Several people have been quick to laud the town’s top building inspector for pointing out that the Montauk Beach House needs to seek approval for its public bar and retail store. Although we are loathe to bring up zoning irregularities in Montauk once again, the praise may be premature. Regardless of the inspector’s directive that the questionable uses be shut down, the resort’s owners appear to be going full steam ahead and planning to take it all up with the town zoning board in the fall.
In effect, the town has sanctioned these offending uses, at least until the appeal can be heard. Nor has the town shown any sign of acting on the fact that the Beach House does not have a required entertainment permit for its D.J.s and live shows, or taken a position on the addition of a members-only pool club, an apparent expansion of its pre-existing, nonconforming status.
The building inspector’s letter about the two questionable uses is, by all appearances, a stunt intended to deflect heat from where it should rightly rest: the desk of Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who has taken a personal interest in helping the Beach House and similar ambitious, if controversial, commercial enterprises.
Just down the road apiece, also in Montauk, the Sloppy Tuna bar and restaurant was to appear before the town board next week following multiple noise citations that put its live-band performances in jeopardy; a hearing was scheduled at which the Tuna’s music permit could have been suspended. The only problem is that it never had a permit in the first place. Unless the town suddenly gets tough, the Sloppy Tuna will likely rock on, much to the annoyance of residents and guests nearby. Elsewhere, neighbors who live along Navy Road have griped about their own problems with noise and traffic.
The owners of the Beach House — and others like them — have made currency of the notion that East Hampton Town makes it difficult to do business. As far as we can tell, this is an attempt to put one over on the rubes from these sticks. You can bet similar projects in, for example, Miami or Manhattan’s West Village meet with far stricter regulatory review.
What is really disappointing about all this is that the new hoteliers and restaurant operators might well have been granted approval for aspects of their projects had they gone through channels. The argument heard among their supporters is that such delays might have caused some ventures to lose a season as the reviews proceeded. However, this would have fulfilled the requirements of the law and assured the community that the public’s interests were being considered.
Carl Darenberg of the Montauk Marine Basin might be annoyed, by hindsight, that it took him the better part of a year to win permission for the Hula Hut, a bar on his property, but as painful as it might have been for him and his business parter, he did the right thing. Potentially affected neighbors were heard, and Mr. Darenberg can hold his head high.
As it is now, a few irresponsible business operators — and their local lawyers and land-use expediters — are laughing as they rake in cash rewards for flouting the law. Meanwhile, a handful of town officials, whose philosophy of local government seems to be that money trumps all, stand by cheering.