Vote on downtown parking deal delayed

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The downtown parking lot behind the soon-to-be-opened Riverhead Project restaurant off Maple Avenue.

An expected agreement between Riverhead Town and a downtown business owner that would have supplied about 50 new public parking spaces off East Main Street was removed from Tuesday’s Town Board agenda.

The town’s proposed deal with the owner of The Riverhead Project restaurant, Dennis McDermott, would have allowed the town to lease part of a long fenced-off lot that runs behind the restaurant and a neighboring strip of stores.

The restaurant is currently under construction in what was once the Chase Bank building at the corner of Maple Avenue and East Main Street.

The lot stretches between Maple and Union avenues, which run parallel on the north side of East Main Street. Both sides of the lot, part of the former bank property, have been fenced off since the branch closed almost two years ago.

The bank building is currently under renovation by Mr. McDermott, who previously owned the Frisky Oyster in Greenport, and is expected to open soon.

But Mr. McDermott refused to speak to a News-Review reporter Tuesday, claiming the parking lot deal was off because of an article that appeared on RiverheadNewsReview.com Monday after a Town Board discussion. He didn’t explain why and wouldn’t say more.

Supervisor Sean Walter later said the Town Board held off on voting on the resolution Tuesday because Mr. McDermott’s attorney had not had a chance to review the agreement, but the supervisor said he doesn’t believe the deal is off.

“I don’t think that’s the case,” Mr. Walter said Wednesday. “I think we’re going to be in good shape with this. Sometimes it’s difficult for people on the outside to understand that the town is trying to be transparent and that documents before the town are available to the public and I freely give them out to reporters. I don’t think the deal is dead. I think we’ll be OK.”

Mr. Walter later stopped by the restaurant and said the parking lot deal is indeed still in the works, despite the apparent confusion.

The proposal under consideration calls for the parking lot to be sublet to the town commencing July 1, 2011, and ending on Dec. 31, 2015, for $5,000 the first year, with subsequent annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index. The town also would be required to repave and re-stripe the lot and to maintain it at its own cost.

At the end of the lease, the town would have the option of renewing its lease for five more years or purchasing the property.

Town Board members were in support of the proposal when it was discussed Monday. Mr. Walter said he believes it will come up for a vote at the board’s next meeting on May 18.

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