Centerport residents' zoning challenge rejected

Parked cars fill the parking area on a

Parked cars fill the parking area on a recent busy evening at Jellyfish restaurant. (Aug. 10, 2013) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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Centerport residents have been dealt a setback in their running battle with the owner of a popular restaurant over parking.

The Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals has rejected residents' bid to have the town revoke a permit that allows Jellyfish restaurant patrons to have their cars valet parked next door at the Thatched Cottage catering hall.

"The zoning board disagreed with the neighbors' contention that the permit was improperly issued," John Breslin, the attorney for the Jellyfish, said recently. He said the ZBA found that the building department properly issued the permit and that it's valid.

David N. Yaffe, the Melville-based attorney for the residents, said his clients have not decided what to do next. "They have the option to file a legal challenge," Yaffe said Monday. "We have the right and the option to pursue an Article 78 proceeding." An Article 78 petition can be filed in State Supreme Court challenging the zoning decisions. A judge can uphold the board's decision, overturn it or order the panel to reconsider.

Last year the town building department required Ralph Colamussi, who owns both the Jellyfish and the Thatched Cottage, to show he could lawfully store as many as 78 cars off Jellyfish premises in order to get a permit to use outdoor decks for dining.

In May 2012, Colamussi wrote a letter to himself stating that Jellyfish patrons could valet park up to 78 cars off premises at the Thatched Cottage. A building permit to allow the use of the outdoor decks for dining was issued based on that letter.

Some residents were not satisfied with that arrangement, which creates additional traffic in their neighborhood, and argued the Thatched Cottage had not proved it could lawfully store the cars on its property and demanded the ZBA revoke the permit.

"If it's their own [the Thatched Cottage's] cars, yeah, sure they can stack up cars all over, but if it's cars from a neighboring property you're changing the site," Yaffe said, at a zoning board of appeals July meeting.

"You're allowing use by a neighboring property on this property," Yaffe said.

Yaffe argued that because the Thatched Cottage was built before site plan approval was needed, its deficient parking allowances are grandfathered in. Thus, he contended, the Thatched Cottage should come before the ZBA and building department to demonstrate it can lawfully store the cars from Jellyfish on its property.

"Once they open up the door to changing the use of their property allowing a neighbor to start using their property, then they open up a can of worms," Yaffe said.

ZBA attorney Jim Matthews said, "The zoning board obviously for reasons permitted by law want this and believe it's a good thing, and wants him [Colamussi] to be able to do this."


History of complaints


Nov. 10, 2011: 14 petitioners file an Article 78 proceeding against the Town of Huntington and its Zoning Board of Appeals, a realty group and the Jellyfish restaurant. The challenge alleges a variance issued by the ZBA for outdoor dining was "arbitrary, capricious, unlawful and an abuse of discretion and unsupported by substantial evidence."

Aug. 9, 2012: Suffolk County Supreme Court upholds the issue of the variance

July 2013: Residents appeal to the ZBA to get the building department to revoke the permit

August 2013: ZBA denies the appeal

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