An online petition to “Save Jedediah Hawkins Inn” now has more than 900 signatures in support of allowing outdoor events at the historic structure on South Jamesport Avenue.
The Inn, built in 1863, is once again before the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals seeking permission to have outdoor catered events, something it has done annually since 2008. Indoor catered events are permitted, but outdoors events are not, which is why the ZBA variance is needed.
The prior ZBA approvals have limited the number of outdoor events to four per month, and imposed 125 person limits, banned parking on the road, required noise meter monitoring and enacted a 9:30 p.m. curfew. The approvals also have only been good for one year.
ZBA members last month indicated they may reach a verdict Thursday in Town Hall. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.
At the two hearings held earlier this year, some neighbors have complained about loud music from the outdoor events. Pam Hunt, a representative for the Inn, says it has hosted only two outdoor events under tents last year and has had only one noise complaint in the past four years.
Ms. Hunt said the Inn also complied with all the conditions the ZBA put on its prior approvals. She said the restaurant cannot survive without outdoor events and that it’s difficult for people to book weddings at the Inn without knowing more than a year in advance if the Inn can have outdoor events.
“I have become tired of the small group of people who claim to represent the community,” Ms. Hunt said by email Tuesday. “I am a member of this community and I know so many people who love the Inn. So I decided to convince the owner of the inn to post a petition to show support for saving the Inn from economic ruin. In less than a week, we received over 850 signatures and over 300 comments, all positive. I am sending the Board the link to the petition so they can read it before the meeting. I am hopeful that such an outpouring of support will help to ameliorate the damage done by the four or five people who continue to try to close the Inn down for no apparent reason.”
Bill Welsh, who lives across the street from the Inn, said at the April 23 hearing that his main problem is with amplified music coming from the Inn at outdoor events.
Georgette Keller, a former president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, said the Inn was reluctant to give up amplified music during meetings with then-proprietor Keith Luce in prior years to resolve the problem, and there have not been any such meeting since.
At the last hearing on April 23, ZBA members said they’d like to see some information proving the Inn is in bad shape financially and they said they feel Inn owner Lia Polites should address the board herself, instead of sending a representative. Ms. Hunt said Ms. Polites does not like to speak in public.
Ms. Hunt said the Inn went into foreclosure in 2010 and Ms. Polites bought out the mortgage to keep the bank from taking it.
The petition, on a web site called iPetitions.com, asks people to sign it, post comments, write letters to the ZBA and come to the meeting on May 14 to show their support for the Inn.