Possibility of lawsuit stalls store

07/08/2010 12:00 AM |

The operator of Layyah convenience store at Front and Fourth streets in Greenport left last Thursday’s Planning Board session frustrated by delays that could block his opening for another month or more.

Imran Khan and property owners Dr. Steve Uyanik and his wife, Amy, were told by Planning Board members that they won’t get a certificate of occupancy at least until village attorney Joseph Prokop has completed a review of the process that ended with the board granting them the right to open the store back in the fall of 2009.

Mr. Prokop said he needs to review the decision-making process to make sure the the board would be able to prevail in any potential lawsuit filed by neighbors trying to overturn its 2009 ruling to approve the store, village administrator David Abatelli explained to the applicants.

Review of the Uyaniks’ application was reopened because they changed the parking lot by adding an extra space, which didn’t match their original site plan. Village building inspector Eileen Wingate this spring ordered the Uyaniks to either revert to the original design or file an application to amend the approved site plan.

When they did the latter, it opened the floodgate for worried neighbors — most of whom had been silent during last year’s review of the application — to beg the planners and the Village Board to head off problems they feared would arise from an establishment operating around the clock seven days a week that might also be selling beer.

As part of the site plan amendment process, Mr. Prokop said he is awaiting to hear whether the Suffolk County Planning Commission has any objections to the store operation. County planners need to review applications for proposals along state and county roads. But often, they simply tell the village that the decision is a local matter.

The village attorney also said he wants to review claims by neighbors and an attorney representing many of them — Bill Moore of Southold — that they should have been individually notified of the amendment application. Although the store is a permissible use of the property under village code, which does not require individual notifications, Mr. Moore has argued that it represents an intensification of use that should require such notification.

For several years, the site housed Ternhaven Cellars, a small winery that closed daily by 5 p.m., the neighbors said.

Not long ago, a sign went up at the store site indicating it would be operating 24/7. That riled neighbors, who said it could result in significantly more traffic and noise, especially if beer were ever sold there.

Mr. Moore argued last Thursday that the village code gave planners more sweeping controls over how the site is used than they believed they had. He said that because of the intensification of use resulting from the conversion of a winery to a convenience store, the planners should have considered traffic patterns, lighting, fencing, landscaping and even hours of operation.

Neighbors at Thursday’s session said they want the Uyaniks to close the egress onto Fourth Street, and have the store’s traffic enter and exit on Front Street; to curtail its hours from the planned 24/7 operation Mr. Khan wants; to provide more drainage; and to not sell any alcoholic beverages.

Mr. Khan told the Planning Board last week he hadn’t applied for a license to sell alcoholic beverages and wouldn’t do so for at least the first three months of his operation. Only if customers asked for it would he consider applying for the license, he said. But even then, it might well be denied because such sales are prohibited within 200 feet of a religious institution and Congregation Tifereth Israel is directly across from the store on Fourth Street. Several neighbors said they expected their objections to the sale of alcoholic beverages to weigh heavily with the State Liquor Authority if its receives a license application.

Ms. Uyanik pointed that some of the plans for the site, including the Fourth Street egress, were designed as they were because board members asked for them last fall.

Board chairwoman Lara McNeil acknowledged that was the case, but had it not been for the parking lot changes the Uyaniks made, the application wouldn’t have been reopened.

“I understand you’re frustrated, but it’s beyond our control,” she said about the current delay.


In other action, the planners asked the Zoning Board of Appeals to review plans for a canopy and signage at Mr. Robert’s convenience store on the northwest corner of Front and Third streets.

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