The 16-seat restaurant is proposed for a sliver of land between the Route 58 Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
The Riverhead Town Planning Board has rejected a proposal to build a new restaurant on three-tenths of an acre between the Route 58 Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue.
The board voted 3 to 2 against the preliminary site plan at Thursday’s meeting, with Ed Densieski, Stan Carey and George Nunnaro opposed and Richard O’Dea and Joe Baier in favor.
“I’m a strong supporter of property rights,” Mr. Densieski said. “But this is the epitome of poor planning.”
He added public safety is an important issue that must be considered.
Planning Board attorney Bill Duffy said he may recommend the board also vote against the final site plan at a future meeting.
Applicant Chuck Chockalingam of Guddha LLC, who acquired the lot from the county in a tax default, has decreased project’s size to a 16-seat, 1,300-square foot restaurant. The project, which dates back to 2012, at one time called for a 24-seat, 2,720-square foot restaurant.
In 2006, someone leasing the property from Mr. Chockalingum had submitted an application to build a Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog restaurant.
As for the latest proposal, Mr. Chockalingum said the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals granted his request for variances on the required setbacks last week. The ZBA’s action, in fact, was re-approving the request that had expired.
Mr. Chockalingum has claimed that he’s allowed to build a restaurant since the property’s designation as a single and separate lot was created in 1950 before local zoning.
In March 2014, the Planning Board voted against a resolution approving the project following a debate in which Mr. Chockalingham, who said he is of Indian descent, implied there was a bias against him, though stopped short of calling it racism.
The normally talkative Mr. Chockalingham left the room without comment after Thursday’s vote.