The Riverhead Town Board is not expected to vote on two proposed moratoriums — one on industrial development in Calverton and another on approval of new utility-scale Battery Energy Storage Systems — until the new year, Councilman and Supervisor-Elect Tim Hubbard told the community at the Nov. 21 meeting of the town board.

An overwhelming chorus of residents spoke up in support of the moratoriums at two public hearings earlier this fall, though many were suspicious of why Mr. Hubbard, then a candidate for Supervisor, introduced the moratoriums in the late days of the town elections.

Board members said at the close of the last hearing, on Oct. 17, that they would not be voting on the moratoriums until after the Suffolk County Planning Commission weighed in on Nov. 1.

The planning commission supported the six-month Battery Energy Storage System moratorium, but recommended the industrial development moratorium be for three months instead of six.

Councilman Frank Beyrodt, whose term ends at the end of this year, was a necessary vote for the town board to pass the resolution, and Mr. Hubbard said he didn’t have the votes to pass it at the Nov. 21 meeting, at which Mr. Beyrodt was not present. Councilman Ken Rothwell, who will be on the board next year, is also expected to vote in favor of the moratoriums. Mr. Hubbard’s running mates, Joann Waski and Denise Merrifield,who were both elected Nov. 7, had both pledged to support industrial zoning changes in Calverton at community forums earlier this fall.

The Suffolk County Planning Commission’s staff report on the industrial moratorium, which was proposed to allow code changes and changes to the town’s transfer of development rights program outlined in a Comprehensive Plan update now underway, said the proposal was “representative of an ambitious agenda for a six month time frame and would need to be carefully monitored and managed for initial progress and successive evolvement of the initiative.”

The town’s Comprehensive Plan update consultants are not expecting to have drafts of the plan prepared until next spring, after which they will need to go through a formal public hearing process, and individual zoning changes built upon that plan will also have to go through public hearing processes.

The county planning staff recommended an initial three-month moratorium be approved, and that the town report on the progress of the work prior to the expiration of that period and request an extension for an additional three-month period.It also recommended a Full Environmental Assessment Form be prepared, in addition to the town determining the moratorium was a “Type II” action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, meaning it is not expected to have an adverse environmental impact.

A supermajority of votes by town board members (four out of five) would be required to override the Planning Commission’s recommendations.

The Planning Commission looked more favorably on the BESS moratorium proposal, which comes at a time when the neighboring towns of Southampton and Southold also have moratoriums on development of battery storage systems in place, and while New York State has convened a task force to examine the causes of several recent fires at BESS facilities throughout the state.

Mr. Hubbard pledged at the Nov. 21 meeting to put resolutions adopting the moratoriums on the agenda for the first meeting in January, after he is sworn in as Supervisor.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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