By Janee Law
After months of deliberation and two public hearings, Northport Village officials approved Tuesday code and zone changes that pave the way for a proposed hotel to be built on Main Street.
The change passed, 3-1, with Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin the lone dissenter. Trustee Ian Milligan did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, but wrote a letter in favor of the change.
Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce, co-owners of John W. Engeman Theater, plan to build the three-story Northport Village Inn at 225 Main St., but needed the board to approve the change establishing a “Hotel/Inn” portion of village code.
The proposed multimillion-dollar inn would span around 22,000 square feet and include a 200-seat restaurant on its ground floor. The above floors would include 22-24 rooms and some office space for management.
Along with the initial change, which opens the doors for hotels/inns in general to operate, the board also approved a residential to commercial zone change for the parking lot behind the site, along Woodside Avenue. That vote passed, 4-0.
Over 50 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, and more than 20 people spoke about the proposal, some in favor and some against it. The biggest concerns discussed were parking and whether or not the 200-seat restaurant would bring more congestion to the village.
Northport resident Joyce Spencer said before the vote that the “principal defect” of the plan is parking.
“There should be enough doubt here to give every member of the board cause for concern in the same way that many village residents like me are concerned,” Spencer said. “At the very least, an independent environmental impact review is called for and under no circumstances should the code change give this or any applicants special relief from the parking requirements in village code.”
Jim Clark, of Northport, said “Kevin and Rich have done great things for the village.”
He added, “Nobody who lives in Northport would tell you there’s no parking problems. When it’s a nice day in the summer it is crowded down here. It should be crowded down here. That’s a reason for us as a community to figure out how we’re going to address that problem, which exists today without the legislation.”
O’Neill said after the meeting that parking concerns are legitimate.
“We’ve been here for 10 years with the theater as a major operation. I have zero interest in compromising that with some kind of bogging down of the way Main Street functions,” O’Neill said. “It’s a very big step in the project and getting it done. We’re trying to bring Northport back to what it was 100 years ago but we have a lot of work to do.”
O’Neill said there’s still a “tremendous amount of planning” that needs to be done, working with Huntington-based Hoffman Grayson Architects. If everything runs smoothly for permit and project approvals, O’Neill said, he hopes to break ground early next year and open for business spring 2019.