05/19/12 3:21pm
05/19/2012 3:21 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The former Northville School House on Sound Avenue.

Does a microbrewery constitute “agricultural production?”

That’s the question the Riverhead Zoning Board of appeals will have to answer following an upcoming hearing on turning a nearly 100-year-old former Sound Avenue school house into a microbrewery.

A company called McCarthy’s on the Green is seeking to convert the old Northville School House into the “Old School House Brewery,” said attorney John Ciarelli, who represents property owner John Reeve Jr.

Town planning director Rick Hanley rejected the company’s application on March 21 on the grounds that the brewery would be an accessory use to agricultural production and as such the 3.9-acre property falls short of the town’s seven acre minimum.

The hearing is scheduled for the ZBA’s May 24 meeting beginning at 7 p.m. at Riverhead Town Hall.

For additional information read next week’s edition of The Riverhead News-Review.

01/28/12 9:00am
01/28/2012 9:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport.

The owners of the Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport were granted a two-year extension of a prior Zoning Board of Appeals variance Thursday night that allows the Inn to continue hosting catered events outdoors.

The approval came despite the fact that several speakers at Thursday’s ZBA meeting urged the board to reject the application.

The Inn only held one outdoor event last year, despite having received ZBA approval to do so in 2010, because their prior approval wasn’t long enough to be able to schedule things like weddings, which must be planned more than a year in advance, according to Hawkins Inn attorney Frank Yakaboski.

Because of this, they asked for a two-year extension of the 2010 variance, he said.

Mr. Yakaboski said they have complied with all the terms of the previous variance.

Bill Welsh, who lives across the street from the Inn on South Jamesport Avenue, said there had been noise complaints about events held at the Hawkins Inn in the past, but not since Keith Luce took over as proprietor of the restaurant.

Phil Barbato of Jamesport, who also is vice president of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, said it’s impossible to say they haven’t created noise when they haven’t had the type of events they are seeking to get approval to have.

Also speaking against the application Thursday were Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association; John Newman of Jamesport; Angela DeVito of South Jamesport; and  John Andrejack of Jamesport, who had Mr. Welsh read a letter he wrote into the record.

Ms. DeVito said violations of the conditions of the variance could result in overturning the variance.

ZBA members had said there were five police reports at the Inn last year. Two of them were calls for ambulance service, and three were complaints, of which two were from the same person and one was anonymous.

“Can I ask you a question, Ms. DeVito?” asked ZBA member Otto Wittmeier. “Do the residents dislike this place?”

Ms. DeVito said they do not.

Ms. Keller said the Inn is considered by the town to be a Country Inn, and that restaurants are not an allowed accessory use to Country Inns. Because of this, she thinks the current application is essentially a use variance application, which under state law is required to meet more stringent criteria for approval.

“What seems like a small break for someone here and a small break for someone else there can add up over a number of years to the point where you could very well have a situation where you have a Riverhead that no one would recognize anymore,” Mr. Barbato told the ZBA Thursday.

The Hawkins Inn recently received Town Planning Board approval for a breezeway connecting the Luce-Hawkins Restaurant with a barn in back of it. Under town code, this would make the two buildings officially count as one, and would allow the owners to build guest rooms in the barn building.

Having the additional rooms would also allow the restaurant to serve more customers, Mr. Yakaboski said.

“We are looking for ways to remain economically viable,” Mr. Yakaboski said. “We are bleeding, and I don’t think it’s a secret. What we’re planning to do with the out-building (barn) and the request we’re making tonight for the extension will hopefully make us economically viable. We’re looking to continue to operate the business.”

The ZBA unanimously approved a two-year extension of the prior variance to allow catering outdoors.


01/18/12 11:00am
01/18/2012 11:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport.

The owners of the Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport are seeking a two-year extension of a variance granted last year that allows them to hold outdoor events in a tent, such as weddings and graduations. But they will need a second public hearing before the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals, because the legal notice advertising the hearing held last Thursday incorrectly described its purpose.

The hearing notice that was published in the News-Review, as well as on the ZBA’s own agenda and on the town’s website, described the hearing as a proposal to reopen a prior hearing seeking an interpretation of whether the town’s definition of country inn allows incidental uses such as weddings, graduations and anniversaries, and whether such events could be held outside.

But Frank Yakaboski, the inn’s attorney, said the company was seeking a two-year renewal of the variance granted in November 2010, which expired late last year.

When questioned by audience members at the first hearing, ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone said the legal notice was incorrect. The ZBA will continue the hearing, this time with the proper wording, at its Jan. 26 meeting.

Bill Welsh, who lives across the street from the Hawkins Inn, said he couldn’t recall any outdoor weddings held there over the past year. Mr. Yakaboski said that’s because weddings are planned well in advance and they couldn’t schedule them without assurances that they would be allowed to do so, which is why they are now requesting a two-year extension.


01/18/12 9:00am

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Owners of a gas station on the southeast corner of Ostrander Avenue and Route 58 are seeking to reopen.

The owners of an abandoned gas station at the southeast corner of Ostrander Avenue and Route 58 are seeking to reopen it as a gas station, but they’re facing zoning obstacles.

The property was rezoned in 2004 to a category that doesn’t permit gas stations and, since the site was inactive and the gas station use abandoned for more than a year, the Town Code says it’s no longer an allowed use there.

The landowners, Strong Oil Co. of Water Mill, are asking the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals for permission to re-establish the gas station use there. Their attorney, Mike Walsh, said the station closed in spring 2010 only to comply with state and county regulations regarding tank removal and replacement. That job was completed in 2010, but the owners decided to sell the property, he said. Strong Oil has a contract with Stop & Shop, which operates gas stations in conjunction with Shell, but the prospective new owners installed monitoring wells to make sure the property was clean before they bought it, which slowed down the process, Mr. Walsh said.

He argued at a ZBA hearing last Thursday that the delay was due in part to compliance with county and state regulations, which pushed them past the one-year limit.

ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone disagreed.

“The case law is pretty clear that in any ordinance that has a specific time reference, intent no longer matters,” Mr. DeSimone said. “If there’s a specific durational period, that’s it. It doesn’t matter what the intent was. Based upon the time line sheet you presented, it seems to me the one year has come and gone and the use is gone.”

Mr. Walsh said he will present case law that says the opposite.

The ZBA adjourned the hearing until Jan. 26.


02/25/11 12:37pm
02/25/2011 12:37 PM
pharmacy and bank proposed for Calverton

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A pharmacy and bank is proposed for this parcel at the intersection of Route 25 and Edwards Avenue in Calverton.

A bank and 24-hour pharmacy could be coming to Edwards Avenue in Calverton — adding to what some say is a developing hamlet center — but only if Riverhead Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals allows the proposals to move forward.

Neither business is permitted on the property under current zoning.

A group called 1998 Peconic LLC, headed by developer Paul Elliott and Jim Miller of Miller Environmental, has proposed putting a 13,852-square-foot pharmacy and a 4,092-square-foot bank on the vacant 3.29-acre lot directly south of the now-closed Village Crossroads restaurant on Edwards Avenue.

Those same applicants built the gas station that sits between the restaurant property and the Riverhead Charter School on Route 25. Mr. Miller’s company is located farther south on Edwards Avenue.

To get such a variance, an applicant must show that none of the permitted uses are viable; that the hardship the applicant faces is unique and not “self-created;” and that the use would not adversely impact the surrounding area.

Chris Tartaglia of High Point Engineering, a representative of the applicant, said during a ZBA hearing on the variance application last Thursday night that the permitted uses — warehouses, lumberyards, agricultural protection — basically fall into two categories that require more land.

Charles Voorhis, a planner also representing the applicants, said the property is unique because it is surrounded by a school, deli, gas station and the shuttered restaurant.

In the past, permitted uses such as a lumberyard and more recently a propane storage facility have been proposed on the property and have met with opposition from the community and from Riverhead Charter School officials, Mr. Voorhis explained to the ZBA board members.

“We’ve pretty much exhausted the list of allowable uses on this district,” Mr. Voorhis said. “The only inquiries that have come forth have been by banks and pharmacies.”

The proposed uses would generate an estimated $73,000 in property taxes, $513,000 in sales tax and would create 50 construction jobs and 40 operational jobs, Mr. Voorhis said.

He said the property owners now pay about $22,000 in taxes, insurance and maintenance fees.

The proposed pharmacy would operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week, while the bank office would be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

The applicants have not publicly identified specific tenants for the sites.

Peconic LLC is proposing 128 parking spaces, which is more than the 98 required under the current zoning, and to allow the restaurant, should it reopen, to use part of its property for overflow parking.

Richard Israel, who runs the real estate company that owns the restaurant, voiced support for the proposed use variance. He said he is in negotiations with a potential tenant who would reopen the restaurant, which also is zoned industrially.

“We feel that the hamlet of Calverton has been growing ever since the Charter School came there,” Mr. Israel said. “We feel there’s more need to have more services there.”

He added, “I look forward to Calverton becoming a little mini-center. The industrial uses in that general area are kind of absurd. Maybe with changes and some variances, we can bring the neighborhood to where it should be, as a little community center.”
The ZBA adjourned its hearing until March 24.

Mr. Elliott said he will present his plans to the Greater Calverton Civic Association on March 10.