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‘Spite fence’ still standing in Cutchogue, extended to street

It’s been four months since a wooden fence was constructed that blocks the Old Town Arts & Crafts Guild’s access from its own parking area to an adjacent municipal lot off Main Road in Cutchogue.

In November, guild president Bob Kuhne said he hoped the fence would be taken down, but it’s since been extended all the way to the street.

The thought is that the fence was erected as retaliation for the guild’s opposition to a proposed expansion of the neighboring shopping center owned by the Terp family, Mr. Kuhne said Monday, adding that he’s disappointed to see the barrier still standing.

Around the time the fence appeared, Southold Town notified the Terps that it might constitute a violation of a specific section of town code. Since the fence has not been removed — and has been extended — the town will now take additional action, according to town attorney Bill Duffy, who characterized the barrier in November as a “spite fence.”

“We tried working it out with their attorney and they never got back to us, so we moved ahead and we served them summonses,” Mr. Duffy said.

The violation involves conducting site work on the shopping center property without Planning Board permission, while that board reviews a related site plan application, Mr. Duffy said. That application proposes replacing the current 2,100-square-foot Main Road building with a 5,600-square-foot structure divided into five storefronts. Guild members had addressed the Planning Board with concerns about the size of the proposed structure and potential sewage impacts, Mr. Kuhne said.

The Terps lease the land the municipal lot sits on to the town and that agreement describes a pre-existing easement that prevents any construction from blocking the path between that lot and the guild’s parking area, according to Mr. Kuhne.

Terp family attorney Stephen Pinzino previously claimed they had the right to set up the fence, according to Mr. Duffy, because no written copy of the easement can be found.

All the nonprofit guild wants, Mr. Kuhne said, is for the fence to be taken down, as the main concern is safety. The guild’s own lot is too small for emergency vehicles to turn around. The easement allowed another exit point for visitors, potentially avoiding accidents with cars turning off Main Road into the guild’s one-lane driveway, and offered better access to a handicap ramp, he said.

“It’s mainly a safety hazard,” Mr. Kuhne said. “I can’t stress it enough.”

Mr. Pinzino declined comment this week.

Photo caption: The fence that now extends to Main Road. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

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