Polishing Plans For Car Wash

It will never fly, competing owner claims
Durell Godfrey

    Plans are in the works for a second car wash in Amagansett, just a few hundred yards west of one operated by V&V Auto.
    Philip Franks, an executive with Rush Car Wash, a company that runs car wash plants elsewhere on Long Island, wants to build one east of the Amagansett I.G.A., on the thin sliver of land between the Amagansett Seafood Store and a restaurant building that has been vacant for many years.
    Although the proposal is a preliminary one, lacking details on parking and noise abatement, for example, Mr. Franks told the East Hampton Town Planning Board on Jan. 16 that he is excited about it. “In my travels, many people talk about recycling. This is a closed-loop system, with 100 percent recycling,” Mr. Franks said, explaining that not a drop of the car wash water goes into the environment, and that the 2,500 gallons of water needed to run the wash would be self-contained and self-cleaned. He also said that well water would not be involved, and that the water would be trucked out and changed four times a year.
    The board is now familiar with some of the challenges a car wash can present, including parking, noise, and environmental concerns, having discussed a preliminary site plan in September for a car wash in Wainscott, on the old Star Room restaurant site at Montauk Highway and East Gate Road.
    The applicants for the Wainscott car wash have yet to present the board with a second, formal site plan proposal.
    The board did not discuss, in any detail, the fact that there already is a car wash in the hamlet. Victor DePietro, an owner of V&V Auto, was not at the meeting but had heard about the proposal and questioned the number of uses permitted on the property.
    Because it is zoned for commercial use, two uses are permitted.
    But it is unclear, even to the Town Planning Department, whether the site is part of a larger parcel of land or stands on its own. Tyler Borsack, a environmental technician for the town, noted in a summary of the preliminary application that the larger property, which would include the restaurant, the proposed car wash site, and land east of the restaurant, underwent two subdivisions in 1981 and 1983, but said that it appears that these subdivisions were never finalized. “At this point in time the town recognizes one lot,” he wrote.
    Mr. DePietro said Tuesday he is skeptical about the application’s chances for success. “What they’re proposing there, they’re looking at a couple of million dollars. You’ve got to wash a lot of cars” to make that back, he said.  “You can’t make enough money. There are not enough cars,” he said. 
    He is also troubled by the applicant’s environmental claims, pointing out that Mr. Franks had told the board that the water would be replaced only three or four times a year. “We do it every three or four weeks,” he said.
    The planning board encouraged Mr. Franks to work on the plan and come back with more details.
    Also at the Jan. 16 meeting, the board discussed Leonard Weyerbacher and Barbara LaMonda’s plan to divide a 70,000-square-foot lot on Springs-Fireplace Road, which has a house on it, into two lots, one 40,000 square feet, the other, 30,000.
    Laurie Wiltshire of Land Planning Services told the planning board that the couple had thought they were buying two lots when they purchased the land. Indeed, according to Mr. Borsack’s evaluation of the proposed subdivision, the property was originally two separate lots. However, because they were owned by the same person and because the smaller of the two did not meet the minimum 40,000-square-foot lot size required under zoning in that neighborhood, the two had been merged.
    Ms. Wiltshire said she had spoken to the town’s chief building inspector, Tom Preiato, and had followed his advice procedurally, in clearing up what they both thought was a clerical error. However, the town attorney, John Jilnicki, informed her of the lot merger.
    Ms. Wiltshire presented the subdivision proposal to the board as a re-drawing of the property lines, but the board did not see it that way.
    Ian Calder-Piedmonte said that if it were that simple, he would be in favor of it, but because the legal determination had been made that it was now one lot, not two, he could not support it. “I think your best plan of attack, if you feel you have legal grounds, is to show that these are two lots,” he said.
    While sympathetic to the couple’s situation, the board was skeptical about the proposal.
    “I do think you’d be increasing density. I don’t think you want to add more density to that area,” said J.P. Foster.
    Reed Jones pointed out that the 30,000-square-foot lot would require a major variance from the zoning board of appeals. The board voted unanimously to allow the zoning board to become the lead agency reviewing the proposal.
    The board was more supportive of Catherine and Rodney Lederer-Plasket’s application to divide their 16.26-acre property on Neck Path in Springs. In 2004, the Lederer-Plaskets built a 3,500-square-foot house near the middle of the long, narrow, rectangular property. They now plan to create three building lots plus a more than eight-acre reserved area, which would be contiguous to reserves to the east and west of the site.
    “This is very well thought out,” said Patrick Schutte.
    The board wanted to be sure that there would be access to the reserve if the land were given to the town.
    After a tiny bit of tweaking by the applicants, as suggested by JoAnne Pahwul, an assistant planning director, the plan will be scheduled for a public hearing at a future board meeting.
    Continuing a discussion from Jan. 9, the board also debated a town code requirement that two acres be the minimum area for an agricultural business. Two weeks ago, board members suggested the minimum be reduced to one acre.
    “In principle, I like the idea of replacing the two acre requirement with one acre,” Mr. Calder-Piedmonte, who runs a small farm business himself, said last week. “However, if we do relax it, I want to make sure that what is going on there is agricultural.” Driving around town, you notice several agricultural reserve areas that are not actually being used for agricultural purposes, he said. Also, he expressed a concern that what is sold at farm stands in the town is sometimes not grown on the property. The board will continue to discuss the matter.
    The board also scheduled a hearing for a plan to create outdoor seating at the East by Northeast restaurant on Edgemere Road in Montauk for Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.