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Surf Lodge Makes Case for Portable Wait Station

The Zoning Board of Appeals hears Surf Lodge's appeal.

The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals heard arguments on Tuesday debating whether a covered wait station at the Surf Lodge qualifies as an expansion of a nonconforming use.

Tuesday's hearing also challenged the determination of Town Senior Building Inspector, Tom Preiato, which states that the needs a variance and special permit for a hot dog cart and covered wait area. 

The owner, Edgemere Montauk LLC, which is embroiled in a court case and faces nearly 700 alleged violations of town code accrued last season, is attempting to legalize what Preiato referred to in his Dec. 6 determination as a "covered wait service area."

While the 686 summonses from the town continues to grab headlines as Edgemere's lawyers , Tuesday's hearing was exclusively focused.

“This appeal is a very narrow appeal, and has to do with a covered wait service area," said Alex Walter, chair of the ZBA. "We’re not going to talk about parking, music, noise, paver stones or a shed - only this.”

Surf Lodge is a pre-existing nonconforming bar and restaurant. Preiato’s decision required a natural resources special permit and variances, which caused the planning board to steer the application to the ZBA. 

In filing the appeal, Eric Bregman, counsel for the restaurant owners, described the area in question as “a four-foot high knee-wall across a U-shaped portion of the existing deck,” bordered by a pre-existing railing. He called the mobile wait station on wheels for drinks and snacks an accessory use.

At the hearing, Bregman cited town code to claim the wait station was not an expansion at all. “Pre-existing nonconforming use may continue, but may not be enlarged, reconstructed, altered or the gross floor area increased.” He said the area was the same, and the unattached wait station for seasonal use necessitated no plumbing.  “It doesn’t expand the pre-existing deck. And a NRSP is only required for building in or upon land.”

Opposed, Jeremy Samuelson, an environmental advocate with Group for the East End and Concerned Citizens of Montauk spoke for both organizations. “We believe Mr. Preiato had it exactly right,” he said. The wait station was an expansion built without approvals, and a NRSP and variances are needed due to Fort Pond’s proximity, Samuelson said.

“Eric Bregman conceded that the wait station wasn’t built at the same time as the deck,” he said, and pointed to town code, “No building or structure that is used by a nonconforming use shall be enlarged or added to…”  Samuelson explained that adding a roof or walls to a structure constitutes an expansion of its exterior dimensions.

Samuelson submitted correspondence from 2008 to 2009 between the late building inspector, Donald Sharkey, and Denise Schoen, counsel for CCOM, disputing the legality of the Certificate of Occupancy for the Surf Lodge, and expansion of non-conforming use regarding the deck. “The pool under the deck was supposed to be removed, no NRSP was given or approved, nor did the applicants go through site plan review,” he said.

“The deck is perfectly legal,” Bregman responded.  “The wait station takes away a few square feet of space that would require parking. It's actually making capacity somewhat smaller.”

The hearing was closed. The ZBA has 62 days to make a determination. 

pat April 26, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Someone should point out that the reason this wait area needs no plumbing is because the beaches of Fort Pond are usually used for that purpose by Surf Lodge patrons. What this business has got away with since it started is really quite disheartening for people who care about Montauk and play by the book.

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