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Smithtown hotel proposed by restaurateur for site on Route 347

Anthony Scotto is seeking a special exemption to allow a hotel on the Watermill Caterers property that's zoned for wholesale service industry.

The company that owns the Watermill catering hall,

The company that owns the Watermill catering hall, seen here Friday, is proposing to build a 130-room hotel on the east side of the property at the intersection of Route 347 and Terry Road in Smithtown. Photo Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

A company led by restaurateur Anthony Scotto has proposed building a 130-room hotel on its Watermill Caterers property at the intersection of Route 347 and Terry Road in Smithtown.

The $28.2 million project outlined in documents filed with the town planning department would construct the 96,788-square-foot hotel on the east side of a seven-acre parcel, leaving intact the catering hall that for decades has been a venue for weddings and local events.  

Watermill Caterers is part of a group of Scotto restaurants, catering halls and hotels.

Scotto's team, which floated a smaller proposal in 2006, is scheduled to appear at a public hearing Thursday to request a special exception to build the hotel on land zoned for wholesale service industry. The town council is unlikely to vote soon on that request, town officials said.

In 2018, then-town planner David Flynn said in a planning department memo that a hotel at the Route 347 site is “good town planning, but the design is more intensive than permitted” by town zoning.

Plans should be revised to comply with town requirements on height, density, parking and use of environmentally sensitive land, he wrote, adding that the proposal appeared to be out of compliance with six of 13 standards for special-exception uses. Plans also call for an underground sewage pump station, tanks and a retaining wall in the wooded southeast corner of the property. Although sewage would be pumped to an off-site treatment plant, the infrastructure would conflict with a 1984 town council resolution that permits the land to be used only for catering hall parking, Flynn wrote.

“The application is premature,” Deputy Supervisor Thomas McCarthy said last week. He said the current application did not meet the criteria for a special exception and should go first to the Board of Zoning Appeals, where officials might grant some relief from town zoning regulations.

Council members are also unlikely to vote until town staffers assess the project’s possible impact on the natural and human environment.

Town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said he would support the project, provided any zoning issues are addressed, and added that the hotel could generate tax revenue that would ease the burden on homeowners.   

“Tony Scotto is going forward," Scotto's attorney, Kings Park-based Donald King, said. “I don’t care what the planning department says. … We meet the requirements.”

Several residents who live west and east of Terry Road said a hotel would probably add traffic to area streets they see as already too congested. A traffic study commissioned by Scotto said the impact would be minimal.

Laura Speicher, 40, who lives in the hilltop neighborhood south of the Watermill, said traffic from a hotel could endanger children and diminish property values. 

But west of Terry Road, neighbors Victoria Moncello and Kevin Kirchhoff said the jobs and tax revenue the hotel would bring would be a boon to the town.

“We need it around here,” said Kirchhoff, 72, a pest control specialist. “We could use a little more industry.”

King said he hoped to hold a meeting for concerned neighbors on Tuesday at the catering hall.

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