Zoning Board rules in favor of Mexican restaurant

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | The former Village Crossroads restaurant in Calverton.

A Mexican restaurant should be opening soon at the former Village Crossroads site in Calverton.

The Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals ruled Thursday night that the prior restaurant use of the property had not lapsed by more than one year, and therefore can continue.

The new restaurant will be a “Meson Ole-type” Mexican restaurant, said Peter Danowski, the attorney for applicant RGR Associates, a group led by the site’s owner, Richard Israel.

Refugio Iglesias, who runs a restaurant called Tacqueria Mi Pueblito in Hampton Bays, will run the restaurant, according to Mr. Israel.

There were no speakers other than the applicant at the public hearing Thursday, and the ZBA initially made no ruling and adjourned the hearing until July 12. But just before the meeting was about to end, ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone asked that it be re-opened.

While the site has been used as a restaurant for about 50 years prior to closing in mid-May in 2010, it has long been zoned for industrial uses, meaning that if the non-conforming restaurant use had lapsed for more than a year, it wasn’t permitted any longer, and only industrial uses would be allowed.

However, in the first week of May in 2011, Mr. Israel allowed the Riverhead Rotary Club to have a dinner meeting there in order to preserve the restaurant use for another year.

The question became whether they allowed that year to lapse as well.

“There wasn’t a one-year lapse when we applied,” said Mr. Danowski.

However, by the time they got done with issues raised by the county health department and the town building department, the year had lapsed, Mr. Danowski said.

After another hearing had concluded, Mr. DeSimone reopened the RGR Associates hearing and asked when the proposed tenant, 5 de Mayo (pronounced “Cinco de Mayo,”) had signed a lease for the property.

That was April 17, Mr. Danowski said.

“Did they take steps to open the restaurant prior to the Rotary meeting?” Mr. DeSimone asked.

Mr. Danowski said they gone to the health department and also cleaned up the property and made improvements inside the building.

Based on the fact that the effort to re-establish the use began before the one-year deadline had lapsed, and that the delay was due to regulatory agencies, Mr. DeSimone then said it was his opinion that the use had not lapsed by one year, and that the applicants could continue to use the site as a restaurant.

The ZBA also allowed the business to keep the existing sign locations, which also don’t comply with town regulations but pre-existed zoning.

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