Town pulls BESS from agenda, will continue discussing subject at future work session

It’s off!

It’s on!

It’s off again!

That was the route three proposed resolutions dealing with battery energy storage systems seemed to take at Tuesday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting.

The resolutions were to adopt laws defining and regulating battery energy storage systems (BESS) in the town code, which currently makes no mention of them.

The Town Board held a public hearing on the issue on Dec. 20, at which most comments were in opposition to such facilities.

The resolutions were not among the draft resolutions issued by Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm on Monday afternoon or the draft resolutions reviewed publicly by the board at its work session last Thursday.

But on Tuesday morning, they appeared on the agenda, angering some residents who have spoken against BESS.

“You have outdone yourselves in secrecy and stealth this time,” resident Kathy McGraw of Northville wrote in a letter to the board Tuesday.

By the time the Town Board meeting began, the resolutions were gone.

“The three resolutions pertaining to Battery Energy Storage Systems have been removed from the agenda today,” deputy supervisor Devon Higgins said prior to the meeting.

Ms. Higgins said the board can now discuss the BESS issue at a work session before voting to adopt it. She said that BFJ Planning, the company the town hired to complete its comprehensive plan update, has arranged to have an expert in the State Environmental Quality Review Act address the board at a March 16 work session.

How did the resolutions get on the agenda in the first place? “Initially they thought it was the right time, but now we want to bring it to work session,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said after the meeting.
Asked who she meant, the supervisor said the planning department and the board had discussed it.

Town Hall notes:

  • A proposal to build a five-story, 165-unit mixed-use building with apartments on the top floors and retail and parking on the ground floor took a step forward this week as the Riverhead Town Board accepted a draft environmental impact statement from the proposal, known as 203-213 East Main Street. The applicant is a joint effort between Metro Group Properties and Heatherwood Luxury Rentals. The two companies merged earlier this year. Town planner Greg Bergman said the application had originally been deemed inadequate in September 2019, but a reviewed application was accepted on Jan. 20 of this year. The next step will be for the proposal to be posted on the state’s Environmental Notice Bulletin. A public hearing also will be held by the Town Board.
  • A proposal to build an additional outlet center at Tanger Outlets received temporary site plan from the Riverhead Town Planning Board last Thursday. The application — Dries-Specchio Manufacturer’s Outlet Center — was first proposed in 1998 and the applicant proposes to build a 31,000 square foot manufacturer’s outlet center on 4.15 acres of land in between the existing Tanger 1 and 2 outlet centers. The new proposed outlet center is not affiliated with Tanger. The land is zoned Business F, which allows outlets but requires a special permit from the Town Board. In this case, the Town Board approved the special permit on Aug. 16, 2022. The land is currently undeveloped. Planning Board member Joe Baier voted against the proposal, and Planning Board chair Joann Waski was absent.
  • An April 6 public hearing before the Riverhead Planning Board has been scheduled for Riverhead Ciderhouse’s Patio & Tasting Room expansions, which the town says were done without the proper permits. The hearing will be at the 6 p.m. meeting at Town Hall. The subject of the hearing is to “legalize a 1,294 square foot expansion of an existing 3,186 square foot outdoor patio area” and to construct 36 additional parking spaces.