The legal battle continues over catered events at the Dimon Estate property, formerly the Jamesport Manor Inn, at 370 Manor Lane in Jamesport. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals has again denied the appeal by the owner of the former Jamesport Manor Inn concerning its continuing catering operations.

Former Riverhead Planning Director Richard Hanley in 2008 and 2009 rejected site plan applications from Kar-McVeigh seeking to use a temporary tent on the Manor Lane property (2008) and to build a barn on the site (2009) for catered events. Hanley said the applicant was seeking to expand a pre-existing nonconforming use, so the planning board could not entertain its site plan application. An expansion of a pre-existing, nonconforming use requires a special permit of the town board, Hanley wrote.

The ZBA denied Kar-McVeigh’s appeal in 2009 and the applicant went to court. In 2013, a State Supreme Court judge ordered the ZBA to re-hear the restaurant’s appeal.

The ZBA held a new hearing on Kar-McVeigh’s appeal March 24 and on Thursday denied the appeal again, upholding Hanley’s 2008 and 2009 decisions rejecting Kar-McVeigh’s site plan applications.

In doing so, the ZBA rejected the applicant’s contention that a 2004 ZBA decision required granting the appeal. The ZBA in 2004 held “it is reasonable to conclude that catering is a type of restaurant use that can be a principal or accessory use and unless specifically excluded, is a permitted use where a restaurant use is permitted.” The 2004 ZBA decision was upheld by a court in 2007, after a legal challenge by residents.

But, the ZBA said in its April 14 decision, the 2004 ZBA “decision did not address whether the proposed erection of additional structures like a tent or catering barn would result in an expansion of the pre-existing, nonconforming use” and the subsequent court decision did not address the issue of additional structures either.

“This Board is neither deaf nor dismissive of the concerns expressed by some of the public regarding the noise which might emanate from the location,” the April 14 decision continued. However, the board has “clearly been limited by the scope of the proceedings before it and mandated by the Supreme Court to focus on the limited issue pending before us.”

And so the lengthy, ongoing legal dispute over the use of the premises continues, despite last week’s ruling.

The restaurant is now operated as the Dimon Estate. At the March 24 hearing, Kar said his son is taking over the business Kar built as the Jamesport Manor Inn.

Neighboring residents have lodged complaints about the noise generated by the catering operations at the site, which take place outside the building utilizing temporary tents. They renewed those complaints at the ZBA hearing in March.

The Town of Riverhead last year sued Kar-McVeigh and company principal Matthew Kar, seeking a permanent injunction against the owner’s use of the property for catering, outdoor events and weddings. Those uses would require a special use permit, which the owner does not have, the town argues. The town board in 2007 approved a special use permit “subject to numerous conditions,” the town said in its complaint in the injunction action. “The Defendants did not file any legal challenge to the conditional special permit approval, nor did they take any other steps to establish the special permit as approved by the Town Board on March 20, 2007. To date, the Defendants do not have a special use permit, a certificate of occupancy or other approval to expand or enlarge the pre-existing restaurant use on the subject premises.”

Kar-McVeigh has a pending motion seeking to dismiss the town’s injunction application. The company argues that the Riverhead ZBA in 2004 “approved catering” on its site and its decision was upheld in 2007 after a legal challenge by neighbors. Kar-McVeigh thereafter filed site plan applications which were rejected by the town planning director in 2008 and 2009. Kar-McVeigh argues that it has been trying to gain town approval for a permanent structure to accommodate catered events to address noise-related complaints, but the town has frustrated its efforts.

In a Jan. 6 affidavit filed in that action, Kar said the restaurant had already booked 35 catered events to be held at the Manor Lane site between June 4 and Oct. 29 this year. All were booked in 2021, according to the affidavit. The company has a security company monitoring decibel levels at all events, Kar said. It also has a clause in its contract with customers that allows it to ask the customer and/or its DJ or band to turn down the volume or turn off its amplifiers and speakers.

In seeking to block the injunction, Kar-McVeigh and Kar maintain that the town is not entitled to a preliminary injunction, arguing, among other things, that the ZBA never held a new hearing on the appeal of the 2008/2009 decisions by the planning director rejecting site plan applications for a tent (2008) or a barn (2009) to accommodate catered events.

The ZBA voted 4-0, with member Daniel Zaweski abstaining, to approve the decision denying the appeal.

The court action brought by the town last year remains pending. The next court appearance date is April 21.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.