Town, village spar over proposed eatery

Nurses from the Stony Brook University Hospital give

Nurses from the Stony Brook University Hospital give blood pressure tests in the food court at the mall. (Sept. 27, 2000) (Credit: Don Jacobsen)

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A proposed Bahama Breeze restaurant is stirring an ill wind between the Town of Smithtown and the Village of Lake Grove.

Officials of those municipalities are battling over whether the village should have a say in a proposal to build the 7,900-square-foot restaurant at Smith Haven Mall. Smithtown and Lake Grove historically have overseen expansion at the mall, which straddles the town-village border.

In an Aug. 31 letter to Smithtown officials, Lake Grove Mayor Robert J. Scottaline said the town and the restaurant's corporate owners refused to seek the village's blessing for the project. He opposes the restaurant because of concerns about traffic, parking and sewage treatment issues.

"I believe that the village must also be contacted by the applicant for our approval," Scottaline wrote. "The mall, as you are aware, is present in both municipalities and what happens on one side certainly affects the other side."

But town officials and a representative of Darden Concepts Inc., the Orlando, Fla., company that owns the restaurant chain, say they have no plans to seek Lake Grove's approval, because the eatery would be located in Smithtown. The Caribbean-themed restaurant -- which has dozens of franchises nationwide but none in New York -- would be in a separate structure in the southwest section of the mall's parking lot.

"It is our position that the Village of Lake Grove does not have jurisdiction," said Andrea Tsoukalas, a Uniondale attorney representing Darden.

Smithtown officials are split on the dispute. At a town board work session Tuesday morning, planning director Frank DeRubeis said Lake Grove officials deserve to weigh in because the village is affected by traffic and sewage generated by mall businesses.

"I'm going to have problems with our side [of the mall property], because they don't think we're willing to work with them," DeRubeis said.

Bahama Breeze is awaiting approval by Smithtown. Town board members said they believe Lake Grove, which is in the Town of Brookhaven, could hold its own review of the eatery. "They want us to stall it," Councilman Thomas McCarthy said. "I don't want to stall it."

In his letter, Scottaline said village residents are bothered by odors from the mall's sewage plant. "Is the management of the mall thinking about our issues while they seek to maximize their profits? I don't think so," he wrote.

A spokesman for the mall's owner, Simon Property Group Inc. of Indianapolis, declined to comment.

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