Some Riverhead residents are upset after town officials moved this week to schedule two public hearings later this month on proposed land use regulations for facilities that convert materials into renewable energy sources.

The Town Board voted 4-1 at its regular meeting Tuesday to schedule both hearings beginning at 2 p.m. Dec. 20 at Town Hall. One hearing deals with proposed regulations to allow the operation of local anaerobic digester facilities that accept, treat or process wastewater treatment sludges, biosolids, food waste and other similar materials to convert into biogas. The second hearing would focus on creating regulations for installing and using battery energy storage systems, which store energy purchased from solar farms for re-sale back into the power grid.

Several residents at the Dec. 6 meeting, including John Cullen, of Jamesport, said the board should not hold public hearings on either issue until the town updates its comprehensive plan — the document that outlines future development in Riverhead.

“They’re sneaking it in when nobody is going to be around, but I think that people will be showing up on December 20, so we’ll see,” Cullen told Newsday on Wednesday.  

Several battery storage facilities interested in locating in Riverhead have reached out to the town in recent months, according to town officials. Melville-based CEA Energy proposed installing an anaerobic digester at The Enterprise Park at Calverton earlier this year, but the town rejected it after citing a lack of regulations on anaerobic digesters.

Councilman Tim Hubbard, the only board member who voted against both public hearing resolutions, said he does not want to adopt any regulations on either potential facility until the town updates its comprehensive plan.

“The comprehensive plan needs to scope out and look at where the best locations are for these facilities,” Hubbard told Newsday on Thursday. “I know we’re going to have at least one anaerobic digester eventually, and I know we’re going to have battery storage systems, and I understand the need for it and I don’t disagree with either one of them. I just want to make sure we get the zoning right for where these facilities are allowed.”

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the board needs to hear public input on both proposed regulations.

“We should all encourage public hearings,” Aguiar said. “This is part of an open and transparent process, I welcome it, and almost all of the board supports a public hearing.”

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