Events at Hawkins Inn okayed until fall 2011

The Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport won ZBA approval last Thursday to continue holding outdoor events until Nov. 30, 2011.

Catered weddings, graduation celebrations and other parties will continue to be permitted in an outdoor tent at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport until at least Nov. 30, 2011, under a ruling made by the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals last Thursday.

The inn’s owners had sought an extension of a previous area variance that allowed the events, but neighbors complained at hearings on the case that noise was disrupting their neighborhoods,

The ZBA vote was split 3-2, with chairman Fred McLaughlin and Rose Sanders opposed, and Charles Sclafani, Frank Seabrook and Otto Wittmeier in support.

The approval contained a number of conditions, several of which were suggested by a “roundtable group” consisting of area residents and Keith Luce, the proprietor of the inn.

Those conditions limit events to four per month and no more than one per day, prohibit events on weekdays and evenings when school is in session, require that events start no earlier than noon and end no later than 9:30 p.m., limit attendance at any event to 125 guests and require that noise guidelines outline by town code be observed. On-site parking also is required.

Mr. McLaughlin said the inn was granted a conditional temporary area variance for one year on Nov. 13, 2008, which allowed a catering use outside the principal structure. He said it was granted because zoning code changes permitting such uses in similar properties were pending.

“The Town Board is still considering such changes to the zoning code, and the applicant is seeking similar relief until such time as the Town Board makes its decision,” Mr. McLaughlin said prior to the vote last Thursday.

The 147-year-old structure was renovated several several years ago by its current owners and reopened as a restaurant in 2006.

Resident Georgette Keller, who participated in the roundtable, said the one point the two sides couldn’t agree on was amplified music, which some neighbors opposed.

“The neighbors are still really uncomfortable with the amplification,” she said at the last ZBA hearing before the vote, on July 7.

Bill Welsh, who lives across the street from the inn, said at that hearing that the other conditions were good, but that “amplified music is where it begins and ends. That’s what matters to the local neighbors.”

Mr. Welsh, who has hired an attorney, has maintained that catering is not permitted by zoning where the inn is located.

Mr. Luce, a nationally known chef who took over as proprietor at the inn this year, said at the last hearing, “I want to work with the community. I don’t want to be a catering chef. We’re talking about having a limited number of parties that allow us to be financially sustainable.”

Mr. Welsh said after Thursday’s ruling that he was unsure whether he would file a legal challenge. He wondered if the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, a civic group that had opposed catering at the inn, would do so.

Phil Barbato, the co-founder of that group, wondered if Mr. Welsh would bring a lawsuit. He said it is difficult for residents to bring challenges against commercial operations because of the cost of litigation.

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