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Movie theater coming to Route 58? Board to set hearing on code change to allow it

Denise Civiletti

Movie theaters will be allowed again on Route 58 if the town board moves ahead with a zoning code change now under consideration.

Code amendments to allow movie theaters in the shopping center zoning use district will be up for a public hearing before the Riverhead Town Board on June 7.

The owner of the old Wal-Mart/King Kullen shopping center on Route 58 has been in discussions with movie theater companies for more than a year. But Supervisor Sean Walter said the Sports Authority site is also a possible location for a movie house. Sports Authority’s Riverhead location is closing its doors after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month.

The board will vote on a three resolutions on Tuesday scheduling the public hearing for three separate amendments. One will define the term “movie theater,” another sets parking requirements and the third allows the use in the shopping center zoning use district by special permit of the town board.

The town board first discussed changing the code to add the movie theaters as a use in the shopping center district in 2014.

Movie theater was a permitted use until 2004, when the board removed it from the list of permitted uses in zoning districts along the town’s commercial artery and added it as a permitted use in the town’s downtown zoning district. The change was done at the request of the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association, in the hope of getting a movie theater built on Main Street.

Despite the initial interest of two developers — including downtown “master developer” Apollo Real Estate — and recent efforts by Supervisor Sean Walter to lure Regal Cinemas downtown, no Main Street movie theater was every proposed. Town officials have acknowledged that theater companies have only been interested in locating on Route 58.

Before the 2004 zoning changes, the town board — beginning in 1996 — approved five different movie theater permits for locations on Route 58. The last one, a multiplex theater planned by Marquee Cinemas for the site where Costco Wholesale was eventually built, was approved in 2003.

Marquee Cinemas’ plans were scuttled when one of the principals in project ran into financial and legal troubles unrelated to the Riverhead project.