Montauk home auto business attracting controversy

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Montauk resident Tom Ferreira, who operates an automotive repair shop, Automotive Solutions, outside his home on Navy Road, stores as many as 20 cars on his property. He doesn’t see why his business should bother anyone.

Mr. Ferreira said in an interview last week that he simply wants to do his work at peace at his house, which is nestled between the railroad tracks and Fort Pond Bay.

But some neighbors and other Montauk residents argue Mr. Ferreira’s use of his residential property is a major problem—one they say the town has failed to adequately address for more than four years.

“He is just ignoring the town and doing what he wants to do,” said Dorothy Ferreira, Mr. Ferreira’s next-door neighbor and aunt, in a phone interview last week. Ms. Ferreira is trying to sell her home, but the cars, flatbed trucks, boats, and taxis, on other vehicles on her nephew’s yard are making it difficult, she claimed.

On March 6, town code enforcement officials cited Mr. Ferreira for storing 11 unregistered cars outside on his 8,316-square-foot property, having piles of debris on his yard, and having weeds more than 10 inches high.

But a bigger issue, according to Ms. Ferreira, her real-estate agent, Lynden Restrepo of Atlantic Beach Realty Group, and other Montauk residents, is that the town has allowed Mr. Ferreira to run his repair shop out of his home by deeming it a legal, non-conforming, pre-existing business in a residential district.

“The town makes such stink about other stuff,” Ms. Restrepo said last week, “but they let somebody who’s living right on the bay have a repair shop with oil and car parts.”

The Ferreira family’s history on Navy Road dates back to 1947, according to Ms. Ferreira, when her father, John, bought a strip of commercial-industrial land—which included what are now her and her nephew’s properties—and later sold parcels off individually.

John Ferreira’s son, Herbert Ferreira, moved from New Jersey into what is now Tom Ferreira’s house after retiring in 1979, according to Mr. Ferreira. Despite having been dead for more than 20 years, Herbert Ferreira is still listed as the property owner.

Tom Ferreira said last week that he started coming to his father’s house from New Jersey in 1977 or before and started working on cars and boats for people in Montauk on weekends. The property previously was used for boat repairs, he said.

Ms. Ferreira, who was living next door at the time, disputed that claim.

“He’s lying through his teeth,” she said, adding that the property was always used simply as a residence.

In the early ’80s, the property was rezoned from commercial-industrial to residential, making the use of it as an auto repair shop illegal unless it was a legal pre-existing use.

Herbert Ferreira died in 1984, and in 1995, his son moved full-time from New Jersey into the house on Navy Road and opened up an auto shop, Automotive Solutions, as a tenant in a building on Industrial Road.

In either 2002 or 2003, Mr. Ferreira said, he was forced out of his old shop by a rent increase, and he decided to move his business—and the assorted cars he owned and worked on—to his home on Navy Road.

After some neighbors complained, Donald Sharkey, the town’s chief building inspector, gave Mr. Ferreira approval for the business, declaring that there was a pre-existing, non-conforming use of a commercial garage at the site.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Mr. Sharkey said that he used documents provided by Mr. Ferreira to determine that the property had included a pre-existing repair shop. He cited a handwritten tax assessment card from 1960, which describes the property as having a business use, and a tax bill from 2002 that classifies the property as commercial.

He also cited a 1997 letter from Frederick Sellers, chief town building inspector at the time, to the New York State Bureau of Consumer and Facility Services in which he described an automotive repair shop. But the letter references a parcel on 86 Second House Road, not Mr. Ferreira’s property.

The town Building Department does not have a certificate of occupancy, building permit, or a survey on file for the property.

Kathy Sayers, Mr. Ferreira’s cousin and former neighbor on Navy Road who now lives in New Jersey, went to the town Zoning Board of Appeals, asking it to overturn Mr. Sharkey’s determination.

Although he did not appear at the hearing, Mr. Sharkey signed an affidavit, which was notarized by Mr. Ferreira’s former attorney, James Greenbaum, stating that his determination was based on photographs and other information as well as a review of public records and the town code.

The board upheld Mr. Sharkey’s determination in April 2004, declaring that it “could not overturn a decision of the Chief Building Inspector based on the word of one person.”

Since then, Mr. Ferreira, who lives with his brother, Milton, has run into some problems with some neighbors and code enforcement over his storage of cars on the property. Mr. Ferreira said he has been cited by code enforcement officials three or four times and he decried what he called their “Gestapo” tactics, such as driving by his home and snapping pictures.

In November 2006, the town passed a resolution authorizing a 50-foot by 110-foot road to be opened between Mr. Ferreira’s home and his aunt’s property. According to the resolution, the Ferreira family had been using the land since 1947, and Mr. Ferreira uses the road area to store some of his vehicles.

Last summer, Mr. Ferreira said, he was fined by the State Department of Environmental Conservation for an oil spill on his property after another neighbor complained.

During an interview outside his home on Thursday, Mr. Ferreira argued that town officials are clamping down on him out of a desire to push out blue-collar workers and cover up the less aesthetically appealing work that is done in town.

“They want to eat the steak, but they don’t want to watch you slaughter it,” Mr. Ferreira said.

Mr. Ferreira’s other next-door neighbor, Patricia Scott, was arrested in January and charged with petit larceny, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent, and resisting arrest after she moved one of Mr. Ferreira’s cars, which she claimed was partially on her property.

Ms. Scott, who has been living next door for only six months, said in a phone interview last week she hadn’t previously had any problems with Mr. Ferreira, but added that “no one wants to live next door to a junk yard.”

At a Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee meeting on Monday, April 7, Ms. Scott discussed some of her problems with the property and Mr. Ferreira. Lisa Grenci, the chair of the group, claimed that the town erred in declaring the property legally pre-existing non-conforming, and she recommended that Ms. Scott take legal action against the town.

Although Mr. Ferreira said that he is approved by the American Automobile Association for his repair work, he is not registered with the State Department of Motor Vehicles as operating an auto repair shop, which he said he is not required to do because of the nature of his business.

According to DMV regulations, a business owner whose activities consist only of fueling, changing oil, water, tires, and batteries, and doing other minor repair work, is not considered to be operating a motor vehicle repair shop and therefore does not need to be registered with the state.

Ms. Scott said that she had two alternators replaced by Mr. Ferreira last year—a job that would have required him to get a state license.

According to Assistant Town Attorney Madeleine Narvilas, Mr. Ferreira missed his first court date on March 31, and is due back in East Hampton Town Justice Court on April 21. Mr. Ferreira claimed that his lawyer, Arthur Manghan III of Riverhead, postponed the first appearance, but Ms. Narvilas said that no one had contacted her about the case.

Mr. Ferreira said that he uses some of his cars for storage, plans on fixing up other ones, and hopes to use a few in a future business venture, but in the meantime hopes to get clarification from the town on what he will be allowed to do with the cars.

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