It took a ruling from the State Supreme Court, but c/o the Maidstone finally won approval from East Hampton Village last week to offer outdoor dining to patrons of its Living Room restaurant.
The inn’s owner, c/o the Hamptons, had an outdoor-dining application before the village’s zoning board of appeals and design review board in 2009, but the East Hampton Village Board quashed its plans by adopting a ban on new outdoor dining in residential districts that fall. The Maidstone, the Palm at the Huntting Inn, and the Hedges Inn are all in residential districts. The 1770 House, which is also in a residential zone, had gotten approval for its outdoor seating in June of 2008.
The Maidstone sued the village, the village board, and the design review and zoning boards, as well as Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., in February of 2010, claiming that the ban was unconstitutional and should not apply to the Maidstone property. The company’s attorneys in the firm Farrell Fritz of Bridgehampton alleged that the village had unfairly delayed its processing of the application in order to pass the ban and asked a judge to direct the zoning board to approve outdoor dining at the Main Street inn and restaurant.
In December, State Supreme Court Justice Melvyn Tanenbaum ruled in favor of the Maidstone, ordering the village to issue a special permit for the outdoor dining “subject to reasonable conditions” consistent with those imposed on the 1770 House.
Ordinarily, when the law changes, even those who have already applied for approvals are subject to the new rules, except “in certain instances where an applicant is entitled to a permit as a matter of right and where the administrative body has acted in bad faith,” Justice Tanenbaum wrote in his decision.
Because the village granted a special permit to “a similarly situated historic inn” — the 1770 House — and concluded in that decision that outdoor dining there “would not adversely affect the quality of life in the adjacent residential neighborhood,” it could not deny the Maidstone’s request for “identical relief,” Justice Tanenbaum wrote.
Further, he found that the village “clearly targeted [the Maidstone’s] special permit application and used the change in zoning as a mechanism to deny the relief sought.” Delays in scheduling a zoning board hearing and design review board determination “coupled with the expeditious manner” in which the board scheduled a hearing on and enacted the ban “is evidence of the respondents’ bad faith and clear intent to target and deny” the Maidstone’s permit, Justice Tanenbaum concluded.
The village is appealing the decision. “The village board felt that the judge did not give due consideration to the longstanding ability of the village board to enact legislation despite pending applications,” Larry Cantwell, the village administrator, said Tuesday.
An appeal would normally put the court’s order on hold, but after a successful motion from the Maidstone, the Appellate Division vacated the automatic stay, forcing the zoning board of appeals to approve the outdoor dining, pending the outcome of the appeal.
It did so on Friday “for the sole purpose of complying” with a State Supreme Court ruling, the determination noted. The Living Room will be able to set up 11 tables outside with no more than 34 seats. There is to be no outdoor lunch service, music, or catered parties or events. When tables are placed outside, an equal number are to be removed from the inside dining areas. The outdoor dining area is to be screened with plantings, and the Maidstone will have to erect a six-foot double fence with sound baffling along portions of the property. Finally, the outdoor dining area is to be closed to all activity, including cleanup, by 11 each night.
“I am so happy that they’ll have outdoor dining,” said Marina Van, the executive director of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce. She expressed some surprise that the outdoor dining would not include lunchtime, but applauded the decision nonetheless.
While other diners might also applaud the news, the village continues to hold out hope that it will win the case on appeal. “The village litigated the issue with the Palm and the Hedges Inn,” Mr. Cantwell said, and in both cases the court found that an “expansion of dining was an expansion of use and was not a matter of right.”
“The history of the village limiting expansion of pre-existing, nonconforming inns is an important part of this whole thing,” Mr. Cantwell said, and is motivated by concern for residential neighbors.
The inn referred questions to its corporate office, but calls to that office and to Farrell Fritz had not been returned as of press time.
In other zoning board matters, Dale Burch has withdrawn her application to construct a second kitchen in an addition to her Terbell Lane house, and Howard Schultz, the C.E.O. of Starbucks, and his wife, Sherri Schultz, got the board’s official go-ahead for an addition to their house on Gracie Lane.
With Reporting by Bridget LeRoy