar.

But the Town Board still must decide if it plans to issue beach passes to hotels and lodgings for use by their guests. 

A one-day nonresident pass  had cost $35, according to parks and recreation superintendent Ray Coyne, while the annual nonresident permit was $200. 

The board discussed hotel/motel permits at its work session last Thursday. 

“This is something that in the past has been done, with the town is giving beach permits to local lodging facilities so they can pass them on to their customers who are staying here,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said.

“The problem came last year during COVID-19, where all of a sudden our beaches became overpopulated, and not necessarily from my own residents, but from people up west,” he said. “We had a lot of people from New York City coming out here to the beaches, either buying a one-day pass, which was allowed at the time, or just illegally parking and finding some way around to get to our beaches.”

The town did allowe the hotel passes last year, Mr. Hubbard said. 

Mr. Coyne said the town generally issues about 35  hotel passes per year. The passes can be reused,  so that when a guest leaves, the permit can be given to another guest. 

Deputy town attorney Erik Howard said the permits are not mentioned in the Town Code, although they were at one point in the past. 

“People were given tickets and coming into Justice Court saying, ‘Why am I given a ticket?” he said.

Mr. Howard  said that at first glance “it looked like they were right and should not have been given a ticket. Then I subsequently had a conversation with the police chief and he said that there’s no provision in the town code … And he was right.”

Mr. Hubbard and Councilman Frank Beyrodt both support putting the permits back in the code. 

Councilwoman Catherine Kent raised some concerns.

“I think the number of people coming to our beaches from out of town is increasing,” she said. “We pay high taxes and your taxes go to maintain and take care of the beach,” she said. “I think the beach should be for the residents.” 

Mr. Coyne said the board needs to make a decision soon, since hotel owners are starting to ask about the permits. He said mostly smaller motels use the permits. 

“Part of the incentive for these businesses to have people come here is to give them the option to go to the beach,” Mr. Coyne said. 

Councilman Ken Rothwell said that in some areas, hotels offer shuttle service to the beaches, which alleviates parking problems. 

He suggested asking motels and hotels to provide shuttle service for their customers to the beaches.

Mr. Hubbard said he supports eliminating the nonresident passes this year, but supports keeping the hotel/motel passes. 

Mr. Beyrodt said COVID-19 was a hard time for restaurants and hotels, and he feels the beach permits will help them. 

The Town Board plans to continue the discussion on the hotel/motel permits at its work session Thursday. Mr. Howard said a public hearing must be held in order to restore the passes to the town code. 

At its regular meeting on May 4, the board held a public hearing on parking restrictions on two residential roads near the beach in Wading River. 

The proposal called for no parking or parking by permit along parts of both Oak Street and Central Avenue in Wading River because large numbers of people have been parking there to go fishing for lengths of time. Some Central Avenue residents say they can’t park in front of their own homes because other people are parked there. They also complained about littering by the people parked on Central Avenue. 

But some Oak Street residents disagreed that it was a problem, saying that they park on public streets when they have company and that, under the proposal, their children who are not town residents would not be able to park in front of their home when they visit.

Mr. Rothwell suggested giving residents a placard that they could put on their cars indicating  that they are residents. 

Ms. Aguiar suggested discussing the issue further at an upcoming work session.