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Town Board considers code change so only town residents can purchase seasonal beach parking permits

The Riverhead Town Board held a public hearing Wednesday on a proposed code change to no longer issue seasonal parking permits for town beaches to non-residents.

Bob Skinner of Jamesport, who said he’s participated in several beach committee meetings, urged the board to make the change and eliminate the non-resident section from the town code.

“We’re not making any more beaches,” he said. “We’re not making any more parking spaces at the beaches. But there’s certainly are a large number of housing units on the docket right now. Those people are going to come into play at some point in the near future.”

He said he was speaking specifically about the beaches and not for other town parks. He said at Iron Pier Beach in Northville, for example, there soon won’t be enough parking.

The Town Board had decided to restrict selling the seasonal and one-day beach passes when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and rolled over the policy for the next two summers. Board members cited overcrowding at beaches at the time.

Mr. Skinner said he’s spoken with Councilman Tim Hubbard, who is the Town Board liaison to the beach committee. Mr. Hubbard was not at Wednesday’s meeting.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said she would have preferred the public hearing be held when Mr. Hubbard was in attendance.

In February, Ray Coyne, the town parks and recreation superintendent, said the town makes between $50,000 and $55,000 per year on the sale of the non-resident stickers. A non-resident seasonal permit had been $200, compared to $20 for residents. Beach stickers can be purchased online or at the recreation department’s offices or at beach attendant booths during the summer.

Councilman Ken Rothwell raised an additional concern related to senior citizens who may not be able to drive themselves to town beaches. He said he spoke to a woman whose mother lives in Riverhead. The woman likes to drive her mother to the beach at times, but is not herself a town resident.

“How does it affect someone of that nature?” Mr. Rothwell asked.

Anne Marie Prudenti, a deputy town attorney, said a code change could be considered to address that. The code change could be similar to how the board decided to continue offering beach passes to guests at local hotels and motels, she said.

Councilman Frank Beyrodt said he agreed with further examining how to make sure the code is handicap and elderly friendly.

Only one other member of the public spoke at the hearing. John McAuliff of Riverhead, speaking via Zoom, asked the board about whether residents on the other side of the Peconic River who are in the Riverhead school district would be able to use Riverhead Town beaches and if there was a way each town would honor each other’s beach stickers.

The public hearing will remain open for written comment until the end of the business day on July 15.