My, That’s a Grand Garage

    “We offer on-premises, heated, indoor, winter storage for your vehicle in our state-of-the-art, 12,000-square-foot facility,” Kalbacher’s Auto in Springs proudly states on its Web site.

    The problem, according to East Hampton Town’s chief building inspector, Tom Preiato, is that in 2006 the town planning board approved only half that for indoor car storage at the Fort Pond Boulevard site. And that discrepancy is part of what is holding up a certificate of occupancy for the property.

    In 2006, the planning board signed off on a site plan that showed a 6,000-square-foot automobile storage facility and a 1,080-square-foot auto repair shop.

    The extra 6,000 square feet of storage are in the basement of the approved building, something the planning board specifically told Kalbacher’s in 2006 that it could not do. “The board stated that the basement portion of the automobile storage building should not be used for storing automobiles,” Eric Schantz of the Town Planning Department wrote in a five-page memo to the board on July 2. While there is no prohibition in town code against storing cars at basement level, he pointed out that the board had been more concerned with the total number of cars on the site than it was with where they were to be stored in the building. Kalbacher’s also built a ramp allowing cars to enter and exit the lower-level storage space, and that too was without the board’s approval.

    In an aerial photograph the Planning Department provided to the board, 50 cars can be seen on the property, in addition to those parked out of sight in the storage facility.

    The lack of a certificate of occupancy has taken the company back to the planning board, this time represented by Susan Brierley of Land Planning Services in Wainscott, in an attempt to legalize the buildings already there.

    Ms. Brierley told the board on July 10 that she was there to get feedback. She got plenty.

    “Do you know how many times this has been in justice court for operation without a C of O?” Patrick Schutte, a board member, asked.

    “Why was this built differently from what was approved in 2006?” wondered the chairman, Reed Jones.

    Ms. Brierley told the board that Land Planning Services had only recently become involved and that she was not familiar with the full history of the site.

    “I don’t have a problem with the basement. I have a problem with the way this is being run,” Mr. Schutte said. “Fenders, doors, tires piled up sky high. I have a problem with our system allowing this to go on year after year after year.”

    According to Mr. Schutte, the 2006 site plan review began on his first day on the planning board. “Seven and a half years later, nothing has been done,” he said.

    “Wasn’t this one of the basements that we found to be illegal in 2006?” asked Bob Schaeffer, another board member.
    “Yes, it was,” Mr. Schutte replied.

    While Mr. Schantz told the board it did not need to hold a public hearing on the site plan, since what was before it was technically a modification of an already-approved site plan, the board disagreed, with Ian Calder-Piedmonte leading the way. He said he probably would not object to the basement, but “It would have been nice to have asked permission beforehand. Now, you’re in a pretty tough spot.”

     “A public hearing is important,” said Nancy Keeshan, the vice chairwoman. “We want to make sure that the reality of the place matches what is on the plan.”

    “I think it is very convenient to say the basement was an oversight,” Mr. Jones said. “You guys have some work to do on this before you come back,” he told Ms. Brierley.

    Cars and where to store them were also the subject of another site plan being reviewed by the board. Derek Trulson, a commercial real estate consultant and developer with Jones Lang LaSalle in New York, needs a place to store his collection of muscle cars and has chosen 24 Goodfriend Drive as that place.

    The 7,392-square-foot building at the site originally housed a printing company. Now, a new sign there reads “Goodfriend Motors,” JoAnne Pahwul, the assitant planning director, pointed out in a memo to the board.

    “I’m not repairing any cars,” Mr. Trulson told the board, explaining that he had put the sign up at the behest of his daughter. “My cars are toys, but they are also investments. I’m into Corvettes,” he told the board.

    He wants to remove exterior parking spaces that he will not need, returning that area to native vegetation, and put up a five-foot-tall fence on the property.

    The fence was the only part of his plan that raised concerns. Ms. Pahwul’s memo points out that there are no fences in the area and that the board had previously denied a fence to an applicant on nearby Plank Road.

    In the end, the board seemed to acquiesce, as long as it would be properly screened.

    The board encouraged Mr. Trulson, who appeared without representation, to huddle with the Planning Department to work out any issues that might remain with the application.

    “I think it is important that this board is approachable by people like you, who want to live here,” Mr. Calder-Piedmonte said.