A Mexican restaurant is being planned for the now-vacant Village Crossroads building in Calverton.
But even though it was used as a restaurant for more than 50 years, the land it sits on has long been zoned for industrial uses.
In order to reopen the site as a restaurant, the property owners must get a variance from the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals to allow them to continue the prior “non-conforming” restaurant use.
A public hearing on that application is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, at 7:15 p.m. in Riverhead Town Hall.
The site at the southeast corner of Edwards Avenue and Route 25 was last known as the Village Crossroads restaurant, which closed in 2010. The owners have a tenant lined up who is seeking to remake the property as a Mexican eatery called Cinco De Mayo Restaurant, said Richard Israel, who is part of RGR Associates, the group that owns the property.
He wouldn’t say who’s looking to open the new business, but added “they have deli and restaurant experience.”
“It’s an authentic Mexican restaurant,” he said of the proposal. “It’s a family restaurant.”
The building was first built as a restaurant before any zoning laws in town, Mr. Israel said, adding it’s been known as the Village Crossroads for as long as he can remember.
“It’s been there for almost 50 years,” he added.
Prior to RGR Associates purchasing it in 2001, the restaurant was owned by the Loo family for about 10 years, and prior to that, the Kempermann family owned and ran it as a restaurant for many years.
The zoning on the south side of Route 25, east of Edwards Avenue is Industrial A, but the ZBA last year granted a variance to allow a bank and drive-through pharmacy on the property just south of the restaurant, and several years ago, it granted a variance to allow a gas station and convenience store. Just east of that is the Riverhead Charter School.
“We’re all scratching our heads as to why the property is still considered industrial, when it’s really the hamlet of Calverton,” Mr. Israel said.
In addition to the gas station and school on the south side of the street, there’s a post office and a deli on the north side.
The property has been zoned industrial at least since the 1980s, and the industrial zoning was retained in the town’s 2004 master plan update.
“Industrial zoning has no value there,” Mr. Israel said. “It does a little further south on Edwards Avenue. This is a pre-existing use that’s almost a landmark there. Even when we were showing the place to different people, we’ve have people walk in thinking it’s still a restaurant, and we’d have to tell them it’s closed.”
Mr. Israel said he held a Rotary luncheon at the building after it had closed in an attempt to preserve the restaurant use, but he’s not sure if the town would accept that reasoning. The town code doesn’t allow so-called nonconforming uses to be reestablished if that use has been discontinued for more than one year, but the town ZBA can grant a variance.
The applicants are also seeking some sign variances.