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Panel opts not to revoke permit for food packaging

Attempts by a neighbor to block the conversion of a plumbing warehouse in Calverton into a food packaging and processing center have been rejected by the Town of Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals, which has ruled that at least some of the food packaging work is consistent with the warehouse's former use.

When the 108,000-square-foot warehouse at 2711 Sound Ave. was first approved in 1974, it became a commercial building on land zoned for agricultural use.

Earlier this year, Riverhead town issued a permit to allow J. Kings Food Service Professionals, a Holtsville-based food processing company, to buy the building and use it to pack and ship vegetables and wines. But a residential neighbor contended the permit should be revoked because it was an improper agricultural use in what -- because of the original warehouse approval -- had become a commercially zoned property not legally able to be used for agricultural purposes.

Both the Long Island Farm Bureau and the Long Island Wine Council have supported the proposed food processing facility, which would store, cool, chop and package vegetables for shipping.

After a long public hearing Thursday night, the ZBA denied the request to revoke the permit -- opening the door for the sale of the property to John King, owner of the processing center -- saying that bar-coding packages was wholly consistent with the former use of the building by Blackman Plumbing.

Steven Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, said his organization supports the facility because it will allow individual wineries to join in bulk purchases of corks and barrels and other winemaking supplies.

"We want to do regional purchasing of production supplies," Bate said. "We never had the space to do that."

The zoning board also granted three variances needed for the construction of the proposed Riverhead Commons shopping center at 780 Old Country Rd. in Riverhead, and put off a decision on a Jamesport microbrewery until June 28.

That shopping center will have 38,204 square feet of gross floor area instead of the 50,000 square feet normally required by town code, and its rear yard will have a depth of 40.88 feet instead of the required 50 feet. Its side-yard buffer, adjoining a county parkland, will be 10.94 feet instead of the 25 feet otherwise required by town code.

In addition, the ZBA put off until June 28 a decision on approving the Old School House Brewery on 5117 Sound Ave. in Jamesport. That microbrewery, proposed by McCarthy's On The Green Inc., would be operated in what had been the old Jamesport School, and is now in the town's Agricultural Protection Zone.

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