Renovations are underway to transform the historic Howell House on East Main Street into a luxury spa and salon. Additional hotel rooms are planned in tandem with the neighboring Preston House & Hotel.
According to attorney Eric Russo, the applicant, Joe Petrocelli, is proposing four transient one-bedroom units, one two-bedroom unit along with the spa, salon and reception area.
Apartments and office space had previously been proposed for the property and Mr. Petrocelli briefly considered demolishing the structure to create additional parking.
The current project requires a special permit granted by the Town Board to move forward since a hotel use is proposed, according to town building and planning administrator Jefferson Murphree. He also recommended the board assume lead agency and issue a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, meaning an environmental study would not be needed.
“They’ve done everything above and beyond, reduced impacts,” Mr. Murphree said.
The issuance of a special permit is also dependent on two pending Zoning Board of Appeals decisions, Mr. Russo said.
They are seeking two variances, one for lighting and another for exceeding the allowed impervious area set forth under town code.
“This is going to allow for increased parking for the Howell House and parking for the Preston House hotel and restaurant,” Mr. Russo said. “It’s going to be shared.”
The Landmarks Preservation Commission and Architectural Review Board have both recommended approval for the project, according to a planning staff summary.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Town Board expects to set a public hearing on the special permit. Mr. Russo is hoping for approval this fall.
Mr. Murphree said construction is “at a standstill” as they await the necessary approvals from the town. Work on the drainage and parking lot, for example, cannot be performed without site plan approval.
“In order to do anything further, we need Town Board action,” Mr. Russo said.
Mr. Petrocelli said after the work session that his goal is to grow the Preston House into a boutique hotel chain in order to compete with companies like Airbnb, which he said has hurt the hotel industry.
Top photo: The Preston House and Hotel opened in 2018 in downtown Riverhead. (file photo)