The doors have been closed and the windows shuttered on the Irish Viking pub on Lake Avenue in St. James for nearly a decade. Town of Smithtown officials are considering turning the eyesore into a parking lot.
Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously at its May 8 meeting to hire John S. Goess Realty Appraisal Inc. to
appraise the value of 369 Lake Ave. property to see the viability of turning it into a municipal parking lot.
“That building’s been vacant for years,” Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said. “I have to be honest, even when the place was open the place was an eyesore. It’s really time for this thing to become something better.”
Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said that if the property owners agree to sell at the appraised value the town will look to turn the site into a parking lot that would include a center pavilion that could be used by local chamber or civics groups for many different kinds of events.
“Additional parking is a key part of the revitalization efforts and is one of the main issues our residents want addressed, along with speeding and safety.”
– Ed Wehrheim
“This will help generate tourism, revenue and aid in the goal to encourage residents to shop local,” Garguilo said in an email.
Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that the town will wait for a return on the appraisal before moving forward with contacting the property owners. He also said the parking lot could become an aspect of the St. James revitalization project, which is set to begin work early next year after the town installs a sewer system along Lake Avenue.
“Additional parking is a key part of the revitalization efforts and is one of the main issues our residents want
addressed, along with speeding and safety,” Wehrheim said in a statement. “By providing both the parking space and a venue that can be used for small business, markets and showcasing the arts, we can be proactive in our efforts to ensure that Lake Avenue will be an epicenter for arts and entertainment, while maintaining its quaint, historic charm.”
Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said that he expects the appraisal to be completed in three to four weeks.
Nowick said the town hopes to get a grant from the county in order to build the parking lot, if the town wants to acquire the property.
There are two municipal parking lots in the area. One is down the road from the Irish Viking property used by the St. James Long Island Rail Road train station. There is a second municipal parking lot behind Spage’s Pharmacy, hiding behind the front facing businesses along Lake Avenue. Nowick said there is a definite need for more parking along that road.
“I do like the idea of parking, and we want people to walk to places and it is in the center of town. We still want to have more businesses to come in.”
— Kerry Maher-Weisse
“Cars often line up on both sides of the road where two cars in opposite lanes cannot pass through after that,” Nowick said. “You really cannot go through, and if you have a truck trying to get through, because there are trucks that need to deliver to King Kullen, it’s nearly impossible.”
Kerry Maher-Weisse, the president of the Community Association of Greater St. James said that while she likes the idea of a municipal parking lot, she also believes that Lake Avenue needs more restaurants to make the area more attractive to both businesses and customers.
“Here we are having people who are very interested to open up business in town, and [the Irish Viking property] would be a great place for a burger joint in the middle of town,” Maher-Weisse said. “I do like the idea of parking, and we want people to walk to places and it is in the center of town. We still want to have more businesses to come in.”
The town is required to buy the property at the appraised value. If the property owners decide they don’t want to sell, Nowick said there is not much the town could do and the only way the town would apply for eminent domain is if the aging building is posing a danger to the community. It would then take several hearings involving the owner.
“He’s still paying his taxes and it’s his property,” she said.