The saga of the Montauk Beach House is headed to the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals following a determination by the town’s head building inspector, Tom Prieato, that it has expanded certain uses without approval. In a letter sent on Friday to one of the resort’s owners, Chris Jones, Mr. Prieato said the questioned uses should be shut down immediately. The Beach House has appealed.
The Beach House, which renovated the old Ronjo Motel on Montauk’s South Elmwood Street, opened in late June amid much fanfare. It has 33 rooms, couches and lounges in the pool area and on an upper deck, a Jacuzzi, a women’s clothing shop, and a bar. It is Mr. Prieato’s opinion that the renovation plans did not indicate a shop and that the bar was intended for “guest services” not the general public.
“The code is gray, at best,” Mr. Jones said this week. “It puts owners of a property in a position where there is no right or wrong, only shades of gray.”
Mr. Prieato’s letter also noted the creation of the retail shop in what had been a shed without approval. “These are serious issues, and you are directed to cease the operation of the same, since it is in violation of the [town] code and to avoid further enforcement proceedings,” the letter states.
“The code is far from perfect and this will give us a chance to clarify,” Richard A. Hammer of Biondo and Hammer, an attorney for the Beach House, said yesterday.
“Has the bar exceeded accessory use and, if so, we need to know what are the ground rules, what does the code mean?”
Mr. Hammer said that he submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to the town fire marshal’s office in an attempt to find out what that office’s inspections have shown operating there over the past 40 years.
“What constitutes an accessory use?” Mr. Hammer asked. If an accessory bar is limited to the hotel’s customers, and a friend were on the premises, “can the friend sit down for a drink?”
“We can’t operate a resort without guest amenities. You can’t run a resort like that,” Mr. Jones said yesterday.
Patrick Gunn, an attorney who is head of public safety for the town, said yesterday that he supports Mr. Prieato’s determination. The town attorney’s office will take the next few days to assess any future actions, he said.
Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson congratulated the Beach House’s owners at its opening festivities, saying, “This baby has been delivered today.” The town board’s decision to sell a portion of a public alley that runs through the property to the Beach House for $35,000 without first having the land appraised had stirred political controversy. Mr. Wilkinson and others have hailed the resort for helping the Montauk economy.
On Tuesday, Mr. Jones said, “We have partnerships with the surf shop, the bike shop, the Bake Shop, the T-shirt guys, all the local businesses. It’s sad that people aren’t talking about that.”