The historic Jedediah Hawkins Inn got another temporary reprieve from the Riverhead Town Zoning Board Thursday night to allow it to hold outdoor catered events at the Jamesport restaurant, but it came with a number of conditions aimed at addressing the issue long term.
Because the town code only allows indoor catering – and not outdoor catering – as a permitted “accessory use” to restaurants, the Inn has had to seek a variance from the ZBA annually for the past eight years in order to hold outdoor events. Those variances have been granted, but with conditions.
Neighbors have complained about noise from those outdoor events at prior ZBA hearings.
At one point several years ago, the Town Board discussed changing the zoning to address these issues, but it never did.
On Thursday, the ZBA voted 4-1 in favor of the application, with board member Frank Seabrook casting the lone dissenting vote.
“It seemed to me that the negative impacts of noise from more outdoor events should not be a burden placed on this quiet residential community,” he said after the vote. “In spite of the beautiful restoration work done to that property, and the benefit of that restoration to the community, I could not find a reason to support this appeal. In this community, it is my opinion, that events should be held indoors.”
Pam Hunt, a representative for the Inn, told the ZBA at earlier hearings that the catering hall would have difficulty staying in business without the outdoor events.
Ms. Hunt also presented the ZBA with an online petition signed by more than 900 people in support of the Inn.
The approval granted Thursday allows the Inn to hold outdoor catered events until Nov. 30, 2016, but states: “The applicant is to retain counsel and make a formal written application to the Town of Riverhead Town Board on or before December 1, 2015 requesting a change of zone and or modification of the existing zone to permit catering outside of the principal structure.”
Among other conditions:
• Catering for outdoor events will only be permitted within a completely enclosed tent.
• The Inn will be limited to three outdoor events per month, and no more than one per day, and the events will not be permitted on weekday nights when school in session.
• Events cannot start earlier than noon or end later than 9:30 p.m., and there will be a limit of 125 guests per event.
•Sound levels at outdoor events must be in compliance with the town noise ordinance.
• The Inn will be required to keep a catering manager on site for the duration of outdoor events and that his or her name and cell phone number be conspicuously posted on the Inn’s website for the purpose of responding to noise complaints.
“All of us at Jedediah Hawkins Inn are grateful for the overwhelming show of support from our friends and neighbors, and to the ZBA members who voted to let us continue to serve them,” Ms. Hunt said after the vote. “We are hopeful that by continuing to do business in a responsible manner, we will reassure the few who opposed us.”