Confusion Reigns at Goodfriend Motors Hearing

A supposedly whimsical sign that reads “Goodfriend Motors” in an East Hampton commercial area suddenly was not so funny to members of the East Hampton Town Planning Board during a meeting held last week. T.E. McMorrow

    A storage facility on Goodfriend Drive in East Hampton that was said to be for one man’s car collection seemed to be traveling along a smooth road until last week when it hit a massive pothole. During preliminary site plan review by the East Hampton Town Planning Board back in July, the applicant, Derek Trulson, said, “I have a collection of muscle cars. I want to store my cars there. My cars are toys, but they are also investments.”

    The board voted in September to move ahead with a public hearing on the 7,370-square-foot building and its 40,000-square-foot parcel, and it was scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 9.

    But when it came time for the hearing, Reed Jones, the board’s chairman was clearly unhappy. “An hour before the hearing, I was given something that confused me,” he said. What was troubling Mr. Jones was a Web site, which someone he wouldn’t identify had directed him to, which revealed other plans.

    The Web site spoke in glowing terms about a new commercial storage facility for high-end car collectors. Mr. Reed read a printout from the site:

    “Goodfriend Motors is a state of the art, auto storage facility built by and for collectors, slated to open in East Hampton in 2013. Goodfriend Motors was designed by Modern Green Home. There’s nothing like it on the East End. The facility is equipped with industry standard security with an entertainment lounge overlooking the gallery, a high-end AV system, temperature and humidity controlled, radiant heated concrete floors and outdoor space for events. Members will receive individual parking spaces.”

    Mr. Reed, a soft-spoken ex-Marine, continued to read the entire page. When he finished, he asked, “Is this accurate? I just want a straight answer. If the public hearing is for one thing and the facility is for another,” he said as a shook his head.

    The question had been directed to Walter Wirth, a friend of Mr. Trulson’s, who attended the Town Hall session in Mr. Trulson’s absence. “I can’t answer the question,” Mr. Wirth said.

    The page on Modern Green Home’s Web site in question has since been taken down, although its remnant link still turned up this week in a Google search. Also taken down, with a remnant still visible on Google, was a page for a contest to design a new logo for Goodfriend Motors. Mr. Trulson did not respond to a message left for him on his voice mail Tuesday.

    The building, which was vacant when Mr. Trulson purchased it, is zoned for commercial use and originally housed a print shop. What riled planning board members was that Mr. Trulson had described his plans for the building as solely for personal storage.

    Back in July, the board had quizzed Mr. Trulson, who is a major real estate developer with Jones Lang LaSalle in New York, about a sign already on the building reading Goodfriend Motors. He told the board that the sign was merely whimsical, a name for the building made up by his young daughter. The board had been supportive and encouraging.

    “This is a very light use of this property,” Patrick Schutte, one of the members, had said, while another member, Ian Calder-Piedmonte, said, “I think it is important that this board is approachable by people like you, who want to live here.”

    In a memo to the board earlier, JoAnne Pahwul, the town’s assistant planning director, had noted that Mr. Trulson said the use was for a “private collection” and that “there would be no employees or commercial traffic associated with the facility.”

    “These questions need to be answered,” Nancy Keeshan, the vice chairwoman, said, summing up the apparent feelings  of the entire board on Oct. 9.

    In another wrinkle, Kathryn Santiago, the planning board’s attorney, reported that Mr. Trulson had not properly notified the owners of adjacent properties about that night’s hearing, a legal requirement. She told the board it would have to be postponed. It was.