Small restaurant proposal keeps getting smaller

Riverhead, Taco Bell, Nathan's Famous, Route 58
A two-story restaurant is being proposed for a sliver of land between the Route 58 Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Riverhead’s smallest proposed restaurant keeps getting smaller and smaller.

Though reducing the size, the number of seats, and the number of parking lots the restaurant can hold hasn’t been enough to get approval from the Riverhead Planning Board.

At least, yet.

Proposed on less than a third of an acre at the intersection of Route 58 and Harrison Avenue, the restaurant owner of Guddha Co. Inc., Chuck Chockalingham, will continue to try and work with the Planning Board to get the restaurant into operation.

This comes after the board failed to approve the application at a March Planning Board meeting, and after Mr. Chockalingham received an extension on variances he received from the Zoning Board of Approvals on the application.

Planning Board chairman Richard O’Dea and vice chairman Joseph Baier voted to approve the application in March, though board members Ed Densieski, Lyle Wells and Stan Carey opposed it.

“I personally didn’t see enough change to change my mind,” he said at Thursday’s Planning Board meeting.

Mr. Chockalingham told the body that the proposed square footage of the restaurant has dropped from 1,610 square feet, down to 1,432, and most recently to 1,298. The number of parking spots fell from 13, down to 11, and now to 10. Seats inside the eatery? From 24 to 21, and now 18. And the number of employees he would hire: from five down to four.

“I have worked with the board for some time,” he said. “At some point, I can’t shrink the building anymore. Unless I potentially want to make it a kiosk.”

Mr. Carey was curious if parking setbacks — for which the site plan has a variance — would be possible to change in some form, and said he would give the application a closer look.

“The applicant has obviously invested a lot of time in this,” he said. “I’m hoping to take another look at the latest site plan.”

During the March meeting when his application was not approved, Mr. Chockalingham hinted that there may have been a racial bias behind the vote, though board members as well as Planning Board attorney Bill Duffy said that every decision had been based solely on the site plan itself.

Mr. Chockalingham purchased the lot — located between Taco Bell and Harrison Avenue — from Suffolk County in a tax default. He said he will continue to work with the board and planning department to make it amenable to the board.

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