Hundreds pack Town Board meeting to demand Calverton moratorium

Residents made clear it at Tuesday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting that they want a moratorium enacted on large industrial projects in Calverton. 

They also want the Town Board to hold off on decisions regarding a battery energy storage system and anaerobic digesters until they can be reviewed as part of the Comprehensive Plan update. 

The latter two projects were the subjects of public hearings Tuesday night, the timing of which was criticized for being just before Christmas, as well for taking place when two board members — Supervisor Yvonne Aguiar and Councilman Frank Beyrodt — were absent. 

More than 100 people packed Town Hall Tuesday to support a moratorium and oppose the BESS and anaerobic digester plans.

“This is a lack of respect for our time,” said resident Cindy Clifford, who heads the Heart of Riverhead civic association.

Mike Foley of Reeves Park said it’s “inappropriate to hold the hearings when two board members were absent.

Councilman Tim Hubbard, who received applause from some residents when he entered the room, actually had proposed a six-month moratorium on development within the Industrial A, B and C zoning districts, which are located in the 11933 Calverton Zip code, where a number of large warehouse and logistics developments have been proposed. He had originally proposed an 18-month moratorium. 

However, Mr. Hubbard agreed to withdraw his six-month moratorium proposal from the agenda Tuesday because two board members were absent and he wanted it to go before a full board. Councilman Ken Rothwell said he opposed the moratorium, saying the town needs to build up its tax base because it’s recent budget pierced the state’s tax cap. 

When asked for his opinion Tuesday, Councilman Bob Kern declined to comment. In the past, however, he has said he feels any moratorium would need to give exceptions for benign uses. 

Mr. Beyrodt has spoken in favor of the moratorium in the past. 

The BESS proposal has drawn opposition as well. Ms. Aguiar has yet to throw her full support behind the plan. At a previous Town Board meeting, Adam Stanek of Hexagon Energy, which has proposed a BESS at 87 Mill Road, presented a petition showing that showing signatures of 75 Glenwood Village residents who support the BESS. But other Glenwood residents pointed out that the Glenwood complex has more than 500 residents. 

Mr. Stanek said there are now 102 signatures on the petition. Ms. Clifford said an attempt is being made to mislead people into thinking there is support for the BESS. 

The BESS is currently not permitted in the zoning category that Glenwood Village is in. The Town Board would need to change the zoning to allow that use. 

The hearing on the anaerobic digesters did not draw as many speakers. Mr. Hubbard said there needs to be a requirement for groundwater testing. 

“We want to be sure we don’t create any pollution up there,” he said. The anaerobic digesters are often called “food waste to energy” facilities.

The hearings were closed but will remain open for written comments until Friday, Dec. 30, at 4 p.m.