The Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals has approved Farm Country Kitchen’s request to have an off-site parking lot — as long as there’s valet parking and someone to help customers cross West Main Street.
The ZBA voted 4-0 to approve the restaurant’s variance request on Thursday night, with member Leroy Barnes abstaining.
Farm Country Kitchen owner Tom Carson’s attorney, Peter Danowski, was the only person to speak prior to the vote. Mr. Danowski agreed to the ZBA’s request that the restaurant provide valet parking and help customers cross the street.
The restaurant, which is housed in an old farmhouse, sells paninis, salads, sandwiches and wraps for both lunch and dinner.
During a March 27 public hearing to discuss Mr. Carson’s variance request, a number of residents addressed the ZBA and said Farm Country Kitchen is the type of business the town should be looking to attract since it’s a popular eatery.
A petition with more than 400 signatures supporting the restaurant’s variance proposal also was presented, and several residents spoke of Mr. Carson’s charitable contributions to the community.
In 2012, the Riverhead Town Board took the restaurant to court on the grounds that it lacked sufficient parking and was operating beyond the scope of its permitted use as a 16-seat take-out deli.
After exploring a number of possible options for bringing the waterfront restaurant into compliance, Mr. Carson purchased a lot on Swezey Avenue, just south of the railroad tracks, for use as parking.
But since the lot is 575 feet from the restaurant, according to the town’s measurement, a ZBA variance was needed because town code requires off-site parking to be no more than 200 feet away.
Although the town’s court case is still pending, town officials have said the issue could be resolved if Mr. Carson’s site plan application is approved by the Planning Board.
Now that the ZBA has granted Mr. Carson the variance, the Planning Board is expected to review his site plan application.