After a year of battling strong legal currents, Jellyfish restaurant in Centerport is finally cleared to open.
Last week, the town board voted to lift covenants and restrictions on a nearby parking lot to allow patrons of the eatery to use it. Jellyfish owner Ralph Colamussi said it should be open by month's end.
Colamussi also owns the Thatched Cottage catering facility next door and the nearby parking lot, but restrictions set in 1967 said it could be used only for the Thatched Cottage.
Last year, residents who live near the parking lot, on Fort Salonga Road just east of Little Neck Road, filed a lawsuit against Colamussi, the town and its zoning board for granting a variance for Jellyfish to allow outdoor dining and additional parking.
Jellyfish is at 441 E. Main St., next to another restaurant to the west, on a narrow, winding stretch of the road. Residents were concerned about traffic flow and argued in the lawsuit that the parking solution in the Zoning Board of Appeals decision was not legal, said Jim Matthews, ZBA attorney.
"One of the conditions we put in there was that they have lawful parking," Matthews said. "The challenge had been that the parking was not legal and we didn't determine whether it was legal, that was up to the building department."
The Supreme Court of Suffolk County upheld the zoning board decision, Matthews said.
The town board voted 4-1 last week at its monthly board meeting to lift the restrictions and allow Jellyfish diners to use the lot.
Town board member Mark Cuthbertson voted against the resolution, which was added to the agenda at the last minute, because he said he didn't know it was going to be heard at that meeting.
"I also had some additional questions that could not be answered because the planning head is on vacation," Cuthbertson said.
Colamussi has owned the Thatched Cottage for 26 years and Jellyfish for 3½.
He said he has held private events at Jellyfish in recent months, but is pleased he can finally open the restaurant.
"I'm glad everything was taken care of," Colamussi said. "The people in Centerport who have known me for 26 years know me as a person who follows the rules and for doing things that neighbors want."