01/09/14 5:00pm
01/09/2014 5:00 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Jamesport Manor Inn restaurant and inn operates in the site of what was a long-vacant Victorian-style house on Manor Lane.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Jamesport Manor Inn restaurant and inn operates in the site of what was a long-vacant Victorian-style house on Manor Lane.

The owners of Jamesport Manor Inn on Thursday morning attempted to convince the Riverhead Town Board to end the 10-year litigation between the two sides and give them a special permit to build a 4,200 square foot barn in the back of the property, as well as a 1,200 square foot tent near the road for catering events.

But it doesn’t appear the town council appears open to granting the permit.

Jamesport Manor Inn co-owner Frank McVeigh said he expects to lose about $81,000 this year on the restaurant, an historic structure that was rebuilt several years ago after it was destroyed by fire. Mr. McVeigh said the restaurant use alone isn’t enough to sustain the business financially.

Under the town code, a use that pre-existed zoning and doesn’t conform to its current zoning can be expanded if the Town Board grants a special permit to do so. Special permit applications require public hearings.

However, Town Board members balked at the idea, since they say the expansion is bigger than what’s there now.

The Jamesport Manor Inn restaurant is 2,930 square feet and has 80 seats. The barn being proposed would be 4,200 square feet and would have 150 seats, which is down from the 182 seats proposed back in 2008.

The property, on the east side of Manor Road in Jamesport, is 3.8 acres.

Supervisor Sean Walter says he doesn’t think the Town Board has ever granted an expansion of a non-conforming use that was more than 100 percent.

“I am not about to set a precedent,” he told Mr. McVeigh.

The Inn, which is more than 250 years old, had sat unused for several years before Mr. McVeigh and co-owner Matt Kar undertook a plan to restore it. That plan was set back by the 2005 fire, after which they built a new structure to resemble the historic building.

The owners had made this same proposal in 2008 and were rejected by the town Zoning Board of Appeals in 2009 on an application seeking an interpretation as to whether the proposed catering use was an extension of the restaurant, and could be granted by special permit. But the ZBA denied the application on the grounds that it felt the owners failed to post a hearing notice properly so they could get an adjournment, rather than on the question before it.

The case went to court and a state supreme court judge in 2010 ordered the town to process the application. But a state appellate court later overruled the state supreme court and said the whole case had to go back to state supreme court, which is where it is currently.

Mr. McVeigh and Ms. Margolin made their case to the Town Board to just make the application for a special permit and eliminate the need for the courts or the ZBA.

But the discussion ended with no clear verdict.

Asked afterward what the conclusion of the half-hour long discussion was, Mr. Walter replied, “I don’t think there was one.”

10/29/13 12:43pm
10/29/2013 12:43 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Designs for a sign that was approved for The All Star.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Designs for a sign that was approved for The All Star.

After a few trips up to the plate, The All Star finally drove home a plan for a sign in front of its building.

The Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals approved the bowling alley/restaurant’s request for a new sign last Thursday night after the applicant withdrew all of its previous requests for variances and just went with a sign that meets town code.

“We’ve caved in on everything else,” said Chris Smith, one of the owners of the business.

The All Star, which does not have the word “bowling” in its name, had originally sought variances to have a sign that the town said was 96 square feet, instead of the maximum permitted size of 32 square feet.

All Star owner Jeff Rimland said that sign, which was a large bowling pin and bowling ball, was not being measured corrected by the town because the town was including “air” around the ball and pin toward the 96 square-foot calculation.

The All Star’s original ZBA application also sought variances to allow the sign to be 16 feet high, instead of the maximum height of 15 feet permitted by the Town Code, and they also sought to have a phone number on the sign, which the town also doesn’t allow.

Mr. Smith told the ZBA at earlier meetings that they wanted a sign that would let people know it’s a bowling alley, because they think people don’t realize that. But at the same time, they have said they don’t want to put the word “bowling” in their name, because there are other things at the site, too, like a restaurant and game room.

Their last request was to have a sign with removable letters, so they could change the message for different occasions like Christmas or New Year’s Day, Mr. Smith said.

He said there are a number of similar signs on the same road with removable letters.

Those signs existed before zoning, and as such, are allowed to stay, ZBA member Otto Wittmeier said.

“But they are all over the place,” Mr. Smith said.

“We just can’t condone something that’s wrong and isn’t being enforced by code enforcement,” ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin responded.

But after whispering among themselves at last Thursday’s meeting, ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone eventually came back with a decision that said that “a sign with removable letters is not prohibited” by the town code.

The ZBA voted 4-0 to approve the sign allowing removable letters, with ZBA member Leroy Barnes absent.

09/29/11 4:40am
09/29/2011 4:40 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The future crafts store and wine tasting room on Main Road in Aquebogue.

A recent decision by the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals gave permission for an arts and crafts store under construction in Aquebogue to build and operate a wine tasting room as well.

The Sept. 8 ruling points out that wine tasting rooms and farm stands are specifically singled out as permitted accessory uses in the rural corridor zone, in which applicant Matthieu Chatin’s property is located.

Mr. Chatin, who recently moved to Mattituck from France, sought a ZBA interpretation as to whether the code permits wine tasting in an art and crafts store. He plans to dedicate 200 square feet of the store, currently under construction just east of the former Fauna restaurant on Route 25, to wine tasting.

Then last Thursday, in reaction to the ZBA decision, the Town Board and deputy town attorney Ann Marie Prudenti discussed a proposal to change that section of its zoning, so that farm stands and wine tasting rooms would not automatically be permitted accessory uses to any of the 10 uses allowed in the rural corridor zone.

The move, on which the Town Board has made no decision, illustrates a widening rift between the Town Board and boards whose members it appoints, including the ZBA and Planning Board.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said last Thursday that he wants to hold a joint meeting of the Town Board, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals to go over their differences.

“In my world, we’re the elected officials, but when we ask the Planning Board to do something, we sort of expect them to do it, because we’re the ones people vote in,” Mr. Walter said.
There also were two instances last week where the Planning Board didn’t do something the Town Board asked it to do.

In the recent ZBA case, the zoning code lists the following permitted uses in the rural corridor zone, which stretches along Route 25 in Jamesport and Aquebogue: agricultural production, antique and craft stores, retail stores, nurseries, museums, libraries, schools, places of worship, parks and playgrounds and single- and two-family houses.

The code goes on to state that permitted accessory uses in the rural corridor zone “shall include those uses customarily incidental to any of the above permitted uses or specially permitted uses when located on the same lot. Specifically permitted are the following: Farmstands and Wine tasting rooms.”

Ms. Prudenti sees this as a problem.

“It’s hard for me to fathom that you could have a farm stand or wine tasting with a playground or church,” she told the Town Board.

The agricultural community also has problems with this section of the code, she said.

“They put a lot of sweat equity and investment into their farms, so for somebody to come along and open a farm stand or a wine tasting room without the agricultural production really devastates their industry,” Ms. Prudenti said.

Asked by deputy supervisor Jill Lewis if the Town Board was trying to discourage wine tasting, Mr. Walter responded, “No, but we don’t want it in schools.”

Ms. Prudenti believes the intent of the code was to allow farm stands and wine tasting rooms as accessory only to agricultural production, and that the ZBA misinterpreted the code.

Mr. Chatin said at the July 28 ZBA meeting that he was planning to build an arts and crafts store with antique sales and noticed in the zoning code that wine tasting rooms were a permitted accessory use in the rural corridor zone. He said that, being French, he “naturally” likes wine and he’d also heard that the bistro across the street needed space for a tasting room.

“For me, it made sense to combine the two,” Mr. Chatin said.

His attorney, Peter Danowski, told the ZBA that Mr. Chatin received permission from the planning department to build the store while he sought the ZBA interpretation on wine tasting because he planned to open the arts and crafts portion regardless of whether he got permission to use some space for a wine tasting room.

At that same meeting, Phil Barbato of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Committee opposed the wine tasting room proposal. He said his reading of the code clearly indicates that accessory uses must be customary to the primary uses.

ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone said he doesn’t think the language is that clear, and suggested to Mr. Barbato that the issue go to the Town Board for clarification.

“I find it very problematic,” Mr. DeSimone said of the wording in the code. “It’s not very clear.”

When the issue came up for a vote on Sept. 8, Mr. Barbato told the ZBA that the town attorney’s office was looking into a possible revision of the code to clarify the issue. However, ZBA members, with the exception of Rose Sanders, said it wouldn’t be fair to hold up the application because the code might be changed in the future.

“Right now, the way the code is written, [Mr. Chatin] has an opening and he has taken it,” ZBA chairman Fred McLaughlin told Mr. Barbato.

Ms. Sanders, a former town councilwoman, said the town has delayed decisions in the past because future code revisions were being planned. She said the ZBA was being inconsistent by not waiting.

At last Thursday’s work session, Ms. Prudenti submitted a proposed clarification that defines accessory use as being “subordinate in area, extent and purpose” to the principal use, located on the same lot as the principal use and “customarily found” as incidental to the primary use.

Under this definition, a wine tasting room wouldn’t be considered to be “customarily found” at an antiques store or craft store, she said.

But Councilwoman Jodi Giglio opposed the requirement that the accessory use be smaller than the principal use. She cited the example of a restaurant at which catering is permitted as an accessory use. The catering, she said, is often larger in size than the restaurant.

“You’re not allowing somebody to use their entire property as per the other regulations of our code,” she said.

Councilman John Dunleavy agreed.

Ms. Prudenti said members of the town’s planning and building staff agreed with the proposed change.

Councilman George Gabrielsen said that to add wine tasting to some of the permitted uses in rural character creates other issues, like parking and tour bus problems.

“It’s a whole other animal,” he said. “That use, wine tasting, takes up quite a bit of land.”

Board members said they plan to discuss the issue further.