The East Hampton Town Board on November 20 amended the town zoning code to strip away the ability of motel and resort owners to include grandfathered parking spaces when calculating the total number required when they are seeking site-plan approval for accessory businesses, such as bars or restaurants. Although the amendment has been opposed by several business leaders, others, including many Montauk residents, have supported the change.
The language in the amendment is specific in demanding adherence to the code in place when a permit or site-plan approval for a bar or restaurant is sought, not when the original structure was built. Many of the resorts in town predate the zoning code, which has allowed their owners to grandfather in non-conforming items, such as parking.
The issue is a major one in Montauk. For example, if the new law had been in place when the Beach House, a high-end resort in the former Ronjo Motel in downtown Montauk, developed by Chris Jones and Larry Siedlick earlier this decade, had come before the East Hampton Town Planning Board, the owners may well have had to scramble to find the required number of parking spaces on their property. Many of the parking spaces included in the calculation for the site, located on the southeast quadrant of Carl Fisher Plaza, sit in the public right of way, and not on the property itself.
The entire matter of grandfathered versus actual parking spaces on a property came to the forefront, in part, when the owners of what was once known as the Oceanside Resort, aka the Smiley Face Motel, on the western edge of downtown Montauk, now known as Hero Beach, applied for site-plan approval from the town’s planning board, to be allowed to run a bar/restaurant on the property.
Hero Beach applied for, and was granted, a liquor license by the State Liquor Authority that allows it to serve up to 499 customers on the property at any one time, despite the town’s strong statement of opposition to the application.
The current application by Hero Beach counts, in part, on including parking spaces that are not on the property itself, but rather, in the public right of way, which have been grandfathered in for the property, which predates the town’s zoning code.
The vote on the amendment was taken at the tail end of the November 20 town board meeting.
After all the other business was done by the board at that meeting, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said the board would consider a number of “walk-ons,” resolutions that are submitted after the meeting’s agenda has been published.
Councilwoman Sylvia Overby then brought forth the proposed code change. “We have had a public hearing on this. Just as a reminder to the board, we kept all comments open until November 1,” she said. “We have received quite a few of them. Most of them, I would say all of the ones I received, were in favor, and the business committee also weighed in and wasn’t unanimous, but was in favor of passing this legislation, so I’m offering this today.”
At an October 4 hearing on the resolution, almost all of the more than 20 people who spoke were in favor of the resolution, saying that the quality of life in Montauk was at stake. However, several business leaders expressed deep concern with the measure.