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Former Meson Ole building renovations on hold amid planning concerns

04/08/2016 9:00 AM |

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Once renovations are finished on the former Meson Ole building on Third Street in Greenport, the property will feature two restaurants on its ground floor and apartment space above, new owner Jim Olinkiewicz of Shelter Island pitched to the Greenport Planning Board Thursday evening.

But before Mr. Olinkiewicz can continue with his proposal, he’ll need to address several issues raised by the board, which questioned the building’s handicapped accessibility and made recommendations to tweak his preliminary plan.

The Meson Ole building dates back to 1845, when it was called the Burr Hotel. The building was later renamed Sterlington Hotel in 1894 and remained that way until a Mexican restaurant opened on its ground floor in 1980. The property has remained vacant for several years.

Mr. Olinkiewicz plans to pay homage to the building’s heritage by returning the “Burr” name to the building, though he stressed he has no interest in bringing back its use as a hotel.

“It’s something to bring back the historic nature,” Mr. Olinkiewicz said.

“The ambiance,” suggested Planning Board member Peter Jauquet.

The ground floor restaurant space would be split between two eateries, Mr. Olinkiewicz said, which would have a combined seating capacity of 178 customers. The owner said he doesn’t have tenants secured for the space yet, but has spoken to four potential takers. Among the possibilities: a martini bar with tapas and flatbread pizzas or a biergarten featuring local breweries, burgers and ribs.

The second and third floors would be devoted to three apartments, with separate entrances between the restaurants for tenants. Mr. Olinkiewicz said he plans to use the rooms for workforce housing, however he added no restrictions were being placed on who could apply.

“The best qualified people will go in,” Mr. Olinkiewicz said.

Because the building would not feature more than four apartments, the upper floors would not require an elevator or other handicapped accessibility measures, he added. The two existing “atrocious” fire escapes would be removed, Mr. Olinkiewicz said. The fire escapes would instead be located at the back of the building.

But the Planning Board said Mr. Olinkiewicz needed to update his plan to allow for more handicapped access. Chairman Devin McMahon said the restaurants’ bathrooms weren’t handicapped accessible and the plans showed ramps would be needed to allow wheelchairs to enter the restaurants. The board also took issue with temporary fencing put up in part of the building’s parking lot during construction.

Mr. Olinkiewicz said his insurance provider had asked for the fencing to prevent outsiders from entering the property during construction. He also said he plans to keep the driveway that allows access between his building and neighboring businesses.

“My first intention is to be a good neighbor to everybody else who’s there,” he said.

Mr. Olinkiewicz will need to resubmit his plans for the property before continuing with construction.

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