Court ruling paves way for catering facility at Jamesport Manor Inn

The Jamesport Manor Inn has scored a victory in state Supreme Court, where a Dec. 20 ruling has overturned a 2009 Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals dismissal of the Inn’s application for a catering facility, and ruled that catering is a permitted accessory use to the property’s existing restaurant use.

“It’s obviously a judicious decision that restores the owners’ ability to derive a reasonable income on the property,” said John Ciarelli, the attorney for Jamesport Manor Inn owners Matt Kar and Frank McVeigh.

Kar-McVeigh LLC first proposed holding catered events at the Manor Lane property in 2004, while asking to replace an existing motel use with a catering use — and for a ZBA interpretation as to whether catering is a permitted accessory use to a restaurant. The ZBA permitted the catering facility at the time, but that ruling was challenged in a lawsuit filed by neighbors of the Inn who complained of loud noise coming from parties. The courts in 2007 upheld the 2004 ZBA ruling.

In 2008, Kar-McVeight submitted a site plan seeking a temporary tent for catering, but that was rejected by town planning director Rick Hanley, who said a special permit would be needed because the proposal was an expansion of the pre-existing, non-conforming restaurant use.

Kar-McVeigh later submitted a second site plan, seeking to have a permanent  4,072-square-foot barn built for catering, and Mr. Hanley rejected that proposal as well in January 2009. A month later, Kar-McVeigh filed two ZBA applications challenging Mr. Hanley’s decisions.

The ZBA held a hearing on the issue April 23, 2009, and that hearing was adjourned several times until Aug. 27, 2009, when Mr. Ciarelli’s request for an additional adjournment was denied, and the ZBA voted 3-1 to deny the application on the grounds that the applicant deliberately failed to post a hearing notice on the property in order to get another adjournment, a charge Mr. Ciarelli denied.

In his ruling, state Supreme Court Justice Peter Cohalan wrote, “this court finds that the proposed catering facility represents a permitted, incidental and customary accessory use to the permitted restaurant use and that a special permit is not required for such catering facility.”

Judge Cohalan said Mr. Hanley had failed to consider the 2007 court ruling, writing, “the failure of Hanley and the town planning board to abide by the prior court and ZBA decisions is unfair discrimination and oppression.”

The judge, in his ruling, directed the town to schedule a hearing on the site plan application within 20 days on the assumption that the catering/barn facility is a permitted accessory use.

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Read more in the Jan. 6 edition of the News-Review.