The Montauk Beach House may have the right to run a poolside bar and gift shop, but before it can do so legally, it needs approval from the East Hampton Town Planning Board, and on April 3, board members were full of questions about how the two amenities play into Chris Jones and Larry Siedlick’s overall plan for their downtown resort.
“Exactly who is using the pool?” Ian Calder-Piedmont, a board member, asked the owners’ attorney, Andy Hammer of Biondo and Hammer. “I understand there are memberships that have been sold. Does that change things? Whether it is for a guest of the resort, or a guest of the guest, or somebody who is not staying there, and has somehow gotten permission to get inside. That makes a difference. There has to be a line drawn somewhere, that anybody operating a resort can’t just open a bar to anyone off the street,” he said.
In addition to renting its hotel rooms, the Beach House, which opened last summer, offers membership for the season for $1,100, entitling people to a lounge at the pool with up to three guests at preferred times, according to its Web site. There’s a discount for “locals,” who can join for only $750 (“proof of residence required”). A daily membership is $50. Rooms at the hotel range from $299 to $399 in the off-season up to $459 to $679 for a Saturday night in July.
Montauk nightlife, especially during the 2012 season, became a “hot-button issue,” said Reed Jones, the board’s chairman. “You make it sound very calm and easy, and maybe I’m at the pool and I can go get a cocktail and everything’s great, but how do you keep that boxed in, as opposed to this thing becoming the newest hotspot?” he asked Mr. Hammer.
“I would like more detail in regard to the structures and a better narrative on how it will work,” said Nancy Keeshan, a board member whose real estate office is also in downtown Montauk. “I know [the store sells] more than a toothbrush, so I’d like to know the details.”
Mr. Siedlick told the board that the owners want success, but not an excess of success. “We would destroy our own business if we let it get to that level,” he said. Two things, he said, will prevent the business from spiraling out of control: “One is that the crowd is controlled, and two is that the noise level disappears as the sun goes down.”
Mr. Hammer, at one point, called the Beach House a “family oriented place.”
The resort’s Web site describes it as “a hotel with an active environment — both day and night — that encompasses a private membership beach club and a lively outdoor bar scene within its grounds. The summer season is booked with special events including D.J.s, live music, fashion shows, and other like-minded social gatherings with one common goal: a bit of serious fun.”
It continues: “So if you are looking for a serene, tranquil — and boring — environment, may we kindly suggest that the Montauk Beach House might not be for you.”
The motel, formerly the Ronjo, could not be built today on its current site, just south of the Plaza, because that area is now zoned as a downtown business district, with hotels prohibited. But it can continue to operate as a hotel because its original construction predates current zoning.
After a Feb. 5 public hearing, the zoning board of appeals reversed a ruling by Tom Preiato, the town’s chief building inspector, that said the poolside bar and gift shop on the site were prohibited uses, then upheld his determination that both had been substantially altered or rebuilt, meaning that each structure would have to undergo a site plan review before the planning board, which is where the Beach House now finds itself.
From the beginning of the discussion last week, board members, as well as the applicants themselves, seemed a bit uncertain as to what they were supposed to debate.
A memo written by Eric Schantz, a planner with the Town Planning Department, said that it was difficult for the department to determine “what regulations/standards of the town code will be applicable” to the current application.
Mr. Schantz expressed concern in the memo that the “applicability of parking requirements is significant, in that the additional 210 square feet of retail would require two additional spaces, and the addition of a ‘tavern or bar’ would require two spaces for every three persons of rated capacity.”
However, the board appeared to be dissuaded from following that line of questioning, in part by instructions from Kathryn Santiago, the board’s attorney, who seemed to say that because the structures were not an expansion of use, the board did not need to consider the parking issues Mr. Schantz had raised in his memo.
It was the structures themselves, not the use of the structures, that the board was to consider, she told Pat Schutte, when he requested guidance.
Ms. Santiago said on Monday that she was researching the issue, and would prepare the board a memo on what exactly needed to be addressed in the current site plan review.
Mr. Hammer seemed prepared on April 3 to discuss the parking issue at length, referencing the Ross School’s construction of a tennis court and training facility in East Hampton, with additional parking added by the school on its own initiative.
The board will continue the discussion on the bar and gift shop, but it concluded a separate site plan review relating to construction of a barbecue pit and trellis on April 3. The board received one letter in opposition, from Zachary Cohen, who charged that the multiplicity of site plan review applications from the resort’s owners was “segmentation,” which would not be allowed under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.
Ms. Santiago told the board that such was not the case and the board agreed 6-0 last week, with Bob Schaeffer absent, that the plan was ready for approval. A formal vote on that element will come by the end of the month.