Surf Lodge Saga Nears End

The town had reached an agreement with the owners last year after years of legal strife

The Surf Lodge is headed toward legalizing almost all the structures on its property after the East Hampton Zoning Board of Appeals indicated Tuesday night that it would unanimously approve a series of variance requests from the owners, Jayma Cardoso and Michael Walrath, in agreement with the town attorney’s office.

The three exceptions that the Surf Lodge management will have to toss overboard if they are to get a final certificate of occupancy are a flagpole, a movie screen, and a fire pit, all located in a beach lounge area on the northeast part of the property.

“This is an extremely nonconforming property,” David Lys, a member of the board, said as it reached its tentative decision. Decisions by the board are not official until they are written up by the board’s attorney, Beth Baldwin, and each member signs off on them.

The town had reached an agreement with the owners last year after years of legal strife. In 2014, the establishment paid a $100,000 fine, believed to be the biggest in town history. It was around that time that Mr. Walrath, a venture capitalist, became a major partner in the restaurant, motel, and club.

The slightly more than one-acre property, which is off Edgemere Street, is surrounded on three sides by water, meaning many structures on the property need setback variances from Fort Pond. The owners have agreed to install an entirely new septic system. The board agreed to all variances required under a written agreement between the owners and the town. However, the fire pit, the movie screen, and the flagpole are not contained in that agreement, and were rejected.

Once the zoning board finalizes the variances before it, the planning board will schedule a public hearing on the site plan, the next step toward finalizing the agreement and settling the outstanding issues.

“I think it was great that the town and the owners were able to come to an agreement,” John Whelan, the board’s chairman, said.

As happy as Mr. Walrath and Ms. Cardoso may be over the result, the same cannot be said of four owners of units at the Montauk Shores Condominium complex at Ditch Plain, which the board debated on July 25. The owners were seeking variances from the Federal Emergency Management Agency rules governing flood zones.

The most in need of relief was a unit belonging to Eric Cole. The board had granted variances several years ago, seeming to okay Mr. Cole’s plan to build a 765-square-foot mobile home. It was later learned that the structure needs to be elevated an additional five feet above grade to comply with FEMA regulations. Roy Dalene told his fellow board members that this was something that the builder should have been aware of. The board worried that granting variances from FEMA regulations for this project could have a ripple effect, raising flood insurance rates across the town. 

Applications from the owners of three other units — James and Susan Wandzilak, Jim and Kim Welch, and Anthony and Janice Paratore — met similar fates. The decision will not be final until the board signs off on a determination crafted by its attorney.