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Golf course residents split over catering expansion

An artist's rendering of the proposed clubhouse expansion

An artist's rendering of the proposed clubhouse expansion at the Stonebridge Golf Links & Country Club in Smithtown is shown. Photo Credit: Michael Russo

With fairways and greens as their backyards, residents of the 105 homes at the Stonebridge Golf Links and Country Club in Smithtown say they enjoy a mostly untroubled lifestyle.

Original owners plunked down about $700,000 apiece a dozen years ago to buy houses on Redan Drive at the 18-hole, semiprivate course east of Blydenburgh County Park. There are tennis courts and, for golfers, a short walk to the tees.

"It's our own little enclave," said resident Robert Peck.

But homeowners are divided over a planned expansion by Carlyle Stonebridge, the club's caterer. Some are concerned about increased traffic, while others say the expansion is necessary to boost business.

Carlyle secured a 20-year lease in April to take over Stonebridge's struggling catering business. Owner Steve Carl, who operates Carlyle on the Green at Bethpage State Park and other venues, said in May he has an option to buy the facility.

Company officials developed plans to increase parking to 234 spaces from 152 and expand the 23,700-square-foot clubhouse by 2,622 square feet. The enlarged building would attract couples who increasingly choose to wed in catering halls, said executive vice president Jay Kranitz, who hopes to triple business.

Carlyle pitched the plan to homeowners, but not everyone was sold.

Peck, 69, fears that added patrons will park on two-lane roads near his home, 200 to 300 feet from the clubhouse. "It becomes a very narrow passageway," he said. "I just worry about the safety factor when that happens." He said he would call town public safety officers, "and they'll hand tickets out."

Carlyle officials said the larger business would not be intrusive. "I don't think they'll see any change from what they've had," Kranitz said. He said there would be valet parking so catering customers would not park on the narrow roads.

Most residents support the expansion, even rejecting Carlyle's offer of a 10-foot earthen berm to block clubhouse noise, said Alan Fox, president of the Stonebridge Homeowners Association. They agreed to a 5-foot berm, he said.

"To have a 10-foot-high pile of dirt behind your house isn't the greatest thing to look at," Fox said.

The expansion must be approved by the Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals. Chairwoman Adrienne Giannadeo said a ruling may come at the board's Jan. 8 meeting.

Fox and Peck said many residents bought their homes believing the clubhouse would double as a restaurant. But while the eatery closed, the catering business remained open.

"Some of the people are nervous about it being a catering facility," Peck said.

Kranitz said he plans to have a bistro that would be open to Stonebridge residents.

Fox said residents are better off with Carlyle than with a less-experienced caterer: "We really don't have any control over the restaurant. It's a business like anything else. We're hoping to get it back, but even if we don't, we're ahead of the game."

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