Hawkins Inn granted ZBA approval to again host outdoor events

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport.

The owners of the Jedediah Hawkins Inn in Jamesport were granted a two-year extension of a prior Zoning Board of Appeals variance Thursday night that allows the Inn to continue hosting catered events outdoors.

The approval came despite the fact that several speakers at Thursday’s ZBA meeting urged the board to reject the application.

The Inn only held one outdoor event last year, despite having received ZBA approval to do so in 2010, because their prior approval wasn’t long enough to be able to schedule things like weddings, which must be planned more than a year in advance, according to Hawkins Inn attorney Frank Yakaboski.

Because of this, they asked for a two-year extension of the 2010 variance, he said.

Mr. Yakaboski said they have complied with all the terms of the previous variance.

Bill Welsh, who lives across the street from the Inn on South Jamesport Avenue, said there had been noise complaints about events held at the Hawkins Inn in the past, but not since Keith Luce took over as proprietor of the restaurant.

Phil Barbato of Jamesport, who also is vice president of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, said it’s impossible to say they haven’t created noise when they haven’t had the type of events they are seeking to get approval to have.

Also speaking against the application Thursday were Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association; John Newman of Jamesport; Angela DeVito of South Jamesport; and  John Andrejack of Jamesport, who had Mr. Welsh read a letter he wrote into the record.

Ms. DeVito said violations of the conditions of the variance could result in overturning the variance.

ZBA members had said there were five police reports at the Inn last year. Two of them were calls for ambulance service, and three were complaints, of which two were from the same person and one was anonymous.

“Can I ask you a question, Ms. DeVito?” asked ZBA member Otto Wittmeier. “Do the residents dislike this place?”

Ms. DeVito said they do not.

Ms. Keller said the Inn is considered by the town to be a Country Inn, and that restaurants are not an allowed accessory use to Country Inns. Because of this, she thinks the current application is essentially a use variance application, which under state law is required to meet more stringent criteria for approval.

“What seems like a small break for someone here and a small break for someone else there can add up over a number of years to the point where you could very well have a situation where you have a Riverhead that no one would recognize anymore,” Mr. Barbato told the ZBA Thursday.

The Hawkins Inn recently received Town Planning Board approval for a breezeway connecting the Luce-Hawkins Restaurant with a barn in back of it. Under town code, this would make the two buildings officially count as one, and would allow the owners to build guest rooms in the barn building.

Having the additional rooms would also allow the restaurant to serve more customers, Mr. Yakaboski said.

“We are looking for ways to remain economically viable,” Mr. Yakaboski said. “We are bleeding, and I don’t think it’s a secret. What we’re planning to do with the out-building (barn) and the request we’re making tonight for the extension will hopefully make us economically viable. We’re looking to continue to operate the business.”

The ZBA unanimously approved a two-year extension of the prior variance to allow catering outdoors.

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