Jul 26, 2014
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Residents: Insignia Parking Too Close For Comfort

Restaurant owners file application to extend parking amidst resident concerns about noise and groundwater flooding issues.

Residents: Insignia Parking Too Close For Comfort

Residents are calling on Smithtown officials to stop the region's new and posh from moving closer to their homes.

Laraine Rossi, of Brilner Drive in Smithtown, said the owners of Insignia Steakhouse have plowed over a 50-foot section of grass to illegally create a gravel parking lot for its valet services. The restaurant’s expansion has generated noise and flooding concerns within her community.

“I am throwing myself at your mercy. Help us preserve our quality of life. We want to be good neighbors, but we don’t want the cars parking underneath our windows,” Laraine said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Laraine said she’s concerned because the gravel parking lot is generating a lot of noise as the restaurants patrons leave late at night, waking residents. She claimed neighbors with bedrooms in the back of their houses also have noise issues from the club atmosphere.

Meanwhile, her husband Donald, said he’s concerned the additional parking area would cause ground water issues, leading to flooded basements - an issue he’s faced before.

“My basement used to flood until last year when they cleared everything out of the stream. But now they’ve graded it straight again,” Donald said. “We are going to be right back where we started out.”

 The land that Insignia Steakhouse has used to build the makeshift parking lot is recognized by the town as environmentally sensitive land, with a groundwater table less than 10 feet below the surface.

Frank DeRubeis, Smithtown’s planning director, said the restaurant owners have received a summons for building the additional gravel parking lot without the necessary permits. The town had stipulated that owners Scotto Brothers leave a 100-foot gap, 50 feet of buffer and 50 feet of easement, between the restaurant and neighboring residential properties when approving the building plans.

 “One of the neighbors kept calling me and I kept saying, ‘I know they are building a parking lot in the back. That’s legal,'” DeRubeis said. “Finally I said ‘Look, I’ll go out to the site and take a look.’ I drive by and oh my god, there’s a parking lot.’ He was right, I was wrong.”

After receiving the summons, Insignia Steakhouse’s owners have filed an application for an area variance to expand the parking lot and reduce the buffer from 100 feet to 50 feet. It would increase the restaurants parking beyond what is required under town code.

Insignia Steakhouse’s owners did not immediately return calls for comment.

New York State environmental officials have ruled that the variance request would have no effect on the environment.

However, it's not clear whether the variance would conflict with the town’s , defined as any establishment with regular dancing to music or live entertainment that services alcoholic drinks.

The restaurant’s request for a variance to make its parking lot permanent will go before Smithtown Town Board at 7 p.m. on March 22 at the Eugene Cannataro Senior Citizen Center.

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