The Salvation Army can keep two of its six clothing drop-off bins located outside its Family Store on East Main Street.
But the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals rejected the zoning interpretation that the store is a church or place of worship and that the Town Code states that “drop-off bins shall be allowed on any premises containing a church, temple, or place of worship.”
The Salvation Army had been issued a summons from the town on Aug. 27 for having the drop-off bins on its property. Town officials say a 2014 zoning change triggered the violation.
In January, Jefferson Murphree, Riverhead Town’s planning and building administrator, said by email that the bins are “illegal and need to be removed, unless approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals.”
The Salvation Army, which is a religious corporation under state law, sought an interpretation from the ZBA that the store is a used as a church or place of worship, according to Alfred Lucia, the attorney for the Salvation Army.
He said the Salvation Army store has been located on East Main Street since 1985 and since that time has had drop-off bins where people can donate used clothing and other items.
At Thursday’s meeting, ZBA member Ralph Gazzillo read the ZBA ruling on the case.
“Based on the evidence presented, it shows that impromptu worship sessions are occasionally conducted at the site, but the principal use of the structure is and premises has been as a retail store,” he said.
The ZBA allowed the Salvation Army to have two drop-off bins on its property, not six, since that is the highest number of bins permitted in the Town Code.
The ZBA also imposed a number of conditions on the Salvation Army bins, which town officials say has at times been unkempt.
The conditions include:
• The bins be used for dropping off clothing.
• The bins be kept as far away from the town right of way
• The bins shall be emptied twice per day and kept in good appearance
After the ZBA made its decision, Mr. Lucia said in an interview, “We haven’t had a chance to study decision but we believe that it’s good, in that we do get to keep these two drop-off bins provided, of course, that we comply with the conditions that have been imposed.”