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Riverhead Town Board may schedule vote on billionaire's proposal to build biofuel terminal

The Riverhead Town Board is considering putting up a resolution this month to allow United Riverhead Terminal Inc. to build a 28-by-45-foot pad with six biofuel tanks at 212 Sound Shore Rd., a proposal that Northville residents opposed earlier this year.

Residents and members of The Northville Beach Civic Association criticized the proposal at a June 19 public hearing, citing concerns about traffic and environmental impacts.

Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said in a Sept. 6 interview that the terminal operator has addressed questions the board had about the proposal and that the board would look to move forward and put it on the agenda for a vote.

The company, owned by billionaire John Catsimatidis, originally requested a special permit to build the pad and biofuel tanks at the Sound Shore Road location to comply with a New York State law passed in September 2017. The legislation required all heating oil sold for use in any building in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties on and after July 1, 2018, to be bioheating fuel that contains at least 5 percent biodiesel.

“I think any issues that have been raised have been resolved satisfactorily,” said Nelson Happy, vice president of United Riverhead Terminal.

After examining the proposal further, Jens-Smith said the board felt it did not appear the company’s proposal would increase traffic in the area. However, as a new condition, both Happy and Jens-Smith confirmed the company agreed not to use the oil tanks for anything other than mixing biofuel with heating oil, as per state requirements. Some residents at the public hearing were concerned about the company potentially using the tanks for other uses, such as mixing ethanol or gasoline.

“We wanted to make sure the tanks would meet this need and if that need would no longer exist [in the future], then the tanks would be removed, and the tanks could not be used for anything else but to meet that requirement,” said Jens-Smith.

Linda Prizer, the civic group’s president, said Wednesday that her group was “very happy” about the covenants restricting the use of the oil tanks. However, they still wanted more time to review the amended proposal to “make sure there are no flaws” that would negatively affect nearby residents in the future.

Prizer said she and other members of her group will meet Thursday with Jens-Smith to further discuss the matter.

The town asked United Riverhead Terminal to talk to the Highway Department and address questions about how to assure trucks leaving the property stay in their lanes when making turns on Sound Avenue, which Happy said the company had no problem looking into.

If the company can satisfy those questions, Jens-Smith said it is likely the board will vote on the special permit within the month. 

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