Committee Declares War Over Club, Store
On his first visit to the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee as its newly appointed town board liaison, East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione got an earful of complaints Monday, the majority of them concerning the hamlet’s Surf Lodge restaurant and 7-Eleven store.
Committee members were furious and confronted the councilman — at times quite angrily — saying the town board was not being aggressive enough toward the owners of both establishments, especially the Surf Lodge, which was cited with 686 town code violations between May 28 and Sept. 16. The allegations range from problems with a boutique to a lack of a building permit to illegal clearing of wetlands and overcrowding, plus a fire code violation.
Moreover, the club’s popularity has caused a number of traffic problems, with patrons parking and walking all over Edgemere Road and down Industrial Road, often parking on homeowners’ lawns. Last summer the town posted no-parking signs in various areas on both roads.
Committee members called for a review of the two establishments by Tom Preiato, the senior building inspector. Of the 7-Eleven, they said, an earlier certificate of occupancy was issued in error by Don Sharkey, a former building inspector, and should have required a site plan review. Marilyn Behan, who recently ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the town board, called the convenience store’s parking lot a mess — dusty, crumbly, and unsafe.
“I’m really surprised the town hasn’t addressed that,” she said. “It’s an issue the town board has to address.”
Committee members laughingly recalled a visit from Pete Ferraro, the building’s owner, several years ago. He had promised them a nice landscaping project at the site and even produced plans for that proposal in order to gain their support for the project, without ever mentioning a 7-Eleven, they said. At the time he said he was envisioning a furniture store.
“We have to get the town to realize the determination was made in error,” John Chimples, a committee member, said.
“If there is so much trouble there, I’m surprised people are using it,” answered Mr. Stanzione, who was told that the business is mostly frequented by nonresidents and out-of-town visitors.
As for the Surf Lodge, committee members believe it was required to receive a permit to fill in a pool that was then covered with a deck overlooking Fort Pond. Had they applied for the deck it would have triggered a site plan review, said Richard Kahn, a retired attorney and the chairman of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk’s legal committee.
“That was a mistake. How could this deck be put on top of a swimming pool without a permit?” he asked. “If this new building inspector would reinspect it, he would find it should never have been permitted. If he says it was a mistake, then the whole Surf Lodge thing goes away.”
“There is no time limit on any agency of the town to correct a mistake,” he said, referring to past claims that the time to challenge such a determination had expired. “Mr. Preiato can reverse the determination; there is no statute of limitations. If he reverses that decision the problem goes away. The Surf Lodge has demonstrated contempt for the town, which so far has lay down with its legs spread.”
The committee also thought it was a good idea to tell the State Liquor Authority about the nightclub’s many outstanding violations. The information could be used against the club when its liquor permit is up for renewal, members said.
Mr. Stanzione told the group of the tactics being used by the Surf Lodge attorneys to stall court-mandated appearances, often by not showing up or being unprepared. “They have excellent lawyers who are playing games. They will litigate until the cows come home,” he said.
He suggested the committee focus on the club’s proximity to Fort Pond and make it an environmental issue. “That’s the best opportunity; use Fort Pond as leverage,” he said.
According to Julie Brumm of the C.C.O.M., the pond has already been tested, and the results found that it was highly contaminated.
The attorneys for the Surf Lodge are expected to be back in town court for a hearing on Monday. A group of committee members are planning to be there. “The fact that we are there in numbers will show the court that Montauk is represented,” Raymond Cortell said.