Village: Store opening is illegal

Purchase in hand, a customer leaves the Layyah convenience store in Greenport Tuesday afternoon, after it opened without Planning Board approval.

Greenport’s newest convenience store, Layyah, opened its doors almost two weeks ago without a certificate of occupancy. Owners have twice been cited for that violation by village building inspector Eileen Wingate and the case comes before the Planning Board at tonight’s meeting.

Building owners Dr. Fehim Uyanik and his wife, Amy, could be fined for opening without a certificate of occupancy, according to village administrator David Abatelli. But it will fall to the Planning Board and village attorney Joseph Prokop to determine what action to take, he said.

“There are no health or safety issues,” Mr. Abatelli said about the operation, noting that the only concerns are legal issues that were raised at a July 1 meeting with the owners and store operator Imran Khan.

At that meeting, Planning Board members told the owners and operator that they couldn’t open the store at Front and Fourth streets until the legalities were resolved. Among those issues were clearing the operation with the Suffolk County Planning Board, which has since provided an opinion allowing the village to make the decision on its own. Also, Mr. Prokop said he needed time to review the decision-making process to try to ensure that the Planning Board could prevail if neighbors sued to overturn the original 2009 vote that allowed conversion of the former winery into a convenience store.

The building owners got approval for their site plan in 2009 and would have opened this spring, but when their parking lot ended up with one more parking space than had been approved, they were called back to the Planning Board in June. The planners told them to either make changes so the lot matched the site plan or submit a new site plan for review.

That opened a Pandora’s box for neighbors, who said they’d been unaware of the store’s approval and were concerned when they learned from posted signs that the store would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Neighbors also complained about vehicles exiting the lot onto Fourth Street. A neighbor who lives immediately south of the store worried about drainage problems, fearing that water could run from the lot onto her property.

Frustrated, the Uyaniks and Mr. Khan left the early July meeting and consulted attorney Michael Solomon of Solomon and Herrera in Greenport and Levittown. Mr. Solomon said the Uyaniks have “all intentions of fully complying with the initial approval.”

As for the CO, Mr. Khan said he’d been advised that he could open and that Mr. Solomon would deal with the village. The attorney had no comment on that. The Uyaniks also couldn’t be reached for comment.

“I can’t imagine an attorney telling them they could open without a CO,” said Planning Board chairwoman Lara McNeil.

Mr. Khan said he was currently operating from 6 a.m. to midnight, and was working mostly on his own with some help from his brother. He said it was important for him to open because there are only a couple of months left to the summer season and he expected business would slow in the fall.

“I was not working for a long time,” he said, explaining that he had left his job as manager of the nearby Greenport 7-11 to run this store. “I have to pay rent and I have to pay bills,” he said.

The store doesn’t yet have a license to sell beer, a staple of most convenience stores, and can’t apply to the State Liquor Authority for a permit until the certificate of occupancy is in place, Mr. Khan said.

Although he said earlier in the month that he would wait about four months before deciding whether or not to apply for the license, he said Tuesday that if he’d had 500 customers since he opened, at least 300 of them had asked about beer.

That’s another hurdle he could face because the store is located across from the Congregation Tifereth Israel synagogue and the SLA prohibits the sale of alcohol within 200 feet of a religious institution. Planning Board members had advised the Uyaniks of the issue last fall, but said it’s not a decision within their purview. When the site was the home of Ternhaven Cellars, no one raised the issue of its proximity to the temple.

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