10/18/13 10:30am
10/18/2013 10:30 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | A proposal to allow outside guests to eat at the Blue Inn in East Marion has local community association members concerned.

The Blue Inn in East Marion is hoping to open its restaurant to outside guests but the people who live closest to the motel say they aren’t happy about that plan.

Blue Inn owner Sam Glass, an attorney from Hempsted, has requested a special exception from the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals to expand service at the current restaurant to outside guests. Currently, the Blue Inn is permitted to serve food and drinks only to guests of the year-round motel.

Under the new plan, Mr. Glass is proposing to open the restaurant to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from June 1 through Labor Day. No outdoor music would be played after 9 p.m. and the bar would close at 11 p.m., according to the application. Small events would also be permitted until 9 p.m., under the proposal.

It’s a plan that does not sit well with nearby residents.

“Our priority is to maintain East Marion as a quiet and peaceful hamlet,” said Anne Murray, vice president of the East Marion Community Association. “The town needs to be careful when weighing [the needs of the] business and community.”

Neighbors said the new plan is reminiscent of concerns they had about the motel under its previous ownership, when the restaurant was open to the public. In a letter sent to the ZBA in mid-September, neighbors Joseph Zizzo and Maria Capotorto said the motel functioned like an “illegally constructed outdoor nightclub” under the previous owner, who sold the motel to Mr. Glass more than two years ago.

The letter goes on to recount instances of drunken guests arguing and wandering into neighboring yards.

“It was a torturous time for East Marion,” Ms. Murray said.

The community association’s concerns about the motel helped lead the push to pass Southold Town’s first noise ordinance nearly three years ago.

In a 2011 interview with The Suffolk Times, Mr. Glass said he had no knowledge of the controversy when he purchased The Blue Inn. He could not be reached for comment for this story.

In a letter to the ZBA last month, he said he was also unaware that an agreement he signed with the town in 2011, which categorized the restaurant as an accessory use to the motel, would not allow it to be open to the public.

Mr. Glass said in the same letter that opening the restaurant to the public is necessary to sustain the business.

“Only having 29 rooms does not allow enough guests to dine with us to keep the restaurant active,” he wrote. “It has been our experience that guests alone will not suffice. We need local support.”

Mr. Glass said the request for a special exception is meant to help keep the business afloat, not transform the property into a bar scene.

Presently, The Blue Inn’s restaurant has a 48-person capacity and Mr. Glass said he doesn’t intend to have more diners than that at any time.

Still, the East Marion Community Association is not convinced the past won’t repeat itself.

Members believe opening the restaurant to the public would increase traffic, late night activities and noise, all of which they feel are inappropriate for the residential hamlet.

While recognizing that the town has received no formal complaints regarding the Blue Inn since it’s been owned by Mr. Glass, members say that doesn’t guarantee it would remain that way should the restaurant be opened to the public.

They said the quiet installation of a tiki bar is a sign that things are about to change at the motel.

“Once Mr. Glass gets a taste of the revenue from the bar, which promises to be lucrative, it will be very difficult for him to turn away paying customers who just want to stop in for a drink,” East Marion resident Joseph Zizzo told the ZBA. “It would not be in his interests as a businessman.”

The current application before the ZBA calls for enclosing the existing outdoor patio with netting or plastic covering to protect guests from insects and inclement weather, while surrounding the existing deck with a temporary three-and-a-half foot wall so that people will not slip off.

A parking attendant would also be hired to manage traffic generated by patrons, Mr. Glass told the ZBA.

If he were to sell the restaurant, a future owner would have to refile for a special exception if they wanted to open the restaurant to the public year-round, said Vicki Toth, assistant to the ZBA.

The board closed the public hearing last week and expects to make a decision on the application in early November.

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09/27/13 5:00pm
09/27/2013 5:00 PM

FILE PHOTO | Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue.

When the Southold Zoning Board of Appeals took up winery regulations during a special public hearing Thursday night the discussion wasn’t intended to focus on issued at Vineyard 48.

But that’s what happened.

At the request of the Planning board, the ZBA was asked to evaluate existing codes that define what constitutes a winery.

Specifically, the board was asked to determine if the use of a tasting room as a “dance and, or social club” was permissible  and if a retail cigar shop was an acceptable accessory shop at a vineyard, Planing Board chair Leslie Weisman said.

Both elements have become a common practice Vineyard 48.

The Cutchogue vineyard’s business practices have prompted investigations by both the town and the State Liquor Authority following a host of complaints, including loud music and patrons allegedly wandering onto neighboring properties and having sex in public.

Admittedly, Ms. Weisman said the hearing was prompted by Vineyard 48’s latest site change proposal.

The revised plan includes a new layout for the existing parking area along with the creation of an overflow lot with 100 additional spaces. Additionally, it calls for the construction of a 40-by-100-foot outdoor pavilion with two walls. The pavilion is designed as a permanent structure that would replace the temporary tents, which town officials have said are being used without permits.

But Ms. Weisman insisted the Planning Board’s request for clarification on the current town code did not specifically pertain to the controversial vineyard.

“The Planning Board is prohibited from approving a site plan that is not permitted by code,” she said. “We are not going to revisit [Vineyard 48 concerns.] This isn’t about Vineyard 48. We are here to look at the bigger picture. We are not here to write legislation, we are here to interpret code.”

Still, commenters on both sides of the Vineyard 48 aisle couldn’t get by the elephant in the room.

“I respectfully disagree with the idea that this is ‘town-wide’,” Vineyard 48 attorney Patricia Moore said.  “You can’t separate the two.”

During previous public hearings regarding the amended site plan, Ms. Moore called the town a “bully” for making an example out of Vineyard 48.

Attorney William Moore, Ms. Moore’s husband who also represents Vineyard 48, echoed that sentiment during Thursday’s hearing.

“It’s not a genuine request; it’s a loaded question,” he said. “The planning board laid out the questions for you. What it did in its request was make characterizations [of Vineyard 48] that you are saying are facts. This is an ad hoc way of going about this and it’s not the way it should be done.”

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell has previously said it’s “no secret” the town disapproves of Vineyard 48’s business practices and attempted several times to tame the winery’s operation with legislation.

This summer the town passed a special events law to give the town more control over events held at wineries — most notably at Vineyard 48. A few weeks later the town swiftly passed a parking ban on the North Road near Vineyard 48.

But the legislation has done little to curb the the vineyard’s practices, Horseshoe Lane resident Bill Shipman said.

“It’s been years of torment and town government doesn’t have a set plan,” Mr. Shipman said. “We haven’t been given information and we’re wondering where justice is.”

While Vineyard 48 is in litigation with the State Liquor Authority, it is permitted to remain open — even with an expired liquor license.

As the legal battles remain at a standstill, neighbors of the Cutchogue winery wait in the balance.

They argued Thursday that wineries that operate like Vineyard 48 are not true to the town’s current regulations that wineries should primarily sell products made from grapes grown on site and have a minimum of 10 acres dedicated to vineyards or other agricultural purposes.

“That is not agriculture,” said Laurie Helinski, who lives in the home closest to the vineyard and claims the business is lowering property values. “They’re not there tasting wine, they’re drunk. More wineries are going to be forced to have business practices like this because it’s a cash cow.

“The reputation in Southold is becoming a party town. Families like us are leaving in droves,” she continued. “A dance party is not agriculture. There are a lot of tobacco farms in Virginia. There isn’t one here. A cigar shop is not local agriculture.”

After two hours of discussion, the ZBA closed the hearing without making a decision.

“The majority of vineyards are in favor of an operation that are more family orientated and groups of people that are there to enjoy the winery, the sun and the grapes,” said ZBA member Gerard Goehringer. “Those are the areas I am going to focus on when I make my decision.”

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05/02/13 3:00pm
05/02/2013 3:00 PM

A New Suffolk home at Kimogenor Point has been cleared to move forward by the Southold Zoning Board of Appeals after several hearings on the legality of its construction.

The Town building department previously ruled the construction had exceeded the scope of a July 2012 ZBA decision allowing a renovation that would preserve at least 25 percent of the original structure. The building department’s determination classified the construction as a demolition, the difference being that under a demolition the applicants would be required to file for a new variance.

The home replaces a previous structure that stood on the bayfront site until last year. It became a temporary landmark last fall after most of the home was removed and the top floor raised up on wooden cribbing following Hurricane Sandy.

During a walk through of the site last month board members discovered 26.2 percent of the original structure remained intact. That evaluation was upheld by the building department.

Renovations on the home will continue as cited in the original building plans.

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05/01/13 5:00pm
05/01/2013 5:00 PM

The house under construction on Kimogenor Point in New Suffolk will be the subject of a continuing hearing before the Southold Zoning Board of Appeals Thursday morning.

The building replaces a previous structure that stood on that bayfront site until last year.  The house became a temporary landmark last fall after most of the structure was removed and the top floor raised up on wooden cribbing following superstorm Sandy.

The hearing follows the town building department’s ruling that the construction goes beyond the scope of a July 2012 ZBA decision allowing a renovation that would preserve at least 25 percent of the building. The building department ruled the project was actually a demolition. The difference being that under a demolition the applicants, Dan and Jacqueline Bingham, must file for a new variance.

The hearing begins at Town Hall at 9:30 a.m.

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09/22/11 12:45pm
09/22/2011 12:45 PM

Neighbors of a proposed riding academy on Ackerly Pond Lane in Southold aren’t happy with the prospect of a large new facility, which they fear would introduce a commercial atmosphere into a residential area.

The plan is currently before both the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board.

The 10-acre property, currently a horse farm, is owned by William Bergrath, but Brian Glenn and Lucille Sullivan of Riverhead plan to buy the farm, which has a small farmhouse and three barns. They plan to add a 14,400-square-foot indoor arena and a 5,200-square-foot barn.

The proposal would require a special exemption permit and a variance from the Zoning Board, in addition to site plan review by the Planning Board. Although the ZBA could vote on the variance as soon as next month, the special exemption permit awaits review by the Planning Board, which is leading the environmental review. A public hearing before the Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m.

In documents submitted with their applications, Mr. Glenn and Ms. Sullivan said they intend to board 10 horses on the site, but neighbors are skeptical that such a large facility will house just 10 animals.

“Miss Sullivan and Mr. Glenn are planning to invest over $1 million in the purchase of the property and then invest hundreds of thousands more for the proposed buildings,” said neighbors Edwin and Nancy Ward in a letter to the ZBA opposing the project.

“Therefore, it’s likely that the figures that Miss Sullivan presented at the hearing to describe the volume of business that she expects are much lower than the actual numbers that the residential neighborhood will experience if the business is allowed to proceed as planned.”

Ms. Sullivan said she and Mr. Glenn plan to be better neighbors than the property’s current owners. She said they and their environmental consultants submitted a detailed report to the ZBA last week on how they plan to improve the property.

“Most of the neighbors’ concerns center around the current management. We’ve submitted a comprehensive plan to clean up and renovate the property,” she said, adding that the plan includes details about manure disposal, repairing fences and other neighborhood concerns.

Neighbor Mary Peters purchased one of three three-acre lots that were subdivided from the farm in 1991. She said part of the attraction of moving there was the proximity to a farm she believed would never be built up.

“I don’t understand why the board is even entertaining this,” she said. “In 1991, the Planning Board said over and over that they must maintain the open space.”

Ms. Peters said she paid $5,000 for a conservation easement on the side of her property facing the horse farm, in part to ensure that the area would retain its rural character.

“We’re all for horses and agriculture,” she said. “I’ll take dust, flies and the smell of manure, but a horse does not produce a riding lesson. That’s commerce, not agriculture. I can grow potatoes on my property. Does that mean I should apply for a potato chip factory?”

Also at issue for three neighbors, including the Wards and Ms. Peters, is a common driveway that they all share, which also serves as the access road to the horse farm. Ms. Peters said that children frequently play in the driveway, which she is afraid will now be used by many students of the riding academy, as well as 18-wheeler supply trucks.

The applicants do not have enough property to run a riding academy without a ZBA variance. According to Southold’s zoning laws, one use is permitted per 10 acres of agricultural land. A farm and a riding academy would be two separate uses.

Ms. Sullivan said she believes that she and Mr. Glenn will make the neighborhood a better place.

“We intend to be a responsible neighbor,” she said in a letter to the Zoning Board. “It is our belief that, over time, the neighbors will come to experience an overall improvement in the property and the quality of their lives.”

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05/24/11 12:15pm
05/24/2011 12:15 PM

Many of the same neighbors whose objections last spring blocked a subdivision at 216 Monsell Place in Greenport are back to try to stop another project the same developer has for the lot.

Thomas Spurge asked the Zoning Board of Appeals May 18 for a use variance to build a two-story accessory garage with an apartment on the second floor.

The structure is proposed to be 25 feet by 75 feet, although Mr. Spurge said last week he would be willing to scale it back. The property is in an R-1 district that permits one-family detached dwellings, not to exceed one residence per lot.

Neighbors expressed skepticism that Mr. Spurge, who owns five village properties, would add only one dwelling above the garage. Some fear the creation of a second apartment on the ground floor, which should be garage space.

ZBA members are concerned that not everyone who should have been notified of last week’s public meeting received the required letters. They want to expand the current notification requirement, which involves alerting people on the same block, to include everyone within a 250-foot radius of the property. They also want time to review requirements for rendering a use variance.

Village law says that to gain a variance, an applicant must prove that current zoning blocks a sufficient return on investment.

Neighbors have argued that Mr. Spurge’s lot is too small to accommodate his building and that the application is little more than an attempt to overcome last June’s defeat of his effort to subdivide his lot. At that time, he wanted to create two substandard lots.

After last year’s denial, Mr. Spurge warned he might go to court to try to try to overturn the decision, but no case has materialized.

Mr. Spurge, who said he’s been portrayed as an interloper who doesn’t care about the village, maintained he has improved properties and that the unit he’s proposing above the garage would provide affordable housing for a single person or a couple.

His agent, architect Rob Brown of Fairweather-Brown, said he’s “perplexed” at people complaining about Mr. Spurge’s effort to create an affordable apartment. He also he objected to a description by one neighbor, who said the planned building would be “ticky-tacky.”

“My designs have been called a lot of things, but ‘ticky-tacky’ is not one of them,” the architect said. He and Mr. Spurge maintain the village has been encouraging the creation of affordable housing units.

The board deferred further action until a second public hearing is held in June.

The ZBA also deferred action on two other applications.

The board called for an accurate site plan before acting on Ali Sahin’s application for a variance for the construction of a canopy over the gasoline pumps at Mr. Robert’s on the northwest corner of Front and Third streets.

Board members also want to take a look at signage at Trader Bill’s in Sterlington Commons before deciding whether to approve a change in the lighting.

All three applications are expected to be back on the ZBA agenda June 15.

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05/03/11 12:03pm
05/03/2011 12:03 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Iron Skillet co-owner Bob Hartz on the porch of the restaurant.

This may well be the end of the Iron Skillet’s Sunday antique flea markets on Love Lane.

Last week, Iron Skillet restaurant co-owner Bob Hartz received a decision from the Southold Zoning Board of Appeals that granted him and co-owner Mary Ann Price the right to continue their warm weather fair, but with restrictions they feel are so onerous they might not be able to hold the flea markets.

Instead of every weekend, the decision requires they hold the sales no more than one day per month, and on a Saturday instead of a Sunday. Mr. Hartz said this week that antique vendors usually procure their goods on Saturdays and reserve Sundays to participate in fairs.

“Sunday is the lynch-pin day,” Mr. Hartz said. “I was expecting vendors this Sunday, and I had to cancel the whole thing.”

“It’s like the Monty Python skit where they’re in a cheese shop and everything is cheap, but they’re out of all the cheese,” he said of the decision.

The Zoning Board decision states that “this board expresses an intent to preserve the relative tranquility typical of a residential neighborhood during Sundays” by requiring that the sales be held on Saturdays.

Mr. Hartz and Ms. Price have been holding flea markets on Sundays during the warm weather months for nine years, since before they opened their small restaurant at the site in 2005. The first year, they went to the Zoning Board looking for a special exception use permit for the flea market. While they were given permission to run the sales for one year, they never reapplied and the market was never questioned by the town until last fall, when the town’s code enforcement officer, following up on anonymous complaints, ordered them to stop the sales until they received the permit.

The Iron Skillet is zoned for business, but flea markets are not listed among the uses allowed in the town code and business owners must receive special exemption permits to hold them.

The Zoning Board decision also requires that the restaurant not be open during the flea market. Previously, Mr. Hartz and Ms. Price hadn’t provided sit-down service during the flea market, but had cooked take-out food, primarily for the vendors.

“I can live with that,” Mr. Hartz said. “I don’t open the restaurant until 4:30 in the afternoon anyway.”

The decision also limits them to 10 vendors per day. They had asked to be allowed to have 28 vendors on the site, though at the height of the event’s popularity there were less than 20 vendors there each day.

At two public hearings on the application held earlier this year, other business owners on Love Lane expressed support for the sales, while some neighbors complained about the pedestrian traffic and the noise of vendors setting up at the weekly sales.
Neither the neighbors nor vendors who were contacted for this story returned calls for comment.

Mr. Hartz, a bass player who had been a musician on cruise ships before settling in Mattituck to run the restaurant, said the decision reminded him of the cruise ship company’s insistence that musicians could only use the swimming pools on board when the ship was docked, which just happened to be when the swimming pools were emptied and refilled.

“We basically got nothing from it,” he said of the decision.

The Zoning Board approval is also conditional on the submission of a site plan application to the Planning Board and is limited to one year from the date of signing.

“The real kick in the keister is that it would have cost us $400 to start the [site plan application] process, but the new fee is $1,200,” he said. “They frankly don’t want us to do it. It discourages people.”

Mr. Hartz said he’s looking into an appeal and is considering suing the Zoning Board.

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12/21/10 8:53pm
12/21/2010 8:53 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO |A public hearing is scheduled for a proposed shopping center on Pike Street in Mattituck (pictured above).

Pike Street in Mattituck could be the address of a new shopping center. The public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal at a Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals hearing at 11:50 a.m. on Jan. 6 in the Town Hall meeting room.

T.K. Alpha, LLC, a company controlled by Edward Broidy, a real estate developer from Southampton, wants to build a 2,573-square-foot building with three retail shops and two upstairs apartments on a quarter-acre parcel by the railroad tracks, just east of the intersection of Pike Street and Love Lane, which Mr. Broidy’s company bought last year.

The plans call for keeping an existing 605-square-foot brick building set back on the property for use as another retail space. It has a certificate of occupancy for use as a garage and shop. Eight off-street parking spaces are proposed.

The plan is before the Appeals Board because the town code requires lots containing two or more commercial buildings to cover at least 40,000 square feet, nearly four times the size of the property. The project also will require variances from required construction setbacks of 15 feet in front, 10 feet on the side, and a combined 25-foot minimum for both side yards.

T.K. Alpha filed a site plan for the project with the Southold Town Planning Board, which must approve it. Mr. Broidy also will need Suffolk County Health Department approval and a transfer of sanitary flow credits in order to proceed with the plan.

Town planners, who last discussed the project at a work session on Dec. 6, have asked Mr. Broidy to show that the apartments will meet the town’s affordable housing guidelines before he can apply to purchase the flow credits from the town’s transfer of development rights bank.

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11/19/10 12:44am
11/19/2010 12:44 AM

Mr. Roberts convenience store in Greenport still faces hurdles to gain approval for a canopy over its newly installed gasoline pump isles and for signs out front.

Village Zoning Board of Appeals members responding to a Planning Board request for a village code interpretation determined that the advertising placed on a pole can include the Subway sandwich shop and any other products owner Ali Sahin chooses.

But the board limited the total advertising space to 30 square feet.

The existing signs are too large, as one is 4 x 8 feet while the second is 4 x 6 feet. That nearly double the space permitted, ZBA members said.

As for the canopy Mr. Sahin wants to erect over the gasoline pump isles, ZBA members shuttled the question back to the Planning Board. The ZBA dismissed an argument by Mr. Sahin’s representative, former Mayor Dave Kapell, that the store, which is on the northwest corner of Front and Third streets, has only one front yard, on Third Street. The board said that since the store is on a corner lot it has two front yards. Front yards are required to have a six-foot setback in the commercial district, according to the code.

The service isle itself is set back about 11 feet, but an overhanging canopy could potentially be nearer to the lot line, the ZBA decision said.

“The Planning Board will have to consider its physical and visual impact to the property borders and the village as a whole,” the decision stated.

If the Planning Board decides against the canopy, Mr. Sahin could seek direct relief by petitioning the ZBA for an exemption from the required setbacks.

The Planning Board will take up the application at its Dec. 2 meeting.

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