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Town Board considers zone change to allow drive-through windows in Wading River near vacant McDonald’s building

When the Wading River McDonald’s closed in September 2020, property owner Robert Steinberg cited the fact that McDonald’s franchises that didn’t have a drive-through window were not renewing their leases. He cited the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

Due to community opposition, the Wading River McDonald’s did not include a drive-through window when it opened in 2002.

But now, Riverhead Town officials say the property where McDonald’s was in Wading River is becoming an eyesore, and the town may consider allowing drive-through windows as an accessory use in the Business Country Rural zone.

That zone already allows drive-through windows for pharmacies and banks.

A proposal being considered by the Town Board now would allow drive-through windows for restaurants, coffee shops and cafes, as well.

Councilman Ken Rothwell, who lives in Wading River, said the Wading River Civic Association is opposed to the change. But he said most of the feedback he’s gotten is in favor of allowing the drive-through window.

“I will tell you firsthand from driving by that building 10 times every single day that it is getting dilapidated and overgrown,” he said.

Councilman Tim Hubbard said that while the civic association does good work, it can only represent its members, and not everyone is in the civic association. He said he runs into people who are not in the civic association and have differing views.

Mr. Rothwell said there are other issues to be considered, such as the difficulty cars would have if a drive-through window were added to the site.

Town Board members agreed to put the proposal up for public hearing.

Town Planner Greg Bergman said that the zone change would be a “type one action” under the state environmental quality review act because Business CR zone encompasses more than 25 acres. A type one action could require additional environmental study.

Board members agreed to hold a public hearing the proposal.