Inspector Gets Tough

Montauk Beach House to go to appeals board
Clouds may loom for the Montauk Beach House after its poolside bar and Minnie Rose clothing boutique, whose models
Clouds may loom for the Montauk Beach House after its poolside bar and Minnie Rose clothing boutique, whose models appeared there last month, were deemed illegal uses by the East Hampton Town building inspector. Sunny Khalsa

    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.”


When regulations are created in an ambiguous fashion, as the town board and town departments have acted in the past, it leaves the town inspectors in an uncomfortable role. Well organized political groups pressure for convenient yet absurd code interpretations, and urge the inspector to be judge, jury and executioner under those illusory standards. In January 2003, the Property Maintenance Code joined the New York State Uniform Fire and Building Code in pre-empting the use of local code at odds with New York State's pro-business development model codes. East Hampton has nevertheless continued using the unlawful town codes sections for nine years. Before East Hampton does anything, much less issuing cease and desist letters, it should reflect on the wobbly or nonexistent legal basis for their actions. Lawrence Kelly
In the past, laws could be written in a way where people were expected, and for the most part did, to do the right thing, and be a good neighbor. Now, laws have to be written with every "T" crossed and every "I" dotted to avoid abuses and lawsuits. Nothing can be done on a handshake and a man's word anymore out here. It is not the way it used to be .....
you are correct ... leave it to the ruling town nazis to twist and pervert the existing laws
Easthampton is being played by this new wave of business owners. they know that it will take years for the town to catch up to them. it's abusiness model. Surf Lodge, R'myers, Slop Tuna, now the new "motel", sorry M'tauk you lost your soul because the people in town hall couldnt see what was right in front of them......oh well, we will all have to get used to $18 glasse s of wine and assholes
The only soul that Montauk has lost is the bed bug infested kitty litter box that was the old Ronjo. It made Montauk a worldwide joke thanks to the Internet. So if that's the soul you are missing then I suggest all the blue-haired political biddies get together and have a dinner party at the town waste plant so they can reminisce about the good old days! In the meantime let the rest of us get on with enjoying our lives which includes relaxing poolside in the beautiful "new" Montauk.