Featured Story
06/10/16 6:00am
06/10/2016 6:00 AM

Paul Pawlowski

The private sports facility proposed for Mattituck was dealt an unexpected blow last week when the chairman of the Southold Town Planning Board wrote a letter to the Zoning Board of Appeals questioning whether the facility would fall under the allowable use as a membership club.  READ

12/03/15 6:54pm
12/03/2015 6:54 PM

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An owner of Southold Farm + Cellar — whose business has been in limbo for months after his family closed it voluntarily and then opened back up on a limited schedule not long after — told town officials he would accept certain restrictions on his small winery as part of any approval to reopen given by the Zoning Board of Appeals. READ

02/06/15 4:00pm
02/06/2015 4:00 PM
The United Methodist Church in Cutchogue, built around 1928, went on the market last year. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

The United Methodist Church in Cutchogue, built around 1928, went on the market last year. (Credit: Cyndi Murray, file)

Watching a historic church or meeting hall be torn down to make space for a “McMansion” is something Leslie Weisman, chair of the Southold Town Board of Zoning Appeals, doesn’t want to think about.

“It’d be tragic to lose them,” she said at a code committee meeting last week. “They give us a sense of being in New England.”  (more…)

01/16/15 12:00pm
01/16/2015 12:00 PM
Developer Nick Paleos of Nickart Realty Corp. in Baldwin said the two homes going up along Route 48 near Town Beach in Southold will be finished by July. But they're not for sale. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

Developer Nick Paleos of Nickart Realty Corp. in Baldwin said the two homes going up along Route 48 near Town Beach in Southold will be finished by July. But they’re not for sale. (Credit: Cyndi Murray)

People driving along Route 48 in Southold have taken notice of construction taking place across the street from Town Beach. Could it be the makings of a hotel? A restaurant?

Not quite.

Developer Nick Paleos of Nickart Realty Corp. in Baldwin said the property, which is located 900 feet west of Bayberry Lane on the southern site of Route 48, is the site of two new homes.  (more…)

08/08/14 8:00am
08/08/2014 8:00 AM
A stop-work order has been issued at the Showalter Farms property on Main Road in Mattituck, where this barn was resided and another pre-fab barn was delivered before the owners received building permits or site plan approval, town officials said.

A stop-work order has been issued at the Showalter Farms property on Main Road in Mattituck, where this barn was resided and another pre-fab barn was delivered before the owners received building permits or site plan approval, town officials said.

If Thursday’s public hearing before the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals is any indication, Showalter Farms’ proposal to open a riding academy on Main Road in Mattituck might take longer to receive approvals than it once seemed(more…)

11/25/13 12:00pm
11/25/2013 12:00 PM
CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | A proposal to allow outside guests to eat at the Blue Inn in East Marion has local community association members concerned.

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | A proposal to allow outside guests to eat at the Blue Inn in East Marion has local community association members concerned.

Starting in June, the restaurant at the Blue Inn in East Marion will be able to serve food to outside guests.

That’s because the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals last week granted a special exception for the restaurant to expand its food service. Previously, the Blue Inn was permitted to serve food and drinks only to guests at the year-round motel.

The exemption, which initially did not sit well with nearby residents, was approved with more than a dozen operating conditions, including:

• The restaurant can only open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from June 1 through Labor Day.

• No outdoor music can be played after 9 p.m. and the bar needs to close at 11 p.m.

• Small events are also permitted until 9 p.m.

• The restaurant is subject to a 48-person occupancy limit.

• A parking attendant must be hired to manage traffic.

• The restaurant cannot be advertised.

If current owner Sam Glass were to sell the motel, a future owner would have to refi le for a special exception to open the restaurant to the public, according to the ZBA.

The decision comes after three months of public hearings on the proposal. In its decision, the ZBA stated “the safety, health, welfare, comfort, convenience or order of the town will not be adversely affected by the proposed use and its location. The terms agreed to by the applicant and the Town of Southold are designed to protect and promote the peaceful coexistence of the motel and the residential properties in the neighborhood.”

The list of conditions comes in response to concerns from members of the East Marion Community Association.

Neighbors said the new plan is reminiscent of concerns they had about the motel under its previous ownership, when the restaurant was also open to the public. In a letter sent to the ZBA in mid-September, neighbors Joseph Zizzo and Maria Capotorto said the motel functioned like an “illegally constructed outdoor nightclub” under the previous owner, who sold the motel to Mr. Glass more than two years ago.

Activities at the motel inspired the East Marion Community Association to lead the push to pass Southold Town’s first noise ordinance nearly three years ago.

In a statement Monday, the association said it’s pleased with the ZBA’s decision.

“The East Marion Community Association applauds the Southold Town ZBA for its diligence in embracing the concerns expressed in our letter to them regarding The Blue Inn and future business development in East Marion,” said EMCA board member Jackie McKee. “In granting The Blue Inn’s request for special exemption, the board has incorporated conditions for compliance into the permit which address the concerns of our community while offering more latitude to the owner for increasing revenue. We trust that, in the spirit of community, Mr. Glass will honor those conditions.”

Mr. Glass said opening the restaurant to the public is necessary to sustain the business and he’s pleased with the board’s decision.

“I am grateful [the ZBA] took the time to read our application and the testimonials,” he said. “I was quite happy to hear about it because we need to have a restaurant. We want the neighbors and the community to be able to attend and to be happy with it.”

Mr. Glass said he is currently in the process of finding a part-time chef and designing an affordable menu.

cmurray@timesreview.com

10/18/13 10:30am
10/18/2013 10:30 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | A proposal to allow outside guests to eat at the Blue Inn in East Marion has local community association members concerned.

The Blue Inn in East Marion is hoping to open its restaurant to outside guests but the people who live closest to the motel say they aren’t happy about that plan.

Blue Inn owner Sam Glass, an attorney from Hempsted, has requested a special exception from the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals to expand service at the current restaurant to outside guests. Currently, the Blue Inn is permitted to serve food and drinks only to guests of the year-round motel.

Under the new plan, Mr. Glass is proposing to open the restaurant to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from June 1 through Labor Day. No outdoor music would be played after 9 p.m. and the bar would close at 11 p.m., according to the application. Small events would also be permitted until 9 p.m., under the proposal.

It’s a plan that does not sit well with nearby residents.

“Our priority is to maintain East Marion as a quiet and peaceful hamlet,” said Anne Murray, vice president of the East Marion Community Association. “The town needs to be careful when weighing [the needs of the] business and community.”

Neighbors said the new plan is reminiscent of concerns they had about the motel under its previous ownership, when the restaurant was open to the public. In a letter sent to the ZBA in mid-September, neighbors Joseph Zizzo and Maria Capotorto said the motel functioned like an “illegally constructed outdoor nightclub” under the previous owner, who sold the motel to Mr. Glass more than two years ago.

The letter goes on to recount instances of drunken guests arguing and wandering into neighboring yards.

“It was a torturous time for East Marion,” Ms. Murray said.

The community association’s concerns about the motel helped lead the push to pass Southold Town’s first noise ordinance nearly three years ago.

In a 2011 interview with The Suffolk Times, Mr. Glass said he had no knowledge of the controversy when he purchased The Blue Inn. He could not be reached for comment for this story.

In a letter to the ZBA last month, he said he was also unaware that an agreement he signed with the town in 2011, which categorized the restaurant as an accessory use to the motel, would not allow it to be open to the public.

Mr. Glass said in the same letter that opening the restaurant to the public is necessary to sustain the business.

“Only having 29 rooms does not allow enough guests to dine with us to keep the restaurant active,” he wrote. “It has been our experience that guests alone will not suffice. We need local support.”

Mr. Glass said the request for a special exception is meant to help keep the business afloat, not transform the property into a bar scene.

Presently, The Blue Inn’s restaurant has a 48-person capacity and Mr. Glass said he doesn’t intend to have more diners than that at any time.

Still, the East Marion Community Association is not convinced the past won’t repeat itself.

Members believe opening the restaurant to the public would increase traffic, late night activities and noise, all of which they feel are inappropriate for the residential hamlet.

While recognizing that the town has received no formal complaints regarding the Blue Inn since it’s been owned by Mr. Glass, members say that doesn’t guarantee it would remain that way should the restaurant be opened to the public.

They said the quiet installation of a tiki bar is a sign that things are about to change at the motel.

“Once Mr. Glass gets a taste of the revenue from the bar, which promises to be lucrative, it will be very difficult for him to turn away paying customers who just want to stop in for a drink,” East Marion resident Joseph Zizzo told the ZBA. “It would not be in his interests as a businessman.”

The current application before the ZBA calls for enclosing the existing outdoor patio with netting or plastic covering to protect guests from insects and inclement weather, while surrounding the existing deck with a temporary three-and-a-half foot wall so that people will not slip off.

A parking attendant would also be hired to manage traffic generated by patrons, Mr. Glass told the ZBA.

If he were to sell the restaurant, a future owner would have to refile for a special exception if they wanted to open the restaurant to the public year-round, said Vicki Toth, assistant to the ZBA.

The board closed the public hearing last week and expects to make a decision on the application in early November.

cmurray@timesreview.com

09/27/13 5:00pm
09/27/2013 5:00 PM

FILE PHOTO | Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue.

When the Southold Zoning Board of Appeals took up winery regulations during a special public hearing Thursday night the discussion wasn’t intended to focus on issued at Vineyard 48.

But that’s what happened.

At the request of the Planning board, the ZBA was asked to evaluate existing codes that define what constitutes a winery.

Specifically, the board was asked to determine if the use of a tasting room as a “dance and, or social club” was permissible  and if a retail cigar shop was an acceptable accessory shop at a vineyard, Planing Board chair Leslie Weisman said.

Both elements have become a common practice Vineyard 48.

The Cutchogue vineyard’s business practices have prompted investigations by both the town and the State Liquor Authority following a host of complaints, including loud music and patrons allegedly wandering onto neighboring properties and having sex in public.

Admittedly, Ms. Weisman said the hearing was prompted by Vineyard 48’s latest site change proposal.

The revised plan includes a new layout for the existing parking area along with the creation of an overflow lot with 100 additional spaces. Additionally, it calls for the construction of a 40-by-100-foot outdoor pavilion with two walls. The pavilion is designed as a permanent structure that would replace the temporary tents, which town officials have said are being used without permits.

But Ms. Weisman insisted the Planning Board’s request for clarification on the current town code did not specifically pertain to the controversial vineyard.

“The Planning Board is prohibited from approving a site plan that is not permitted by code,” she said. “We are not going to revisit [Vineyard 48 concerns.] This isn’t about Vineyard 48. We are here to look at the bigger picture. We are not here to write legislation, we are here to interpret code.”

Still, commenters on both sides of the Vineyard 48 aisle couldn’t get by the elephant in the room.

“I respectfully disagree with the idea that this is ‘town-wide’,” Vineyard 48 attorney Patricia Moore said.  “You can’t separate the two.”

During previous public hearings regarding the amended site plan, Ms. Moore called the town a “bully” for making an example out of Vineyard 48.

Attorney William Moore, Ms. Moore’s husband who also represents Vineyard 48, echoed that sentiment during Thursday’s hearing.

“It’s not a genuine request; it’s a loaded question,” he said. “The planning board laid out the questions for you. What it did in its request was make characterizations [of Vineyard 48] that you are saying are facts. This is an ad hoc way of going about this and it’s not the way it should be done.”

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell has previously said it’s “no secret” the town disapproves of Vineyard 48’s business practices and attempted several times to tame the winery’s operation with legislation.

This summer the town passed a special events law to give the town more control over events held at wineries — most notably at Vineyard 48. A few weeks later the town swiftly passed a parking ban on the North Road near Vineyard 48.

But the legislation has done little to curb the the vineyard’s practices, Horseshoe Lane resident Bill Shipman said.

“It’s been years of torment and town government doesn’t have a set plan,” Mr. Shipman said. “We haven’t been given information and we’re wondering where justice is.”

While Vineyard 48 is in litigation with the State Liquor Authority, it is permitted to remain open — even with an expired liquor license.

As the legal battles remain at a standstill, neighbors of the Cutchogue winery wait in the balance.

They argued Thursday that wineries that operate like Vineyard 48 are not true to the town’s current regulations that wineries should primarily sell products made from grapes grown on site and have a minimum of 10 acres dedicated to vineyards or other agricultural purposes.

“That is not agriculture,” said Laurie Helinski, who lives in the home closest to the vineyard and claims the business is lowering property values. “They’re not there tasting wine, they’re drunk. More wineries are going to be forced to have business practices like this because it’s a cash cow.

“The reputation in Southold is becoming a party town. Families like us are leaving in droves,” she continued. “A dance party is not agriculture. There are a lot of tobacco farms in Virginia. There isn’t one here. A cigar shop is not local agriculture.”

After two hours of discussion, the ZBA closed the hearing without making a decision.

“The majority of vineyards are in favor of an operation that are more family orientated and groups of people that are there to enjoy the winery, the sun and the grapes,” said ZBA member Gerard Goehringer. “Those are the areas I am going to focus on when I make my decision.”

cmurray@timesreview.com