Not Quite Out of the Woods

A bar and retail conversion at the Montauk Beach House was the subject of discussion by the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday. T.E. McMorrow

    The Beach House, a hotel and playground for the well-sandaled young in downtown Montauk, can keep its bar, and its gift shop, too, but will probably have to go through some form of site plan review.
    On Tuesday night, the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals considered an appeal by the hotel’s owners, Chris Jones and Larry Siedlick, against Tom Preiato’s determination that a poolside bar and a small kiosk-type building being used as a gift shop lack the proper permits and must be shut down.
    Mr. Prieato, the town’s head building inspector, noted among other things that “the service bar is being used as a general public bar, a use not approved for the structure.”
    At a public hearing the week before, the resort’s attorney had introduced a prior case, Gauthier v. the Village of Larchmont, in which a court ruled that a bar is an accepted use by a hotel. The zoning board quickly agreed with that on Tuesday. But while the bar’s existence was deemed acceptable, the question of how it got there was another matter.
    Mr. Preiato told the board at the hearing that the bar, or part of it anyway, had been razed and then rebuilt. That, the board concurred this week, would trigger the need for a site plan, as would the conversion of a shed into the aforementioned gift shop, since the buildings had been changed.
    Although ruling against Mr. Preiato’s determination,  “We’re not giving them carte blanche,” said Alex Walter, the Z.B.A. chairman. “They can have these uses. That doesn’t exempt them from a site plan.”
    The board tabled the matter for one week to allow its attorney, Robert Connelly, time to craft the determination.
    Actions on two other controversial properties were tabled as well, after some heated debate.
    The two properties are both in Amagansett but far apart, one on Gardiner’s Bay and the other by the Atlantic. Michael Patrick’s parcel is at 295 Cranberry Hole Road; Stephen Ruvitusso’s is on Ocean Lane in Beach Hampton.
    The Cranberry Hole Road proposal would replace an existing house with a bigger one of 3,457 square feet with decking, which would require numerous variances from wetland and coastal setbacks, along with a natural resources special permit. The Beach Hampton plan would add 653 square feet to the first floor, a 227-square-foot dormer, a 19-square-foot entranceway, and 101 square feet of roof deck. Multiple wetland variances are needed along with a height variance and a natural resources special permit.
    Both properties are in wetland areas, and therefore “constrained,” according to Mr. Walter, meaning that any new construction would need relief from various setback regulations.
    Coincidentally, both parcels had been before the board in 1986, their owners seeking approval for the current structures. Mr. Walter noted that the 1986 board had pondered the proper size of the house on each lot, and he warned against ignoring its finding, while not ruling out approval of the requested variances.
    The arguments pro and con were similar for the two properties.
    “I think this proposal could be scaled back,” Lee White said of the Beach Hampton proposal. Of the Cranberry Road house, he said, “They could do a better job.”
    Don Cirillo argued for granting all the variances as requested for both properties, arguing that expanding the existing footprints did not constitute a major increase.
    Sharon McCobb remarked that she had tried to review the Cranberry Hole Road hearing but much of the debate had taken place away from the podium and was thus lost. Mr. Walter encouraged the board members to visit both the properties; in the meantime the applications were tabled.
    The zoning board did approve three applications on Tuesday. Ulises Licaega can keep the deck he replaced on his Ocean Lane property. He’d told the board on Feb. 5 that he didn’t realize it had never received a certificate of occupancy.
    Michael Burns can replace his mobile home in the Montauk Shores Condominium complex, the board decided, and Mr. Burns will be allowed to build the six-foot-wide deck he requested.  The deck had engendered some concern from members because of its proximity to an oceanfront bluff that is eroding.
    “The fear is, approving something that is going to drop into the ocean,” Ms. McCobb said. In the end, though, the deck was seen as a relatively small request that already had the blessing of the condominium board.
    Finally, a house on Gerard Drive in Springs, owned by Barbara Kruger, can be pulled back on the property and raised four feet to meet FEMA regulations and to protect it from the ever encroaching waters of Gardiner’s Bay. The board had actually suggested to Ms. Kruger that she pull the house even further back from the bay, but after consideration she declined, citing the additional time that would be required.
    The board approved all three applications unanimously except for the mobile home. Mr. White voted against that one.