Bonnie and Ben Krupinksi, who are among a group of owners of the 1770 House inn and restaurant on Main Street, are hoping give their guests the option of going outside to eat in the summer—legally, this time.
In order to move 30 of the 80 seats from inside the restaurant to a patio out back, the couple needs to get a special permit from the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals to alter a pre-existing, nonconforming use in a residential zone.
They put the seats and tables outside last summer and patrons loved it. Some neighbors did not.
What may seem to some a minor proposal got plenty of attention on Friday, when the Appeals Board presided over a two-hour discussion of the 1770 application during a public hearing.
Six residents have written letters opposing the application, asserting that noises from outdoor dining would be a major problem in the neighborhood. Another 17 people—including representatives from Guild Hall, the East Hampton Historical Society, the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce, and celebrity chef Ina Garten—have written letters in support of the proposal.
“There is going to be noise that I will hear,” said Elizabeth Holmes Rosenberg, who lives on Dayton Lane. She was among four residents who spoke against the application Friday. “I feel, as a resident, and a voting resident, of East Hampton Village for more than 30 years, my rights need to be protected,” she added.
Since they are operating the business as a legal pre-existing use in a residential zone, the owners of 1770 Inn LLC need permission from the board for an “extension or alteration” of that use—in this case, enlarging the footprint of the dining area, according to village code.
Because they started serving food outside during the 2007 season without getting Appeals Board permission, Mr. and Ms. Krupinski, along with the other owners of the 1770 House LLC, whose names were not revealed Friday, are seeking a special permit retroactively to allow the use of seven tables and 30 seats on a patio behind the restaurant each summer.
During the public hearing, Appeals Board Chairman Andrew Goldstein said he was worried about noise. “What concerns me is that, during the spring and summer months, as daylight expands, people tend to spend more time outside their homes enjoying their gardens, and potential noise from this outside eating operation will be more apparent to people sitting on their porches in their gardens than when they are in their homes eating,” Mr. Goldstein said.
Joan Denny, the vice-chair of the board, said that she had dined outside at the restaurant “quite often” last summer. “I was never aware of any noise. It was never a rowdy group of people. It was a beautiful setting, and it was like an oasis in the middle of the bustling, busy summer,” Ms. Denny said. “And I am not aware that any of the neighbors complained much.”
The head of code enforcement for the village, Tom Lawrence, said he had not received any formal complaints last summer, but added that there had been “a few questions” from people about the legality of the operation. He said that he had not issued a summons for a code violation because the applicant “worked with us” and is now seeking to get approval for the outdoor dining.
Giving its guests the option of dining outside would make the 1770 House one of many dining establishments in the village that offer outside seating in the summer. Cittanuova, Rowdy Hall, and Matto all put tables and chairs outside during the summer.
At Friday’s meeting, John MacLachlan, an attorney for the owners, argued that the outdoor seating would have no detrimental impact on the neighborhood, and Andrew McKee of WSP Acoustics, a consultant for the applicants, said that noise studies showed that outdoor dining would have “no negative impact from noise” on the neighbors.
Four neighbors said they were opposed to the application because of the potential impact from noise.
“I’m glad to know where all that noise was coming from last summer, because it was driving me bats,” said Kate Epstein, who lives across the street on Dunemere Lane. Ms. Epstein said she could hear the occasional outdoor events at Mulford Farm and Guild Hall, but was more concerned about nightly noise from the restaurant.
Mr. MacLachlan said that the outdoor dining area would never become a venue for live music and would have only soft recorded background music to block out street noise. But neighbors said they would not want music to be played outside if the special permit was granted.
Eric Bregman, an attorney representing the Schewerin family on Dayton Lane, said that his clients had decided to support the application after the owners had agreed to some conditions requested by his clients, including that there be no live music and no catered events.
Ms. Krupinski said that the restaurant opens at 6 p.m., guests are seated until 9 p.m., and all patrons are gone by 11 p.m. Mr. Goldstein argued that the applicant should consider reducing the hours so diners are served from 7 until 9:30 p.m.
After Mr. MacLachlan spoke in front of the board, Ms. Krupinski stood at the podium and read aloud a letter from Jaquelin Robertson, a professional planner and architect who lives nearby. She urged the board to approve the application and talked about the strength of Main Street as a “mixed use” area.
Mr. Goldstein responded to the letter, saying the comprehensive plan describes the village as a residential enclave, with mixed uses as a secondary purpose, and that the village code favors the gradual phase out over time of non-conforming uses in a residential district.
“What we’re trying to establish today, is that we are in no way increasing the impact or intensification,” Mr. MacLachlan replied.
“We’re keeping it as a pre-existing, non-conforming use, with no increasing in intensity,” he added. Referring to Mr. Goldstein’s comment on long-term goals for phasing out non-conforming uses, he said, “To make things black and white and absolute—that’s not the job of the Zoning Board, it’s to give relief … and protecting the village code.”
At the end of the discussion, Village Attorney Linda Riley asked the applicants to clarify before the next meeting exactly what is the extent of coverage on the property. She said that a survey showed a total coverage of 7,470 square feet, but in granting a special permit and variances in 2004 to allow the construction of a porch and stair tower on the property, the Appeals Board allowed for a maximum of 6,015 square feet of coverage.
The public hearing was held open, and Mr. MacLachlan said he would get more information by the next meeting on May 9 and figure out whether or not a coverage variance would be required.
The applicants originally also were seeking a variance to allow them to continue to use “grass pavers,” a hard covering that allows for extra parking spaces on a lawn area. Mr. MacLachlan said on Tuesday that his clients would be removing the grass pavers and would no longer be seeking a variance for them.