Does the East Marion community want to eat at the Blue Inn? That’s a question that came up during a public hearing before the Southold Town Planning Board Monday night.
Neighbor Joseph Zizzo even asked for a show of hands from the East Marion residents in the packed Southold Town meeting room, where a hearing on the controversial Galley Ho proposal in New Suffolk took place minutes later.
No one raised their hand.
But inn owner Sam Glass said to thrive as a business the Main Road destination needs to open its restaurant to outside patrons. Existing restrictions, put in place over quality of life complaints from neighbors about the inn under its previous owner, limit food service to guests of the hotel.
“We need the public to come to our inn,” Mr. Glass said. “Our issue is having enough patronage to support the inn. It’s in the best interest of the community [to have the inn thrive.]”
In order to move forward with plans to open the 1,000 square-foot restaurant to the public, the Blue Inn is seeking approval of its amended site plan.
Critics of the plan, which include about a dozen neighbors who spoke out against the plan Monday, argued that the 1.37 acre inn property could not support the parking needed to expand the use of the restaurant. They also cited noise and traffic concerns as reasons for the Planning Board to reject the proposal.
“We have a history with the Blue Inn,” said East Marion Community Association co-president Robin Imandt. “We’re all sort of on edge not to go down that road again.
“The East Marion Community Association is committed to maintaining the rural, agricultural character of the community. We want it to be the quiet [hamlet] it is.”
Some residents suggested that although the inn has been a good neighbor since Mr. Glass took over the property in 2010, the restaurant proposal is a sign that things are changing.
The Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals granted a special exception for the restaurant to expand its food service in November, pending approval of the amended site plan.
The exception 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. (Mr. Glass said Monday night that this restriction is limited to advertising along Main Road.)
Mr. Glass said the Blue Inn currently has a parking space for each of its 26 units. Under the amended plan, valet service would be offered to allow for 26 more cars to be parked on a grassy area of the property.
“That concerns me,” said Old Orchard Lane resident Kathleen Richter, who said she didn’t think there’s enough room to accommodate that much parking on the property. “They’ll be parking on someone else’s lawn.”
Ms. Imandt questioned whether the plan to park cars on the inn lawn was environmentally friendly.
Planning Board chairman Donald Wilcenski said the purpose of the hearing is simply to gather information from the public.
“All of the comments we hear tonight will be looked into,” he said.
The Planning Board voted to keep the hearing open until its next meeting July 7.