10/03/12 8:00am
10/03/2012 8:00 AM
Northville, Riverhead

BARBARBAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A lawyer for A Taste of Country in Northville said his client will appeal a judge’s decision barring them certain food offerings.

A state Supreme Court judge last week ruled the owners of A Taste of Country in Northville cannot operate a deli or takeout restaurant on their Sound Avenue property.

More specifically, they can’t prepare or sell hot food, cold short-order foods such as sandwiches, or cooked-to-order food or catered foods.

Riverhead Town took the business to court in 2010, claiming that it’s certificate of occupancy is for a farm stand, and that the above mentioned uses are not permitted but were being done on the site.

The property is owned by John Reeve Jr. and his wife, Renee, and is located on 1.8 acres on the north side of Sound Avenue. The Reeves rent the property to a tenant, who runs the store.

Mr. Reeve’s father is the town’s longtime sanitation supervisor.

The town code allows farms to sell homemade or homegrown products on a parcel of land that’s at least seven acres, and allows farmsteads to sell “supporting farm products or products not grown by the farmer,” so long as these products make up less than 40 percent of the merchandising area.

“It is not being operated as a farm stand, but as a restaurant in violation of the Riverhead Town Code,” the Sept. 20 ruling by state Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Emerson states.

While the judge issued what’s called a summary judgement — meaning no trial was required — ruling on the farm stand issue, she declined to do so on a second issue the town challenged the Reeves on that deals with a farm workers’ house that’s also on the property in question. That issue will go to trial.

The property is located in a zone that allows minimum two-acre residential lots, as well as agricultural and other uses.

The town, which had granted a permit for the farm stand in 2002, claims the building was initially operated as a farm stand selling homemade baked goods, farm-raised fruits and vegetables and cooked foods such as eggs when Renee Reeve operated the store prior to 2009, but since it has been leased to a tenant, it has operated as a delicatessen and then as a Mexican restaurant and no longer sells farm products.

“It’s not a final determination, there’s still a trial to be had on some of the issues,” said John Ciarelli, an attorney for Taste of Country. “We’re going to comply with the court order (in the interim), But there’s a trial coming up and we’re going to vigorously defend our rights.

“The town ordinance is ambiguous. The Reeves also have some pre-existing rights, and there are other people serving hot food in the other areas along Sound Avenue. I don’t think there’s a different between what other farmsteads are selling and what Taste of Country is selling.”

He said his client will appeal the ruling on the farm stand.

The farm worker house was permitted by the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2005 on the condition that the Reeves actively farm at least five acres within three miles of the property and that they submit proof of that to the ZBA annually. The town claimed the Reeves failed to do so on an annual basis and had a relative living in the house instead of a farm worker at one point.


10/01/12 4:00pm
10/01/2012 4:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | John Scorzelli Jr. with his children Odin, 9, and Honor, 7, and wife Maria.

The Reeves Park father of two who died in a car accident on Sound Avenue Saturday morning was “born to be a husband and a father,” mourning family members said Monday.

“His family was so important to him,” said sister-in-law Sonia Montalbano. “It wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about material things. It was about family.”

John Scorzelli Jr., 46, was killed when the 2006 Mazda sedan he was driving collided with a 2005 KIA SUV just east of Horton Avenue about 12:30 a.m., Riverhead police said.

Witnesses said the eastbound Mazda appeared to have lost control going around a curve in the road and crossed into the westbound lane going sideways, directly into the path of the KIA traveling west.

Mr. Scorzelli was treated at the scene by Riverhead ambulance volunteers and transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center, but later died of his injuries, police said.

The operator of the Kia, Lia Fallon, 43, of Port Jefferson, was not seriously injured, according to a police statement.

Ms. Fallon is the executive chef and owner of Amarelle across from the Duck Ponds in Wading River and Bistro 72 at the Hotel Indigo in Riverhead; she was released from the hospital Saturday.

There were no charges issued as a result of the accident, police said. The detective investigating the cause of the accident could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Scorzelli was a devoted family man, his wife Maria said. He worked two jobs as a physician’s assistant at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital and at a sleep apnea center in Smithtown so she could spend more time with their two children: Odin, 9, and Honor, who turns 8 years old next week.

Mr. Scorzelli would play lacrosse with Honor and spend time looking for garter snakes and turtles in the woods with Odin, the family said.

“He was a really great guy … he really was,” Ms. Scorzelli said, holding Honor in her arms. “I think that’s why he left so quickly. He did all he was put here to do.”

The wake for Mr. Scorzelli will be held tonight at the McLauglin Heppner Funeral Home on Marcy Avenue in Riverhead from 7 to 9 p.m. and on Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.

A funeral mass will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at St. John the Evangelist in Riverhead.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Scorzelli Children Education Fund. Information about how to donate to the Fund will be made available at the wake Monday evening.

Read more about John Scorzelli Jr. in this Thursday’s edition of the Riverhead News-Review.


09/06/12 10:00am
09/06/2012 10:00 AM

The status of plans to build a 9-11 Memorial Park on Sound Avenue and Park Road will be discussed at the Riverhead Town Board’s work session Thursday. The county acquisition of the land is said to have stalled.

The board also plans to discuss the potential sale of the East Lawn building, the dredging of Meetinghouse Creek, the Grangebel Park fish passage and a downtown historic resources survey.

The News-Review will be live blogging from the meeting. The meeting agenda is attached at the bottom of the page.

Click on the blog below to follow live.




Riverhead Town work session Agenda 09-06-2012

09/01/12 10:00am
09/01/2012 10:00 AM

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Park Road/Thomas Kelly Drive and Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow, at the foot of the Reeves Park neighborhood.

Suffolk County’s proposed acquisition of developer Kenn Barra’s four-acre site at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue may not be dead, as Mr. Barra had suggested at a recent Town Board meeting.

But an attorney for the developer says he has “serious doubts” the deal will even happen.

Mr. Barra had proposed a shopping center for the property but faced stiff opposition from Reeves Park residents and litigation from Riverhead Town over zoning.

To much local fanfare, he ultimately agreed last year to sell to the county for use as memorial park.

County parks trustees are expected to discuss the site plan proposal to build a park on that land at their September meeting, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a spokeswoman for County Executive Steve Bellone. That meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20, at 1 p.m. at Montauk County Park.

But an attorney for Mr. Barra said he’s heard before that the deal for the Baiting Hollow land near the Reeves Park neighborhood was moving forward. And it still hasn’t.

County officials and Mr. Barra reportedly struck a deal last fall for the county to acquire the land, which had been slated for development, for $1.2 million for use as a hamlet park.

The Riverhead Town Board also agreed to spend $50,000 on the park, which would include a Sept. 11 Memorial. Since then, however, the county has replaced its real estate director and re-evaluated its open space acquisition program.

Mr. Barra’s attorney, Peter Danowski, said that Suffolk County still has not closed on the property’s purchase and still has not approved an authorizing resolution from the county Legislature on the purchase.

“I have serious doubts that the property will be acquired,” Mr. Danowski said at last week’s Town Board meeting.

At the same meeting, Mr. Barra also questioned whether the county acquisition would occur.

Mr. Danowski said in an interview that the price Mr. Barra agreed to doesn’t even cover what he’s paid on the property, including things like taxes and mortgage payments.

“I’ve been through acquisitions many times,” Mr. Danowski said Wednesday. “If everyone in county government wanted to close on the purchase of this property, it would have been done already. I fully expect this could be developed.”

The Sept. 11 park would be built in memory of all 2001 terror victims, including Thomas Kelly a New York City firefighter and Reeves Park resident who was killed on 9/11. Park Road was later named Thomas Kelly Drive in his honor.


08/21/12 4:26pm
08/21/2012 4:26 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A man was uninjured when he crashed into a utility pole on Sound Avenue Tuesday afternoon.

A man escaped injury after he fell asleep and crashed into a utility pole on Sound Avenue Tuesday afternoon, a family member of the driver said.

Police have closed sections of Sound Avenue while the wreck is cleared away.

According to Riverhead police, the accident occurred about 1:50 p.m. just east of Manor Road on Sound Avenue.

The unidentified man, was alone driving a black Nissan Maxima GLE westbound on Sound Avenue fell asleep at the wheel, the man’s nephew said at the scene. He swerved off the road and collided with a utility pole, snapping it and sending the top half of the pole through the car’s windshield.

The driver was not injured in the crash, police and the man’s nephew said.

As of 4 p.m. police are redirecting westbound traffic on Sound Avenue south on Herricks Lane, and are redirecting trucks traveling east on Sound Avenue onto Manor Lane, due to low hanging power wires.

A LIPA employee at the scene said they expect to have the pole replaced by Tuesday night.


PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Police have closed sections of Sound Avenue while the wreckage is cleared away.

08/10/12 6:00pm
08/10/2012 6:00 PM

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

So if a resolution to reject something gets two votes out of three on a board that is supposed to have five members, is that thing rejected?

And if it’s not, is it approved?

Those were some of the questions floating around after Thursday’s Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, which a shorthanded board voted 2-1 in favor of a resolution rejecting the McCarthy’s on the Green application to operate a microbrewery at the site of the Old Northville School House on Sound Avenue.

The ZBA, which normally has five members, has one vacancy, and one member, Leroy Barnes, recused himself from the vote, leaving only three voting members.

ZBA members Fred McLaughlin and Otto Wittmeier voted yes, which means yes to rejecting the application, while ZBA member Frank Seabrook voted no, which means no to rejecting the application.

After the meeting was over and ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone had left, some residents who opposed the application, including former town Councilman George Bartunek and former Riverhead School Board member Angela DeVito, questioned whether the ZBA had really rejected the application, since the resolution to reject it did not get a three-vote majority.

Mr. DeSimone cleared up the confusion in a phone interview Friday mooring.

“A resolution to approved something would need three votes,” he said. “But a resolution to reject something does not. It only needs a majority of the members who voted in order to pass.”

Therefore, he said, the microbrewery is rejected.


08/09/12 9:26pm
08/09/2012 9:26 PM

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

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals denied an application by McCarthy’s on the Green to run a microbrewery out of the Old Northville School House on Sound Avenue Thursday night.

Or did they?

The board, which is already one member short because the Town Board has yet to fill a vacancy left the by resignation of Charles Sclafani, had only three voting members on this issue because ZBA member Leroy Barnes recused himself since he dealt with the property when he was the town building department head.

Of the three remaining members, ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin and ZBA member Otto Wittmeier voted in favor of a resolution rejecting the application, while ZBA member Frank Seabrook voted for that resolution, meaning he supports the microbrewery.

In casting his vote, Mr. McLaughlin said the appeal had been denied.

But after the meeting, former town Councilman George Bartunek and former Riverhead school board member Angela DeVito, both of whom had spoken in opposition to the microbrewery, said they believed that unless there is a three-vote majority against the application, it is not necessarily denied.

ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone had left by then, and could not immediately be reached for comment,  and town building and planning administrator Jeff Murphree said he’d have to research the issue.

Either way, it’s not certain if the would-be brewers are still interested.

Applicant George Greene of Wading River said after the meeting, “We have somewhere else we’re looking at, and it’s not in the Town of Riverhead.”

Mr. Greene and Tim McCarthy of Lake Grove, who own McCarthy’s Pub in Centereach, planned to lease space in the school house from its owner, John Reeve Jr., and build a microbrewery there.

They acknowledged that they would not initially be growing the grain and hops needed to make the beer, but would instead purchase it from elsewhere, possibly from East End farms that grow those ingredients.

During the course of about four public hearing on the proposal, representatives from a number of civic and environmental organizations voiced opposition, saying, among other things, that without growing the ingredients on site, the microbrewery couldn’t constitute an agricultural use and would be akin to a tavern, and that allowing it would set a bad precedent on Sound Avenue.

They also said it failed to meet the stringent criteria for a use permit, which the ZBA can grant to projects that don’t meet zoning requirements, so long as they meet a number of difficult criteria showing why permitted uses for the land wouldn’t work.

The application sought, among other things, a ZBA ruling on whether a microbrewery could be considered agricultural production.

John Ciarelli, the attorney for the applicant, said the building had been running into disrepair until Mr. Reeve bought it in 2009 and began fixing it up. But, he said. Mr. Reeve has been unable to find a suitable tenant that conforms with the uses permuted in the agricultural protection zone, in which it is located.

The ZBA decision said they did not feel the proposed use constituted agricultural production, as defined in the town code.

They also rejected the use permit application, stating that “the applicant, based upon the record presented, has failed to demonstrate competent financial evidence the property owner cannot realize a reasonable return for each of the permitted and specially permitted uses in the APZ,” as they must do in order to get a use permit.

The ZBA also rejected their request to convert an existing use that is non-conforming with zoning to another non-conforming use, saying they presented no evidence to show that a non-conforming use legally exists there in the first place.


07/26/12 5:00pm
07/26/2012 5:00 PM

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | J. Kings owner John King at a recent ‘open house’ at the planned Grapes & Greens facility on Sound Avenue in Calverton.

“Grapes & Greens,” the agricultural processing and storage facility being built in a former plumbing warehouse in Calverton will host state Lt. Governor Robert Duffy at a “ribbon cutting” ceremony Friday morning.

The project, which will process local agricultural products and store local wines after bottling in a way that would expand the market for those goods, got the go-ahead from the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals on June 14.

But that decision came after a neighboring property owner on Sound Avenue in Calverton who was concerned about the potential for notice and truck traffic resulting from the facility challenged the town’s issuance of a building permit for the site.

J. Kings Food Service Professionals, which is running the operation out of the former Blackman Plumbing warehouse, has since purchased the building but it is not yet operating, said Diane Fennekohl, an executive assistant at J. Kings.

Friday’s event is a ceremonial event.

“We’re in the process of primping the building to be ready for what we want to do with it,” she said. “We’re still drafting permits and things like that.”

She said all of the equipment needed for the facility has been ordered and is waiting to be installed.

Company owner John King said the company does agricultural sorting and processing at a facility in Bay Shore but wants to move that function to the Calverton site to be closer to the North Fork farms.

The facility is expected to allow local farmers to get better value for their crops by extending the life of their product, according to Mr. King, who said the facility will allow produce to properly frozen to prolong its freshness.

The site will have a $900,000 hydro cooler, which local farmers say they could not afford to purchase on their own.