It took just a few seconds for the Southold Town Planning Board to unanimously approve a new restaurant at the old Galley Ho restaurant in New Suffolk at a special meeting Monday afternoon.
A vocal swath of New Suffolk residents had questioned why the non-profit New Suffolk Waterfront Fund is planning to rebuild the restaurant, when the organization originally solicited donations for the project from the community with the stated goal of preserving open space.
A group of just under a dozen opponents of the project arrived, soaking wet from a drenching rainstorm, just as the meeting began in the town hall annex conference room, after they had initially gone to the main town hall meeting room, where most planning board meetings are held.
Eileen Schiavetta of Southold interrupted the proceedings just as the planning board was closing the meeting, asking the board why it didn’t take into account the impact on the environment in saying the project is consistent with the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.
“Isn’t it being overdone?” she asked. “You just agreed to something that is going to overburden an area.”
Planning board chairman Don Wilcenski told her that the time for public comment on the project had passed.
“I hope that, for the good of the New Suffolk community, that with all your intentions with help and parking, you’ll see fit to help the community,” Mr. Wilcenski told members of the Waterfront Fund who crowded the room, who said they “have every expectation that will happen.”
The Waterfront Fund revised its site plan this summer, removing a historic barn from the plan in order to make room for a shallow septic system that won’t raise the grade of the Galley Ho as high as originally proposed.
Earlier this fall, the Waterfront Fund cancelled a series of roundtable discussions with the community about the reuse of the Galley Ho building, citing legal concerns.
Members of the Waterfront Fund walked quickly past the huddled wet group of their detractors who regrouped on the front steps of the town hall annex after the meeting, with the group’s former chairwoman, Barbara Schnitzler, leading the way. One woman in the group said not to speak to any of the people gathered there as they silently passed.
New Suffolk resident Tom McKenzie, who stood on the steps discussing the particulars of land use law, said he was upset about the approval.
“What’s good for business might not be good for New Suffolk,” he said.
Ms. Schiavetta said she lives next door to the Mill Creek Inn, a large restaurant, catering hall and marina under reconstruction in Southold.
“All the marinas are being expanded and it’s ruining the water,” she said.
While there’s been much accusation in the media that the owners of Legends restaurant, across the street from the Galley Ho, are opposed to the project because of the competition the new restaurant could bring, Ms. Schiavetta said that she doesn’t believe business interests are at the core of the opposition in New Suffolk.
Legends owner Diane Harkoff has also repeatedly stated that she doesn’t mind the competition.
More than 140 people had signed a petition to the planning board circulated by Ms. Harkoff, the owners of the Summer Girl boutique and other prominent New Suffolk residents asking that the project not be approved.
“If people like Kim [Petrie] at Summer Girl are opposed to this — this is going to be business for her and she doesn’t want the business,” said Ms. Schiavetta. “She wants preservation. This is sad for New Suffolk.”