Riverhead Town Hall at 200 Howell Ave. in Riverhead on June....

Riverhead Town Hall at 200 Howell Ave. in Riverhead on June. 5, 2019. Credit: James Carbone

A proposal that would allow drive-thru windows at some eateries in Wading River is going back to the drawing board following planning concerns and comments aired by several residents against the proposal at a recent public hearing, according to Riverhead officials.

Riverhead officials had previously been considering revising the town code to permit drive-thrus at restaurants, coffee shops and cafes in the Wading River hamlet’s Business CR Zoning Use District. The current code only allows drive-thrus there as accessories to banks and pharmacies. Town officials previously said amending the code could potentially help such establishments stay in business, with some noting that a former McDonald’s on Route 25A in Wading River had closed in August 2020 with speculation that it was due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar told Newsday that the proposed legislation would not move forward after a public hearing on Tuesday.

“The purpose of a public hearing is to hear from the public on any code changes,” Aguiar said Thursday. There appeared much opposition to the legislation, while some did favor the legislation. However, considering everything that has occurred and some planning concerns, this matter will not go forward at the present time.”

At the public hearing, several residents opposed the proposal, concerned over how additional traffic from drive-thrus would affect the hamlet.

“Many of the people who could not be here tonight would like to see the quaintness of Riverhead remain, and we certainly have it in Wading River and it would be a shame to lose it,” said Toqui Terchun, president of the Greater Calverton Civic Association.

Nicholas DiPierro, of Wading River, supported allowing more drive-thrus in the hamlet.

“I’ve spoken to many people in Wading River, some who are for, some who are against, and some who really don’t care,” DiPierro said. “I think if a poll was taken, most would want a drive-up window.”

Robert Steinberg, one of the property owners for the vacant McDonald’s in Wading River, said he understands concerns about traffic but that the growing need for convenience required allowing more drive-thrus.

“The world has changed,” Steinberg said. “People are much more concerned in the present generation about convenience than they ever were previously. That’s what people want. People want a drive-thru.”

One of the speakers opposing the legislation, Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, told Newsday on Friday that he was glad to know that the proposed code change had been tabled for now. Bail said he was afraid passing the legislation would have cleared the way for more such drive-thrus in the hamlet.

“That’s a reasonable position,” Bail said. “To me, the issue wasn’t just the former McDonald’s, but the precedent and if there are any other projects. And I think there would be, and there are other projects out there [that] are seeking that drive-thru option.”

Drive-thru debate

  • The proposed legislation would have allowed for drive-thru windows for restaurants, coffee shops and cafes with retail sales on premises, pharmacies and banks in the Business CR Zoning Use District of Wading River.
  • Prior to the meeting, Town Hall received 10 letters opposing the drive-thru legislation for Wading River, while one letter from the Long Island Builders Institute supported the proposal, according to the Town Clerk's office.
  • Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar told Newsday on June 23 that if the drive-thru legislation does go forward in the future, it must be rewritten and a new public hearing will need to be held.

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