The vacant building on the eastern end of the Peconic Riverfront where a new two-story building is proposed for a new restaurant. Photo: Peter Blasl

A new restaurant is proposed for a small property on the eastern end of the Peconic Riverfront.

The restaurant is being proposed on a .06 acre site just west of the Turkuaz Grill and the aquarium. The property is currently host to a blighted and vacant two-story residential building, referred to as the “green building” that was an office and in retail use in 1985, according to a staff report filed by Building and Planning Administrator Jefferson Murphree. 

Murphree presented the staff report on the project’s site plan and special permit application at the town board work session Thursday. The proposed building is designed by August Henry Muff of Northampton, who described the style as “colonial.” He said the kitchen will be on the first floor of the building, with dining and bar areas on both floors. The second floor has an outdoor porch for dining overlooking the riverfront.

The building would be 34-feet-tall, 4,031-square-feet and have 24 seats on the first floor with an occupancy of 60 people, and 59 seats on the second floor with an occupancy of 97 people. 

The property is owned by Suffolk Theater owner and builder Bob Castaldi, and is in an urban renewal area. Castaldi was not present at the work session Thursday. Former town councilman Vic Prusinowski, who is a consultant on the project and several others for Castaldi, said they are currently in negotiations with a long-standing, family-owned restaurant business in Suffolk County to operate the site, but was not at liberty to say who it was at this time for legal reasons. 

Muff said Castaldi wants the restaurant to be opened year round. “So it’s going to be a real benefit for the community,” he said.

As proposed, the restaurant would require a special permit to build, as the site plan proposes a building area of 100%, larger than the 80% authorized under the DC-1 zoning district code. 

The property has several issues to be addressed during the site plan process, according to the report. The site has the availability of public water, but is currently being served with a ¾ inch pipe, which is not adequate for commercial restaurant use and the required fire sprinklers.  The property owner will need to obtain water infrastructure improvements and approvals.

The applicant proposed widening the driveway next to the property to increase access, use it for construction, allow for access to garbage and allow the driveway to be a fire access road that complies with the 2020 NFPA code. The driveway, however, is owned by another person — Clifford Saunders of Cliff’s Rendezvous. The staff report says that the applicant would need to obtain legal permission from Saunders to use the driveway.

The applicant also hopes to use the driveway for the two handicap parking spaces that are required to be in front of the restaurant. An Americans with Disabilities Act compliant elevator is also proposed for the front of the building.

The applicant will also need to demonstrate during the site plan process how the construction of the building will affect neighboring buildings and residential properties. 

The property previously received site plan approval in 2005 for another two-story restaurant called the Peconic River Front Restaurant, but it was never built, the report says.

The town board said little during the presentation. Councilwoman Catherine Kent asked Murphree if the building would “overpower” the Turkuaz Grill, which Murphree said would not be the case.

“I think they’ve done everything to make it look residential,” he said.

A resolution is drafted for next week’s meeting to classify the site plan and special permit application as a Type 1 action pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act and initiate the 30-day coordinated review to receive comments from town, state and county agencies. Once the comments are received, the Town Board is recommended to assume the lead agency on the project, the report says.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]