Farm Country Kitchen was granted a one-year extension last Thursday of a zoning variance it previously received from the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals allowing an off-site parking lot that’s more that twice as far from the riverfront business as zoning permits.
The variance gives the popular West Main Street restaurant approval for a parking lot located 575 feet from the primary business, instead of the maximum 200 feet allowed by town code.
ZBA members granted the extension unanimously, without any comment.
The off-site parking is located on a half-acre lot restaurant owner Tom Carson purchased at 195 Sweezy Ave., just south of the railroad tracks. The ruling requires Mr. Carson to have valet parking staff transport customers between the restaurant and the parking lot, since town officials say the restaurant lacks adequate on-site parking and is creating a potentially dangerous situation on West Main Street.
The restaurant still lacks site plan approval from the town Planning Board and is still in court with Riverhead Town, which filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in 2012 claiming Farm Country Kitchen only had permission to operate as a take-out restaurant and was operating as a sit-down restaurant without adequate parking.
The restaurant has remained open, however, because the court rejected the town’s request to shut it down pending the outcome of the case.
The variance allowing off-site parking and valet service was first granted in 2014 and has been extended several times since.
The off-site parking plan, and the restaurant in general, met with overall support from speakers at a ZBA hearing in 2014.
File photo: Farm Country Kitchen in 2016. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)