Business

Riverhead ZBA weighs plan to add snack bar at Aqua by American Beech in Aquebogue

Would converting a storage shed into a snack bar at a hotel be considered a nonconforming expansion or nonconforming change?

It’s a question the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals must contend with after the owners of Aqua by American Beech submitted plans to do just that on their Aquebogue property.

During a ZBA meeting last Thursday, the owners’ attorney, Charles Cuddy, argued that it constitutes a nonconforming change, since the preexisting shed would just be moving from one use to another. Mr. Cuddy said that hotel has been there for over 50 years.

“It’s been repaired and rejuvenated by the last two owners,” he said of the 1-acre property located on Bay Avenue. According to Mr. Cuddy, the 332-square-foot shed in question first appeared on a survey of the property done in 1976 but may have been built in the late 1960s.

The shed has been used historically for dressing, showering and most recently, for storage.

“It’s always been an accessory building at that site,” Mr. Cuddy said. “All it does is change the use from prior uses to a snack bar. It offends nobody because nobody can see it,” he added, arguing that the property is secluded from its neighbors.

“The current owner would like to serve snacks and food to his guests,” he added.

They’re seeking an interpretation from the ZBA to allow the conversion as a change of use, rather than obtain a special permit from the Town Board to operate the snack bar, which would only be open to guests of the 18-room hotel. Mr. Cuddy said there are no plans to prepare food on-site or serve alcohol. Though the hotel is open year-round, the proposed snack bar would only operate seasonally.

Several ZBA members inquired whether the property had ever had food or beverage service, even in the form of vending machines, that could be considered with this application.

“I suspect there was some kind of food service there at one time,” ZBA member Leroy Barnes said.

Speaking on behalf of the Aquebogue Homeowners Association, Raymond Rieder said their main concern had to do with the sale of alcohol at the property.

“We have a good relationship with the new owners. They’ve done a good job of cleaning it up and it’s very busy,” he said. “We’re not opposing what they want to do, we just want clarification … knowing there’s no alcohol is a really big thing.”

Mr. Cuddy indicated that the owners, Brent Pelton and Alex Vinash, who own American Beech in Greenport — would like to have the ZBA decision in time for the snack bar to open by summer. Mr. Pelton couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. The discussion was adjourned until Jan. 23.