The Dimon Estate, formerly the Jamesport Manor Inn, on Manor Lane in Jamesport. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Dimon Estate in Jamesport has canceled all weddings it had booked for 2022, after the Town of Riverhead refused to issue a tent permits to the restaurant.

“I canceled the whole season,” caterer Matt Kar, principal of Kar-McVeigh, which owns the property, said in an interview last week. Kar said he couldn’t take the chance that the town would shut him down and he’d have to cancel weddings at the very last minute.

“I’m doing my best to try to help my clients book other sites on the North Fork, so they won’t have to change their hotel reservations and other arrangements. I would still do the catering,” he said.

“The denial of the tent permit would naturally flow from the ZBA decision,” Riverhead Town Attorney Erik Howard said in a phone interview Tuesday. “When the tent permit applications came in, the fire marshal got an opinion from our outside counsel, who said the tent permit can be denied based on the ZBA decision.”

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals on April 14 upheld, after a long court battle with Kar-McVeigh, the 2008 and 2009 determinations by former Riverhead Planning Director Rick Hanley. Hanley refused to accept Kar-McVeigh’s site plan applications, stating that Kar-McVeigh’s plans to use a temporary tent or build a barn for catered events was the expansion of a pre-existing, nonconforming use and required a special permit from the town board. The ZBA in 2009 denied Kar-McVeigh’s appeal of Hanley’s determination and the applicant went to court. In 2013, a State Supreme Court judge ordered the ZBA to re-hear the restaurant’s appeal. That hearing was finally held on March 24 this year, and on April 14, the ZBA upheld Hanley’s determination again.

In the interim, the town last year sued Kar-McVeigh, seeking a permanent injunction to prevent outdoor catered events at the site. The town asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction against outdoor events, outdoor catering and the use of tents at the Dimon Estate while the action is pending, but last week, the court declined to do so. The court also declined to restrict the use of “sound reproduction devices” in a manner to cause “unreasonable noise.”

Earlier this month, the town board also passed an amendment to the town’s noise ordinance to prohibit as “noise pollution” the use of “any sound reproductive device” in a manner that is “plainly audible” from a neighboring inhabitants [sic] real property line, in a manner that “disturb[s] the peace, quiet and comfort of the neighboring inhabitants.”

“Plainly audible” is defined by the amendment as “[a]ny sound that can be detected by a person using his or her unaided hearing faculties.

Kar said he thought the noise ordinance amendment was aimed directly at him and was concerned about his event bookings. But when the town refused to issue his tent permits, something that never happened before, he decided he had no choice but to cancel the dozens of bookings he’d already made for this year.

He hasn’t canceled 2023 weddings, Kar said. He’s planning to mount a legal challenge to the April 14 Zoning Board of Appeals decision that the town is relying on to refuse the tent permits, as well as the amendment to the noise ordinance.

“You know, the whole problem was noise,” Kar said. “There was one time they were in violation. And this year, I gave him a plan to show that I was going to do mitigation for the sound so there’d be no problem,” he said. Kar said the mitigation plan was prepared by a sound engineer.

“And as soon as I said that, they come up with that law that you can’t hear anything coming off somebody’s property,” he said. “That doesn’t just affect me. It affects every single person that lives in Riverhead. You can’t have a graduation party, you can’t — you can’t basically have anything,” he said. “How will this not affect the wineries and breweries and other restaurants? So, you know, I said to myself, this law is never going to be able to be enforced. But I felt like they were targeting me.”

Kar said he can’t explain why the town would “target” his business, but, he said, the town’s actions against him are hurting not only his business and his clients, but a host of other local businesses that do business with his wedding parties: hotels, limousines, florists, bakeries, photographers and other restaurants that book dinners and parties before and after the weddings, he said. “It’s thousands and thousands of dollars being pumped into the local economy for each event.”

The legal battles between the town and Kar-McVeigh date back to the early 2000s. In 2004 the Riverhead ZBA 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.

Over the years, the restaurant’s outdoor catering operations have drawn numerous noise complaints from area residents.

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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.