East Hampton Town withdrew a request filed in New York State Supreme Court last week to temporarily shut down Cyril’s Fish House after the business addressed safety issues town officials said they uncovered in an investigation earlier this month.
The town sought a temporary restraining order against the business last Friday after investigators documented “liquid propane fuel storage in close proximity to electrical hazards,” according to Assistant Town Attorney Pat Gunn, who is also the town’s public safety administrator. The propane tank was located near exposed electrical wires, he said.
Meanwhile, that same day, Cyril Fitzsimons, the owner of the business, said the town’s concerns had been resolved as of that morning. The business had opened its doors for the season on May 3. “I had four electricians here this morning at 6 a.m.,” said Mr. Fitzsimons on Friday afternoon. “The fire marshal’s coming in at 4 p.m. to check everything. It’s all done.”
While Mr. Gunn contested Mr. Fitzsimons’s statement at the time, an agreement was struck between the two parties in court, he later reported on Friday evening. The business would be permitted to operate that weekend, Mother’s Day weekend, as long as the propane tank was not used. The business was ordered to remove the tank before 2 p.m. on Monday, an order that Mr. Fitzsimons complied with, according to Mr. Gunn. The matter had been heard by Supreme Court Justice Thomas F. Whelan.
“The electrical hazards had been addressed Friday and the remaining issue of the propane tank has now also been resolved,” Mr. Gunn said in an email statement on Monday afternoon. “The 500-pound propane tank in question has been removed from the site and four new 100-pound tanks have been installed at a location satisfactory to Chief Fire Marshal Browne. The matter of the temporary restraining order is now closed.”
The case of the temporary restraining order is not an isolated one; it is linked to an ongoing case of Town Code violations the town has charged against the business dating back to February 2012, Mr. Gunn said. At any given time, the business has had at least 65 Town Code violations against it—charges that deal with expansions of the business, no building permits, no certificates of occupancy, operating in the wrong zone—”a plethora of charges” that are still pending, according to Mr. Gunn.
Also parallel to that, but not altogether unrelated, is a request before the East Hampton Town Board to rezone the land and an adjacent lot from residential to neighborhood business. East Hampton Attorney Dianne K. Le Verrier, who represents landowners Bonnie and Michael Dioguardi, has argued that a zone change would address many of the public’s concerns about safety, mainly parking, at the Napeague site, while neighboring residents questioned why the town should reward a code offender with a zone change.
Tina Piette, an attorney for Mr. Fitzsimons has argued the Town Code violations include on-site structures that are “accessory uses” to the restaurant, and that there’s a building permit pending for each of the violations. The Town Board has taken no action on the zone change request.
The temporary restraining order, which would have shut down the business until the violations were corrected, was based on charges the town filed against the business in Town Justice Court last week, which included having exposed electrical wires inside storage containers, exposed electrical wires under roof overhangs and extension cords being used for portable appliances. Mr. Gunn called them “a potentially life threatening and volatile combination.”
The inspection by town officials that uncovered the propane tank and possible electrical hazards took place on May 2. Ms. Le Verrier and Ms. Piette requested it in court last week, as part of the ongoing zoning case, Mr. Gunn said. Ms. Piette didn’t return calls seeking comment on Friday and Monday.
During the investigation, the town also forwarded environmental concerns relating to the wetlands on the property to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Mr. Gunn said, although he declined to be more specific.
On Friday, Mr. Gunn said the town was “not looking to put anyone out of business.”
“We’re just looking to remedy this potentially explosive situation before they can operate,” he said.
Mr. Fitzsimons, who spends most of his year in the Caribbean, where he owns and operates three restaurants, said on Friday he doesn’t understand what there is to be concerned about.
“I’m just confused, that’s all,” he said. “I’ve been here for 23 years, never had a problem. The police have never been called here in 23 years. There’s never been a noise violation. I’ve done everything I can. So I’m just confused, that’s all.”
He added, “Worst comes to worst, I’ll just go back to the Caribbean.”