10/26/14 12:47pm
10/26/2014 12:47 PM
Witch's Hat restoration project manager Cliff Baldwin (left), Save Main Road 's Larry Simms and Richard Wines, chairman of Riverhead's Landmarks Preservation Commission. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Witch’s Hat restoration project manager Cliff Baldwin (left), Save Main Road ‘s Larry Simms and Richard Wines, chairman of Riverhead’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Near the top of a two-page flier handed out at “The Witch’s Hat” on Main Road in Aquebogue Saturday was a statement attributed to the volunteers who have spent the past year renovating the local landmark.

“It’s such a small structure; how hard could it be?” reads the quote.

While that question was certainly rhetorical, the task turned out to be somewhat more involved than originally imagined. The volunteers were rewarded for their sizable efforts when they celebrated the completion of the renovation project Saturday.

Read more about the project and see more photos from the renovation on northforker.com

07/25/14 8:00am
07/25/2014 8:00 AM
FILE PHOTO | The state capitol in Albany.

FILE PHOTO | The state capitol in Albany.

“Anywhere he wants to.” That’s the punch line of the ancient joke about where an 800 -pound gorilla sits.

In our neighborhood, the big bully is Agriculture & Markets, the state agency tasked with “foster[ing] a competitive food and agriculture industry.”  (more…)

04/30/14 1:00pm
04/30/2014 1:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Village at Jamesport is proposed for this property just west of the hamlet's business district on Main Road.

The Village at Jamesport is proposed for this property just west of the hamlet’s business district. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

A 44-acre Jamesport property that has been the subject of a controversial development proposal is now being offered for sale as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.

And the company that’s marketing the property has highlighted the value of excavating sand from the property.

A company called GA Keen Realty Advisors LLC has an advertisement in the New York Times Wednesday offering the 43.6 acres on Main Road in Jamesport as a “bankruptcy sale.”  (more…)

10/13/13 1:00pm
10/13/2013 1:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Volunteers with the community advocacy group Save Main Road work on restoring the Witch's Hat in Aquebogue Saturday afternoon.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Volunteers with the community advocacy group Save Main Road work on restoring the Witch’s Hat in Aquebogue Saturday afternoon.

Just in time for Halloween, Aquebogue’s historic “Witch’s Hat” got a bit of a touchup Saturday afternoon.

Volunteers with the community group “Save Main Road” spent the afternoon pulling off old shingles, clearing out debris and throwing away garbage as part of the ongoing restoration to the former roadside stand.

The Witch’s Hat — so called because of its pointed roof and strange shape — was built in 1927, and once sold gas, candy and cigarettes to drivers. The building was named a town landmark in 1987, but had fallen into disrepair.

Earlier this month, Jamesport-based landscape company Kaiser Maintenance cleared away trees at the building’s site. On Saturday, volunteers began to clean away years worth of rotted shingles and dirt that accumulated on the structure.

As some used hammer to tear away at the pine wood on the roof, other volunteers dove inside the Hat, and turned up an old pice sign and a wooden piece of artwork buried in the dust. Next Saturday, volunteers will return to the Hat to finish the job, so that the scope of the renovations to restore the building can be completed.

psquire@timesreview.com

10/02/13 12:15pm
10/02/2013 12:15 PM
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Volunteers from Jamesport landscape company Kaiser Maintenance will clear some trees surrounding The Witch's Hat on Main Road in Aquebogue Thursday.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Volunteers from Jamesport landscape company Kaiser Maintenance will clear some trees surrounding The Witch’s Hat on Main Road in Aquebogue Thursday.

The town’s landmarks preservation chair, Richard Wines, has recruited a group of volunteers from Jamesport landscape company Kaiser Maintenance, which will donate tree removal services Thursday to the Witch’s Hat, a curiously shaped local landmark built in 1927 on Main Road in Aquebogue so-named for its hexagonal cedar-shingled spire.

“This is the first step we need to undertake for the restoration of the Witch’s Hat,” said Mr. Wines, also a member of Save Main Road, a community group dedicated to maintaining the rural character of Main Road. ”There’s a huge tree hanging right over the building and kind of crowding it out in one corner, and there are other trees in front of the building on its west side that are blocking it from view.”

In addition to Kaiser, Mr. Wines said other members of Save Main Road – a community organization aiming to maintain the rural character of Route 25 – have also recruited other volunteers to contribute to the effort.

Mr. Wines, who lives in Jamesport, said Kaiser Maintenance has already taken steps to kill the poison ivy surrounding the dilapidated wooden structure, which was once a roadside stand that sold gas, candy and cigarettes to motorists. It was named an official town landmark in 1987.

A Landmarks Preservation Commission document states that the Witch’s Hat was built in the late 1920s by Henry Flemming, an English immigrant and machinist who was around 70 years old at the time of construction.

“It was apparently kind of a retirement project for him,” said Mr. Wines. He speculates the stand was designed to resemble a witch’s hat so that it would attract passing motorists.

Mr. Flemming appears to have died soon after construction was completed because the 1930 federal census lists his widow, Lena Flemming’s, occupation as “Owner, candy and cigarette store.”

Years later, Mr. Wines said, the roadside stand was used to sell landscape shrubs. It has been unoccupied since the 1960s and was last restored sometime in the 1970s. The Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission hopes to nominate the Witch’s Hat, along with the rest of historic Main Road, to the National Register of Historic Places, he said.

“There will be no additional restrictions or regulations for property owners if [the Witch’s Hat] is designated a national landmark but federal rehabilitation tax credits may be available to owners of historic buildings along Main Road,” said Mr. Wines, who also led an effort to get downtown Riverhead on the National Register of Historic Places. It earned the recognition last September.

The Witch’s Hat has been owned for the past 23 years by by Dr. Richard Hanusch, whose veterinary practice, Aquebogue Veterinary Hospital, is located just east of the landmark.

“I really think the plans are great,” Dr. Hanusch said of restoration efforts. “I’d like to see it be totally restored.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

03/22/13 12:00pm
03/22/2013 12:00 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The 'Village' is proposed for this land land on Main Road.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The ‘Village’ is proposed for this land land on Main Road.

The Save Main Road advocacy group has refiled its lawsuit seeking to overturn special permits the Riverhead Town Board granted for the Village at Jamesport commercial project in April 2012.

Group representatives say they have corrected the technical flaws that got the lawsuit dismissed earlier this year.

Save Main Road is an unincorporated Jamesport civic group that says it has 250 members. However, the original lawsuit, filed in August 2012, only mentioned one of them by name, that being Larry Simms, who lives in Manhattan and has a home in South Jamesport.

Mr. Simms was described as the legal liaison for the group.

Because of this, state Supreme Court Justice Hector LaSalle dismissed the case in January on the grounds that Save Main Road lacked legal “standing” to bring the case, and had failed to show how the special permits allowing Village at Jamesport to have two bistros and two professional offices would specifically harm any of its members.

Mr. Simms said Save Main Road decided to refile the lawsuit, rather than appeal the January dismissal.

“Instead of proceeding down the long and costly road of proving the lower court wrong, we simply fixed the perceived problem,” he said in a press release. “Our papers filed this week include affidavits from a homeowner and from a business owner, both in the immediate project vicinity, and both Save Main Road members.”

The affidavits “explain the unique ways in which [the homeowner and business owner] will be harmed by the issuance of the special use permits,” he said.

Village of Jamesport is a 42,000-square-foot shopping center proposed for 10 acres on the north side of Main Road in Jamesport, across from the Elbow Room restaurant. The applicant, Jul-Bet Enterprises, is headed by Julius Klein, who also owns Dollar Storage in Calverton.

The property owner, Jamesport Development LLC, of which Jul-Bet Enterprises is 50 percent owner, also owns the adjacent 40 acres north of the 10 acres slated for development, and has proposed a housing development there in the past.

The affidavits filed with the new lawsuit came from both Tom and Anne Kowalsik, who live next to the proposed development on Main Road, and Cliff Saunders III, whose family owns Cliff’s Elbow Room restaurant, which is right across the street from the development site.

“Due to the proximity of my home to the proposed project I will be impacted by the sounds, smells and other impacts associated with the construction and operation of the proposed project to a greater degree than the general public,” Mr. Kowalsik’s affidavit states.

His home would border the east and north by the project.

Mr. Saunders’ affidavit states the proposed development would increase traffic, noise, congestion and emissions and doesn’t have enough parking, which would lead to customers taking parking spaces that his customers would otherwise use.

“The environmentally intensive land uses permitted under the unlawful Special Use Permits pose an immediate threat both to the operation of my restaurant and the character of the area,” Mr. Saunders wrote.

Town Board members have argued that had the special permits allowing two bistros and two professional offices not been granted, the applicant was still permitted to build additional retail in their stead, and the project would have had the same square footage.

The rest of the project calls for retail uses.

Opponents of the plan say that allowing bistros would increase traffic, sewage, noise, and odors. The property’s “rural corridor” zoning, which allows bistros and professional offices only as special permit uses, otherwise allows retail stores fronting Main Road, antique stores and craft shops, museums, libraries and schools, places of worships, agriculture, parks and playgrounds and single family or two-family houses.

“The intent of the Rural Corridor (RLC) Zoning Use District is to allow a very limited range of roadside shops and services that are compatible with the agricultural and rural setting along major arterial roads,” the town code states.

Mr. Simms said the original lawsuit did explain that members of Save Main Road who own nearby homes or businesses would be directly and negatively impacted by the decision in affidavits filed with the case, although it did not identify them by name.

“We believe strongly that the court erred, missing the whole point of an action-oriented advocacy group like ours,” he said. “Requiring that individuals be identified would defeat a key purpose of forming such a group.”

Village at Jamesport is currently before the town Planning Board seeking site plan approval.

tgannon@timesreview.com

Read more in the March 28 News-Review.

01/20/13 5:00pm
01/20/2013 5:00 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The 'Village' is proposed for this land land on Main Road.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The ‘Village’ is proposed for this land land on Main Road.

The Riverhead Town Planning Board held off on scheduling a public hearing on the controversial Village at Jamesport development after a local civic leader pointed out a number of inconsistencies in plans being presented to the public — including confusion over which plan is actually being presented.

Larry Simms of the Save Main Road civic group found there are at least four different versions of the project’s site plan floating around, and said it’s impossible for the public — and possibly the town — to know which is the right one.

The Planning Board’s agenda for last Thursday’s meeting called for a vote to schedule a Feb. 7 public hearing on the site plan application for the Village at Jamesport — a 42,000-square-foot commercial development on 9.7 acres on the north side of Main Road in Jamesport, just north of the Elbow Room restaurant.

Mr. Simms said that in November, Charles Cuddy, the attorney for the applicant, said he had submitted an alternate site plan on Oct. 9, which was on the agenda for discussion at the Nov. 15 Planning Board meeting. Mr. Simms said residents who have been following the case knew nothing of the Oct. 9 plan before showing up at the Nov. 15 meeting. He said that on Jan. 4, he called the planning department to find out if a new plan had been submitted because he heard it was going before the architectural review board. But the plan they were told was going before the ARB was dated Oct. 27, 2010.

Then on Wednesday, a day before the Planning Board meeting, “we came into the planning department to make sure we were not missing anything, and we were shown a new plan, which was dated June 19, 2012,” Mr. Simms said.

And on Thursday, he said, there was another plan, dated April 2011, on display at the Planning Board meeting.

“I’ve been looking at commercial construction plans for more than 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Mr. Simms, who has a background in making and marketing commercial building materials, told the Planning Board. “It looks like a shell game. You have to guess which is the real plan. It’s not possible for us, and probably not for you, to track what’s going on here.”

Mr. Simms said one plan shows 247 parking spaces and another shows 226 parking spaces. He said that when the Town Board granted two special permits for Village at Jamesport to allow two bistros and two professional office buildings instead of the permitted retail uses, it failed to recalculate the parking.

The Town Board, by a resolution agreed to by the applicant, limited the two bistros to a total of 4,000 square feet, instead of 8,000 square feet, which would normally have been permitted.

But Mr. Simms said “you’re still going to have 4,000 square feet of something else” such as retail, which would need parking. He maintains that the application falls short of the required number of parking spaces by about 27 because of the bistros approvals, since bistro parking is based on number of seats, not square footage. The applicant proposes two 50-seat bistros.

The plan that was the subject of the Nov. 15 Planning Board meeting also shows the entrance road to the development moved farther west and closer to the home of Tom and Anne Kowalsick. Robert Stromski, a consultant for the applicant, said the state Department of Transportation wanted the entrance moved farther west.

But the map Mr. Simms was given on Jan. 16 shows that entrance road back where it was in earlier plans.

Town planning director Rick Hanley said he had not seen the Jan. 16 plan.

“I can’t deal with unsolicited plans dropped off a day before a discussion is planned,” Mr. Hanley said.

“I make a motion to table the resolution on the public hearing notice until we have the correct maps,” Planning Board member Lyle Wells said. “We want to make sure everybody is looking at the same map.”

The board agreed, 4-0, with board member Joe Baier absent, to put off the vote to schedule a public hearing.

tgannon@timesreview.com