Candy Bar, Spielberg Win Okays

Suppose Dylan Lauren of Dylan’s Candy Bar and Steven Spielberg of “Jaws” were in a local news story. What would it be about? The proceedings of the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals. At its meeting Friday, the board agreed that Dylan’s Candy Bar can sell hand-scooped ice cream and that accessory structures on the film director’s property here could remain where they are. 

Andrew Goldstein, the former chairman of the zoning board who represented the candy and fudge store, had argued at a previous meeting that a prior tenant, Nuts About Chocolate, was a legal, pre-existing nonconforming use of the Main Street store and had been allowed to continue operating there until Dylan’s opened in 2006. The sale of hand-scooped ice cream cones was simply an extension of the nonconforming use, Mr. Goldstein said.

Despite earlier fears about setting a precedent and increased litter, the board granted Dylan’s a permit to extend the nonconforming use, although several conditions were attached. The sidewalk in front of the shop must be power-washed at least once daily, the store must install and regularly empty garbage receptacles, and Dylan’s must get approval for the use from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services prior to ice cream sales and the issuance of any building permit for interior changes.

The permit restricts ice cream sales to a specific area of the store and approval “shall not be construed to . . . allow over-the-counter sales of any other food product, other than candy or ice cream.”  

Mr. Spielberg’s 5.5-acre property on Apaquogue Road is sufficiently large and shielded by a fence, tall hedges, and mature trees so that a garage and storage structure, a horse washing area, and a tree house, which are all within the required 80-foot front yard setback, do not affect his neighbors or the character of the neighborhood, the board decided. Setback variances were granted for the pre-existing structures.

The applicant had also appealed a village building inspector’s finding that the conversion of several garage bays in a secondary dwelling to bedrooms and bathrooms, which are not permitted in accessory buildings, required a special permit. The board denied the appeal but nevertheless said the extension of the dwellings could proceed, despite its collective belief that a building permit issued for the work prior to the conversion had been in error.

On another matter, the board began a hearing on the proposed change of use of the building that most recently housed the Players Club, a restaurant, at 103 Montauk Highway. The applicant is Demar Holdings. The property is zoned for residences, but the plan is to sell it to Landscape Details, a provider of gardening, landscaping, and masonry services based in Sag Harbor.

In addition to the restaurant building, the property contains two pre-existing cottages. Michael Derrig of Landscape Details told the board that he also plans to move three 12-by-16-foot design studios to the property for use by his staff. Much of the existing parking lot would be eliminated and the land revegetated, with the addition of a garden. No trucks or materials would be stored on the site, he said.

Neighbors had complained about noise and late-night traffic to and from the restaurant, and Jeff Bregman, an attorney representing the owner, referred to a protracted dispute between his client and the restaurant operator that resulted in the termination of its lease. Jonathan Tarbet, an attorney representing Landscape Details, described the proposal as “an exciting project . . . one of those where it does have the ability to greatly enhance the situation.”

“It was a nightmare there,” said Lys Marigold, a board member. “This looks like a huge improvement for the neighbors.”

However, because the building has been vacant for more than a year, the board must consider whether the property’s pre-existing nonconforming use has lapsed, Linda Riley, the village’s attorney, said. “The request is to change pre-existing to more conforming. However, code provides that at a certain point pre-existing uses may be effectively abandoned.”

Mr. Bregman argued that, despite the restaurant’s not being in operation in 2013, a record of activity could be produced to demonstrate that the business continued to exist. He called the proposal “a much more acceptable use to the village,” while Mr. Tarbet called it “much closer to residential use.”

Ms. Riley said that a submission on the abandonment issue, as well as a State Environmental Quality Review Act determination, were needed before the board could proceed. The hearing will continue at the board’s meeting on Sept. 12.