Gun businesses have no place in the downtown central business district of Riverhead, at the center of the city’s revitalization efforts, city officials agreed Thursday. Stores that sell guns and related gear aren’t the kind of family businesses the city is striving to bring to Main Street, city council members said during a discussion at their session of work.
“We don’t want to see gun signs on Main Street right next to an ice cream shop and a playground,” supervisor Yvette Aguiar said.
On Thursday, City Attorney Erik Howard outlined zoning code changes he said he’s been working on with planning department staff and community development director Dawn Thomas, which would include definitions of zoning businesses. firearms and specify in which zoning districts they would be permitted and by what standards.
“We have put together a very preliminary bill…And we wanted to present it to the council and, you know, answer any concerns you have about it, the recommendations, answer any questions you have about it and continue our writing. legislation from there,” Howard told council members. He did not circulate a copy of the draft to the board on Thursday. “Once we have something a little more definitive, we’ll be ready to deliver that,” he said.
Thomas said the DC-1 zoning use district, which encompasses the Main Street corridor just west of Griffing Avenue to east of Ostrander Avenue, is, in particular, not the right place for these uses.
“We have worked on many projects for the city center. We’re looking at a lot of public activations for downtown and really creating that family environment,” Thomas said. “We have discussed this with marijuana law,” she noted.
“So that’s just one of the things that we’re looking at that we think might not work on our main street and the immediate downtown area for a number of reasons,” Thomas told council members.
“Honestly, with all the work, money, time and effort that we’re trying to put into downtown to make it a great – family-friendly place,” Councilor Tim Hubbard said, “nothing against the shops of weapons, but I don’t think they belong in this realm, and I think there are better areas located for them.
The discussion follows two mass shootings in the past two weeks in the United States – a racially motivated attack at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, which left 10 black people dead, and another at an elementary school of Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers.
Howard said in a phone interview Friday afternoon that city officials had been talking about amendments for some time and they weren’t being considered in response to the shooting.
The discussion also comes as the Riverhead Planning Board considers a proposed indoor shooting range and firearms training facility that will also offer retail sales and rentals, according to the claimant.
A shooting range is a permitted recreational use as of right within the Commercial Residential Campus (CRC) Zoning Use District where the facility, proposed for a vacant building at 680 Elton Street, would be located, the planner said. Greg Bergman with the planning board at its meeting on April 21, during the presentation of the site plan. Bergman did not say whether retail and rental would be permitted by the CRC’s zoning code, which does not list retail uses among its permitted or accessory uses.
There’s already a gun dealer on West Main Street, Baits & Barrels, which in 2020 won permission to add a gun “testing container” to its site, an approved trailer for testing guns. weapons sold or repaired by the store. This store is located in the Riverfront Corridor Zoning Use District, which encompasses West Main Street west of Mill Road to an area west of the LI Freeway Exit 72 in Calverton.
Howard said legislation being drafted would require gun shops to obtain a special permit from the city council when near certain uses such as residential uses, schools, churches and libraries. Those gun shops would also need a security plan, he said.
Officials said they hoped the text of the draft code amendments would be ready at the city council’s next meeting so that the council could hold a public hearing on the proposed changes.
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