Bayville neighbors were split this week at the zoning board of appeals' third and final hearing on a controversial request by the American Legion post to hold outdoor wedding ceremonies.
The ZBA has 62 days to issue a decision after the Wednesday session. The meeting was attended by about 50 residents, mostly members of the legion post that says it needs to boost catering to remain afloat.
With a 1979 approval from the board, the Robert H. Spittel Post 1285, whose residentially zoned Bayville Avenue property overlooks Long Island Sound, has rented its facility to catering businesses. The most recent tenant, the WaterView Club, was evicted in April because it owed about $200,000 in back taxes, back rent and utility payments, and it generated complaints from neighbors.
To attract a new caterer, the legion wants to conduct outdoor wedding ceremonies no longer than an hour with no amplified music and starting before 7 p.m., with all receptions indoors. Legion officials said no caterer would sign a contract without that provision.
Board chairman Gene Pileggi said, "I think most people in Bayville would like to keep the legion." But he summarized two letters from neighbors complaining about noise, traffic and problems from illegal outdoor events.
Legion attorney Jeffrey D. Forchelli of Uniondale said the post had catered events without problems for decades before WaterView. And next-door neighbor Steve Baker told the board, to loud applause, that "I haven't experienced parking, litter" and other problems.
The only complaints at the meeting came from Mark Matarazzo, the Oyster Bay attorney for Michael Ryan, who lives just west of the post.
Matarazzo presented a petition signed by 62 residents opposed to the exemption. Forchelli previously gave the board more than 300 signatures on a petition supporting the request. He said the post's financial circumstances have not changed sufficiently to legally amend restrictions. A board decision for the exemption would set a precedent and "would destroy or render meaningless" the village zoning code, he argued.
Forchelli countered that the "minor modification" sought was "reasonable and a court would not overturn it."