Residents were surprised to learn about second set of proposed plans to expand Insignia Steakhouse's parking lot from its 122 current spaces up to 237 spaces - significantly more than requested by the restaurant's owner.
Frank DeRubeis, Smithotwn's Planning Department Direction, unveiled before residents a second set of suggested expansion plans for Insignia Steakhouse's parking lots at Thursday night's public hearing. The new design, created by Town of Smithtown engineers, is intended to strike a compromise between restaurant owner Anthony Scotto and neighboring residents, .
"We are providing 237 parking spots with this particular design. It's a valet design, not regular parking," DeRubeis said. "This is the best balance we can think of between protecting residents and allowing some expansion."
Insignia representatives presented an application before Town Board Thursday night to reduce the buffer area between the restaurant and neighboring residents from 100 feet to 58 feet in order to increase their parking spaces to accommodate patrons.
Residents complained that Insignia has already illegally built a gravel parking lot behind the building, that holds roughly 40 cars, that is and groundwater flooding issues.
"Over the holidays, there were three to four nights a week my children couldn't sleep. They had nightmares of hearing footsteps from the pounding of music well after hours," said Matthew Setteducati, a Brilner Drive residents.
Setteducati said he's also had to call police after a person, who he believes might have come from Insignia, jumped his backyard fence and tore part of it down to escape.
Others had problems not only from the noise, but the headlights of cars coming from Insignia's parking lot.
"I have headlights from cars in my kitchen, with lights from the parking lot shining in my backyard," said Loraine Vetter, a Brilner Lane resident. "My dog is bringing bones and food to the backyard, their dumpsters are never covered."
Several expressed concern that the expanding parking lots will cause flooding, as the groundwater table is high.
“Will the town force Insignia to return the land to the way it was before they bulldozed it? It had a grade that protected our houses from flooding,” asked Donald Rossi, a Brilner Drive resident.
Setteducati said his basement flooded with “tainted” water this March 17 due to heavy rains, despite a dry winter. He was joined by Larry Vetter, who said he feels expanding Insignia’s parking would undo any drainage benefits from the town’s efforts to dredge the Nissequogue River.
DeRubeis said he believes many of these residents concerns could be abated by striking a compromise. He suggested decreasing the 100-foot suggested buffer to 80-feet, and better configuring Insignia's existing parking space for a valet system.
His proposed plan call for restriping of restaurant's existing parking to make it more efficient under a valet model, that may include patrons cars being double parked.
In the reduced 80-foot buffer zone, Insignia's owner Anthony Scotto would be responsible for installing a 10-foot high, 50-foot wide berm between the parkign lot and neighboring homes on Brilner drive. This earthen berm would be planted with trees and landscaping, capable of absorbing water, and similar to the one at Hidden Ponds development across Route 347.
"Earthen berms are great sound absorbers and they are much better than fences in terms of protection from sound," DeRubeis said.
The planning director said the town has been in conversation with the restaurant about installing additional sound insulation. Representatives for Boulder Creek Enterprises, the corporation owning Insignia, have asked town board members for additional time to consider the revised plans.
Supervisor Patrick Vecchio also asked DeRubeis to sit down with neighboring property owners, either in groups or one-on-one, to explain the plans and hear their concerns.
Residents, however, were initially doubtful the second set of plans will help alleviate their noise and groundwater flooding concerns.
"By giving them 237 spaces, you are making the issues that much worse," said Matthew Setteducati.
Click on the attached PDF above to view a copy of the suggested parking plans for Insignia Steakhouse recommended by Frank DeRubeis.