The Montauk Brewing Company has been serving up tastes of its signature Driftwood Ale at its headquarters across from the hamlet’s Little League Field for about a year, but so far has not been able to make the ale on site. Now the partners, Joe Sullivan, Eric Moss, and Vaughan Cutillo, all graduates of East Hampton High School, want to make the brewery just that, installing the equipment needed to make Driftwood Ale truly made in Montauk.
But doing so triggered the need for a site plan review by the East Hampton Town Planning Board, which got its first taste of what the young entrepreneurs have in mind on Jan. 16 and seemed to like it.
The small brewing company is in a former woodworking shop opposite Zebrowski Field. Their plan, presented to the board by the owners’ representatives, Andy Hammer and Tara Burke Powers, seemed to go down smoothly until the subject of parking bubbled up.
According to the evaluation prepared for the board by Eric Schantz, a town planner, the plan lacked needed parking calculations, called for under town code. Mr. Schantz wrote that it appeared that three additional parking spaces would be needed on the site. However, there is no place on the already developed property to put the parking spaces.
The town code makes a provision for situations like the one facing the fledgling company, where it is not possible to create additional spaces on the site, by allowing the owners to pay into a fund to create parking spaces elsewhere.
However, according to Mr. Hammer, the cost of such a payment, which he said could be as high as $70,000 in this particular case, would be prohibitive for a startup venture such as the Montauk Brewing Company. He suggested, instead, that the board grant an easement, allowing the owners to use the municipal parking lot, which is adjacent to the building, in its parking calculations.
Mr. Hammer told the board that he frequently coached Little League in the park, and had never seen a problem with the parking. He explained that the actual traffic generated by the brewery, which only had a tasting room open to the public in its first year, was not going to change.
“We’re putting brewing equipment in the back. The public isn’t going to have access to it,” he said. “The easement could be solely dependent on the current use,” he suggested, meaning that if the brewery closed, the site would forfeit the easement he was requesting.
“We could go in two directions on this. One, fees in lieu of parking, two, grant an easement to allow the business to use the town parking,” said Reed Jones, the board’s chairman.
This particular easement is unusual in that, because it involves municipal land, it would require the town board’s approval.
The proposed easement was discussed at a town board meeting on Jan. 15 and had received bipartisan support, although a formal vote was not taken.
Several planning board members expressed support for the project, too. Nancy Keeshan, who grew up in Montauk, told the board that it was important to support local people taking on the risks of a startup business, and suggested that the attorneys for the town and the applicants sit down and work out a deal, an idea Bob Schaeffer supported as well.
However, Patrick Schutte cautioned the board about the dangers of granting the easement, something he said had been denied to previous applicants in similar situations.
“I can name 10 other applicants who had to pay into it. I don’t think that legally we can do that, the town board can do that. I don’t think the town board or we can grant an easement on this,” he said.
While supporting the endeavor, Ian Calder-Piedmonte, another board member, was also concerned about the easement. “If we did it for this business, then we’d have to do it for anybody near municipal parking,” he said.
He cautioned the board to look beyond the immediate implications, and remember that its decision would hold sway in perpetuity. He then suggested scheduling the fee payments over a five-year period, to make it easier for the applicant.
“I think we want to be helpful to the applicant,” Mr. Jones said. “We’re talking 150 parking spaces within 100 yards.”
Mr. Hammer reminded the board of the time factor. The applicants are hoping to have the brewery running in time for the hectic summer season.
The board agreed, and said the application was complete, save for the easement question, which will have to be worked out. A hearing on the application will be scheduled the next time the board meets.