The Calverton company that proposed a long-standing and controversial commercial development project on Main Road in Jamesport has filed for bankruptcy protection. (more…)
The Calverton company that proposed a long-standing and controversial commercial development project on Main Road in Jamesport has filed for bankruptcy protection. (more…)
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.
Read more in the March 28 News-Review.
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.
A Jamesport civic organization has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Riverhead Town Board’s April 3 special permit to allow Jul-Bet Enterprises to have two bistros and two professional offices in the proposed Village at Jamesport development.
Save Main Road — an unincorparated association consisting of more than 250 nearby residents and business owners, according to court documents — seeks to overturn the special permit approval on the grounds that the applicant, Jul-Bet Enterprises, doesn’t represent the property’s owners. The association also argues the review of the application is “segmented,” in violation of state law, and doesn’t take into account plans for the entire site.
In addition, the lawsuit says the environmental impact study for the project doesn’t take the required “hard look” at the impacts of increasing the number of bistros allowed.
The lawsuit was no surprise.
Larry Simms, the legal liaison for the group and South Jamesport homeowner, announced the potential lawsuit at a July 5 Planning Board hearing.
“Jul-Bet Enterprises LLC is not entitled to a special use permit because it is not the owner of the property,” the lawsuit says. “It has provided no evidence of authorization from the owner of the property and substantial evidence suggests that Jul-Bet lacks the authority to pursue development of the property.”
While the property owner was listed as Jul-Bet Enterprises when the application was first filed about eight years ago, in 2007 ownership transferred to Jamesport Development LLC, who’s ownership is comprised 50 percent of Jul-Bet Enterprises and 25 percent each of RBR Equities and SW Consulting.
The latter two companies are currently in court suing to have Jamesport Development dissolved on the grounds that it failed to live up to the financial arrangements it was formed to pursue through development of the Jamesport land.
Jamesport Development also is currently facing foreclosure proceedings on the property. And the 40 acres to the north of the site, which is owned by Jamesport Development, has been seized by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s department on behalf of creditors and is scheduled to be auctioned off on Sept. 11.
Jul-Bet Enterprises is owned by Julius Klein, according to court papers. Mr. Klein owns Dollar Storage in Calverton, which also has been seized by the Sheriffs and is being put up for auction.
Save Main Road says in its lawsuit that Town Board members were unaware of the change in ownership until after their vote on the special permit.
“Not only does this demonstrate the failure of Jul-Bet to disclose pertinent facts, it also indicates a clear error of the law on the part of the Town Board,” the lawsuit says. “Ownership of the parcel, or the owners’s authorization and consent is a prerequisite under the Riverhead Town Code. In addition, New York case law clearly indicates that a special use permit may not be issued to an applicant that lacks legal authority to develop the property and that permits issued to such applicants will be overturned.”
Charles Cuddy, the attorney on the Village at Jamesport application, addressed this issue at the July 19 Planning Board meeting.
“I think there’s a lot of things that have been said that are just factually untrue,” he said. “One of the things that’s often been said is that Jul-Bet Enterprises, which is Mr. Klein’s firm, does not own the site. He does own the site. He’s a 50 percent owner and he’s an applicant and he’s certainly entitled to make that application. The application was made with the consent of his other partners. There should be no question that he is an owner, is going to be an owner, and is going to get this project finished.”
The lawsuit also states that the town illegally segmented the review of the project when it said in its findings statement for the special permit that its environmental impact review was “limited to the environmental impact of the specially permitted uses,” and that “review of the environmental impact of the entire proposed action known as ‘Village at Jamesport’ will be addressed by the Town of Riverhead Board which has jurisdiction over site plan applications.”
A findings statement indicates the environmental review of a project is complete and it can suggest measures that must be taken to address certain impacts. The Town Board adopted a separate findings statement for the special permit application, and then the Planning Board adopted a different one for the site plan application several weeks later. Both were based on the same study.
The lawsuit also claims that the environmental study of the project didn’t examine the impact of the bistros properly. The study examined two 4,000 square foot bistros, which is defined as an “eating establishment of 50 seats or less.” However, when the applicant and the Town Board agreed to shrink the size of each proposed bistro to 2,000 square feet, the overall total of 8,000 square feet of bistros remained unchanged in those town resolutions, the lawsuit states, saying that the environmental study didn’t examine this change, which would permit eight 2,000 square foot bistros, as written.
Mr. Cuddy has said the applicant only plans two 2,000 square foot bistros.
The studies also failed to examine the impact of the parking spaces the applicant has said he would build to serve the existing businesses along Main Street in Jamesport, the lawsuit states.
Village at Jamesport plans to submit a revised site plan application for the 10-acre site soon, according to Mr. Cuddy.
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said via text message that he could not comment on pending legislation. Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Town Board said it planned to discuss litigation on Village at Jamesport at an executive session after the board work session Thursday morning. Executive sessions are not open to the public.
Legal action taking back the Village at Jamesport developer’s adjacent property is interesting news, but wholly unsurprising. And it changes nothing.
1. The sheriff’s seizure and auction don’t directly impact the commercial parcel where the Village is planned.
2. Even if they did, this would not affect the special use permits, which is what Save Main Road is challenging.
Permits run with the land, which is why we’ve always been concerned that someone with the wherewithal to actually build this project would buy the 10-acre parcel. If that happens, then bistros (as many as four, thanks to the Town Board’s “answer” to our concerns) and offices will quickly follow.
We’ve never taken issue with Julius Klein, who, despite carrying considerable baggage, is just doing what developers do.
Our issues are with the Town Board members and staff, who continue to ignore both the law and the wishes of hundreds of local residents who have spoken against these uses. So far, our representatives are neither doing their jobs nor protecting our interests.
As wise neighbors to the west have observed: “Our environment is our economy.” If we despoil Main Road, our piece of the North Fork will stop being special. The more it looks like the rest of Long Island, the quicker agro-tourism will dry up. We’ll be twice-cursed: our economic engine will run out of gas, and we’ll drive down our once-pastoral roads and think we’re in Brookhaven.
No one is saying nothing should be built on this site; we just insist new development conform to the regulations that were designed to keep the Rural Corridor from becoming Route 58 Extension. We have the right to remain rural; see SaveMainRoad.org.
Today an apparent emergency at the IGHL facility located on Timothy Lane in Jamesport resulted in a total of nine emergency vehicles responding, along with the corresponding personnel.
As this is one of the many facilities located in Riverhead Town that pays not one penny in taxes for services, much less this level of emergency response, I just hope that when a taxpayer needs medical attention we’ll be receiving the same level of care as the patients at this home do.
Thomas W. Smith
I can’t help but be both curious and confused by candidate Mitt Romney’s characterization of the affordable health care plan as being “non-essential” when he spoke at the NAACP Convention in Houston recently.
It is estimated that around 30 to 33 million Americans who don’t now have health care benefits will be able to get them when the health care plan comes into full effect in 2014. And simple math will tell you that on the very day that Romney was addressing that convention, there were literally thousands and thousands of Americans who were sitting in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and even lying in regular hospital beds, who aren’t covered by any benefit plan, whose “essential” thought at that time was how in the world they were going to figure out a way to pay their ever-mounting medical bills.
I would like to think Mr. Romney, whose personal wealth is said to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, has been wise enough to invest in a health care package that covers him and his wife, although Mrs. Romney might be feeling some concern now, with Mitt showing a possible penchant for living life on the edge with his deeming of having health care insurance as “non-essential.”
Out with the inept
Quite often national issues are really local, as we are all impacted.
I am old enough to remember the New York City fiscal crisis in 1975 when Mayor Abe Beame asked President Ford for assistance and the president declined. The Daily News carried the front page headline “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.” The city had been badly mismanaged and was using borrowed moneys to meet daily expenses.
Gov. Hugh Carey passed legislation for the Municipal Assistance Corporation and appointed Richard Ravitch to oversee the mess. Under his leadership and effective financial management, along with Mayor Ed Koch’s political backbone, the city eventually returned to a sound financial footing.
I was in business school at the time and my economics professor was teaching that this could never happen to the USA because the federal government had the power to print money. I don’t think most economists today would take this stand toward solving our $15 trillion debt.
Once investors and the citizens lose confidence in our printed money we will become no different from the past fiscal crises in Germany, Argentina or Brazil. I also remember when everyone thought Japan was going to buy the USA, but look how financial confidence has left their economy.
Fiscal mismanagement, whether in the private or public sectors, is always going to end badly.
Yes, we need to make cuts and we may need to raise taxes until our debt is under control. We can only hope to solve our crisis if we vote out the inept and vote in people of character, experience, guts and who understand the time for talk has passed and the time for action is here.
Why is he special?
It’s a miracle. Speaker John Boehner and minority leader Nancy Pelosi finally agree on something.
The issue that united them was the flap over the U.S. Olympic Team uniforms being outsourced to China. It was the Olympic Committee’s prerogative but, as Americans, we expected them to live up to a higher standard.
We now find out that Gov. Romney thinks it is acceptable to open Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts and to own Bermuda shell corporations all for the purpose of avoiding U.S. taxes. Gov. Romney shows he supports these special privileges for the wealthy and that it’s just fine to make use of these tax loopholes available only to the super-rich.
Gov. Romney is not just some rich guy following his accountants’ advice. He’s running for the highest office in the land, president of the United States. If ordinary citizens are required to pay income tax on money withdrawn from an IRA account, why does Gov. Romney believe he should be an exception?
While foreign-made uniforms and Swiss bank accounts are not illegal, both are insults to average Americans.
Call about copters
The North Fork was supposed to be a quieter place this summer, yet the choppers keep using us as the crossover to the south shore.
Over the past two years I’ve noticed a significant increase in seaplanes and private jets flying overhead toward the South Fork. If you’re affected by the noise or are concerned about the low altitudes they are flying at, please pick up the phone and call Senator Schumer’s office and let him know.
Let him know that the North Fork is not the peaceful place it used to be. Also, please call the East Hampton Town Airport complaint line at 1-800-376-4817 to file your complaint. Each phone call is documented.
He’s on our side
Now Tim Bishop is responsible for helicopter noise over the North Fork, according to a misinformed reader. In fact, Congressman Bishop has supported the sensible plan that Senator Charles Schumer worked out with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, an Illinois Republican.
Mr. Bishop is not favoring the South Fork, a claim his opponents consistently and erroneously make. Earlier this month the DOT finalized and made public the regulations mandating the use of an over-the-water North Shore Helicopter Route. The rule mandates that each helicopter operating along Long Island’s northern shoreline between Orient Point and Huntington must use the North Shore Helicopter Route over Long Island Sound. The regulation will be in effect in early August.
Because Long Island is surrounded by water, the FAA was able to develop a route that takes helicopters a short distance off the shoreline. Thus, the route does not negatively impact other communities and operators can use the route without significant additional cost.
Mr. Randy Altschuler’s tea party supporters seem unable to give credit where credit is due. Instead, they misinform or perhaps lie to undermine the tremendous work that Congressman Tim Bishop has done for our community.
Members of the Save Main Road group kicked off a campaign Saturday to raise money for legal action challenging the Riverhead Town Board’s approval of the controversial Village at Jamesport project.
About 40 people attended Save Main Road’s second public meeting held at the Jamesport Meeting House, where organizers gave an update on the grassroots effort organizers claim is needed to maintain Jamesport’s rural character.
Jamesport Development LLC has proposed a 42,000-square-foot shopping center, called the Village at Jamesport, for 9.7 acres north of Route 25 and west of Manor Lane.
The Town Board recently approved two special use permits. One allows professional offices totaling 17,000 square feet and the other up to 8,000 square feet for two bistros.
Larry Simms, a part-time Jamesport resident and project opponent, said the Northern Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit legal team based on the South Fork, has taken on Save Main Road’s case to overturn the Town Board’s approval.
Mr. Simms said he believes the town couldn’t approve the special permits because it didn’t properly determine what the project’s benefit would be to the community.
For example, Mr. Simms said the Town Board failed take into consideration how two new restaurants would affect the neighborhood’s existing six eateries.
In addition, Mr. Simms said the resolutions approved by the Town Board falsely stated a benefit of the project includes a reduction in car trips on the weekends and would decrease traffic congestion and motor vehicle noise.
Mr. Simms said the project’s environmental assessment lists the town’s traffic analysis that estimates the project would generate 207 car trips during peak hours on Saturdays, up from an estimated 205 trips that would occur under an as-of-right development.
An as-of-right development would only allow the developer to build retail stores.
“What we have is a situation where our Town Board members either don’t read any of these things, or don’t listen to what we say, or don’t care,” Mr. Simms said.
In addition to raising legal funds to overturn the special permit approvals, civic leaders said they have also retained legal counsel to help guide community groups through the site plan process.
Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, said her group is soliciting residents to sign a petition to require the town to hold a public hearing on the site plan.
“When there’s a crowd of us all standing together, we’ll be shoulder to shoulder,” she said. “Whenever somebody gets tired, you’ll have someone to lean on.”
The Southold-based Group for the East End has also signed on and will be offering a matching grant to help raise legal funds.
Bob DeLuca, the group’s president, said his organization will match every dollar, up to $3,000, for the Save Main Road legal fund.
Ms. Keller, a school teacher and former paralegal, also provided an update on research she conducted on incorporating Jamesport. A village, with its own zoning laws, could be used to protect the community from development, she said.
Some of those requirements including garnering support from 500 residents, as well as a $6,000 deposit for filing and noticing fees.
“If we come to a point where we want to start looking at the advantages and disadvantages, I think the next step is to form a committee to begin looking into that,” she said. “We have two new villages, Westhampton Dunes and Sagaponack. It’s becoming a trend on the East End.”
We were disappointed with the News-Review editorial last Thursday about the Town Board’s vote to approve special permits for the “Village at Jamesport” development. However, we recognize that perspectives differ and reasonable people can disagree on the assessment of advantages and disadvantages such approval brings to the community.
Nevertheless, we are very concerned about the process by which the special permits were approved. It was virtually impossible for any of us in the community to learn what was happening. We had no way to know that a Final Environmental Impact Statement was filed last July, six months before the Town Board acted on it. We also had no idea the Town Board was going to vote on it in December until reading about it in the News-Review. And, at no point did the Town Board encourage input from the public before voting on the special permits.
We recognize the difficult position the Town Board is in as it tries to balance the rights of property owners with the interests of the community. This is precisely why civil discourse is so important.
One small step to shed more light on an opaque process would be for the News-Review to use its website to keep readers informed as projects like this are filed and moved through the system. Perhaps the town could use its new website in the same way. Community members shouldn’t be caught by surprise when the board votes on something they consider so important to the identity of their hamlet.
We hope others will have additional suggestions to improve the civil discourse on issues that affect us all. We have a long way to go.
Nancy Gilbert & Richard Wines
A culture of
Just a few years ago, the Riverhead News-Review was adorned with a glossy photo of Supervisor Sean Walter and the town’s outside counsel, with smiles ear-to-ear, holding what turned out to be a bogus multi-million-dollar check from Riverhead Resorts. The town wasted years on a plan to rip up U.S. government-built runways worth $500 million to create what many suspected to be a giant sand mine. The town’s outside counsel issued a formal legal opinion that the developer was eligible and qualified, even though one partner had never built anything outside of Scotland and another partner included a convicted felon allegedly involved in money laundering and stock scams. Soon after the check was canceled, another officer of the developer was arrested in Turkey for human trafficking.
Sadly, with the Villages at Jamesport, it would appear Mr. Walter has again turned to sand mines and ex-cons for revitalization in a project that doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s clear to me that the procedural and substantive deficiencies of the application (well analyzed by resident Larry Simms in a report the board and its advisers were incapable of creating themselves) make the permits subject to a successful court challenge. More disturbing is the fact that town officials ignored basic problems with the permits, including the financial troubles of the parties behind the project.
The community has every reason to doubt the integrity of the process, as well as the supervisor and his cronies. Rather than waste time as a court challenge wends its way through the litigation quagmire that will likely knock out the permits anyway, the Town Board should immediately vacate and set aside the improvidently issued permits and start from scratch, with full public involvement and credible justification for departing from longstanding requirements for special permits.
What a sad day for Jamesport when our Town Board and rather arrogant supervisor scarred her landscape with a strip mall. It is not just a sad day for Jamesport but for the entire North Fork, because this scar will be spread. The North Fork could end up looking just like Route 58 and other points west, which also used to be rural. We elected these people to speak for us. Well, we spoke and they ignored us. We must elect people who truly want to protect the North Fork.
Y would be a benefit
I can certainly understand the concerns, not wanting another YMCA, farm stand, or whatever in Aquebogue adding to their traffic woes, and possibly affecting property values. The traffic issue might be addressed when and if plans for the YMCA building are presented.
Property values are another question. We have lived in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Washington and we have joined a Y in each place. There have been educational, entertainment, and exercise programs at each facility, and the local residents have been enthusiastic supporters of each Y. The proposed YMCA in Aquebogue would serve people on the whole East End, from both North and South forks, and it would be a great addition to the community.
What a kind act
After coming home and starting to unpack my groceries, my husband came in and said someone was here with something for me. I didn’t know what he could be talking about, and I was greeted by the smiling faces of a couple who not only had found my purse (secured to the handle of the shopping cart I had used for my grocery shopping) but went through the trouble of looking through it to find my identification, and personally delivered it to me. The nice woman even apologized if anything was awry as she dug through it to get my identification, which I cannot believe she actually found because I just seem to shove about everything I can into the purse and can never find anything I am looking for in there myself!
Anyway, after all of the trouble this kind couple went through, my husband tried to give them some money to go and have a nice lunch and they basically ran out because they did not want to take anything for their time or effort. How in the world could I ever thank them? Thank you is truly not enough, but that is all I am left with. I am left completely speechless by their thoughtfulness!
Agree with them or not, Riverhead Town Board members are justified in approving two special use permits that will allow the controversial 42,000-square-foot Village at Jamesport project to move ahead as planned on Main Road.
The board was tasked with determining whether or not proposed special uses met a set of criteria under the town code. At the heart of the matter was whether such uses would offer a net benefit to the surrounding area and the town as a whole. And while opponents have argued that the project’s additional office, retail and restaurant space would hurt other businesses in a hamlet already beset by vacant storefronts, Town Board members thought otherwise. That’s their call — and there are reasonable arguments for it.
For instance, are vacancies in the hamlet absolutely the result of a down economy, as opponents claim? Maybe, but there’s no way to prove it. Other factors could be at work. Many people driving through Jamesport’s hamlet center don’t realize there’s free parking at the community center on South Jamesport Avenue, despite a small sign saying so. It’s also hard to tell there’s some parking behind the small string of shops on the north side of Main Road. So what do many of these people do? Perhaps they head to the next, more developed hamlet with more parking and slower traffic — like Mattituck or Southold. It can be scary having to cross Main Road in Jamesport, especially with a child in tow.
As Councilman George Gabrielsen said this week, the Village at Jamesport, with its extra parking and people, could be a boon to area businesses by providing a clear, open place to park and allowing shoppers and employees to visit different types of businesses without having to cross a street. Medical and professional offices typically have more employees than most retail stores, which, without the special uses, are all that’s allowed at the site. A wider variety of businesses also means more people to shop locally, eat at a deli or pizzeria or visit a farm stand — and at varying hours. The board’s condition that the Village offer cross-access easement to the east was a good call to ensure a steady flow of shoppers between the new development and the existing hamlet center.
At 2,000 square feet each, and maxing out at 50 seats, the approval of so-called bistros raises a lot of questions — and there’s much to be skeptical and even worried about. But having two more restaurants won’t necessarily hurt other local eateries. What if Jamesport were to become a restaurant row-type destination? As Councilman James Wooten said at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting, having restaurants on every corner seems to work fine in Huntington Village. That’s because that’s where many people in the surrounding areas go to eat. The restaurants are a destination in themselves.
The argument that Jamesport’s becoming such a destination would hurt Riverhead’s downtown revitalization efforts is also not watertight. Having two restaurant-rich hamlets in a large town with many residents, neighboring residents and visitors is certainly not a surefire recipe for failure.
So maybe a destination like the Village at Jamesport is the answer to the beleaguered hamlet’s woes and won’t necessarily make things worse. This is what Town Board members believe. Maybe they’re wrong. But they were charged with making a determination, a judgment call on special uses under the law, and they did. The alternative is that the developer builds only retail at the site — and under current zoning, he’s allowed to build just as big a building without restaurants and office spaces. Having a mix of businesses seems like a better bet.