Gas Canopy Rejected, Will Go To Court

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The East Hampton Town Planning Board last week voted narrowly to deny the much-debated application of the owners of the former Empire Gas Station in Montauk to erect a new canopy above its gas pumps on the north side of Montauk Highway at the western end of the hamlet’s business district.

An attorney for the gas station’s owners has already pledged to challenge the ruling in court.

The vote was 4-3 for denial, with board chairman Reed Jones, Job Potter and Kathy Cunningham voting with Nancy Keeshan, the most strident opponent of the application, to deny it. Robert Schaeffer, Diana Weir and Ian Calder-Piedmonte voted in favor of approval.

“It’s unfortunate that although I submitted a petition from hundreds of residents … the board chose to substitute the judgment of, as best I can tell, one board member for the entire community,” the gas station’s attorney, Richard Hammer said this week. “We’re pretty confident we’re going to prevail on this matter in court.”

The proposal called for a canopy 42 feet long, covering the gas station’s six gas pumps. The canopy would stand 16 feet tall.

The town’s Architectural Review Board issued its own rejection of the canopy application.

Prior to last Wednesday’s vote, Ms. Keeshan laid out a list of reasons why the Planning Board should deny the application. She said that although the applicants did shrink the size of the canopy from its original design by several hundred square feet, they seemed to dismiss most other requests by the town for changes to the design and lighting arrangements. She said that the lighting plan submitted in connection with the canopy was wholly inadequate in detail and would result in far too much light, a point that even those who voted to approve the application agreed with.

“Our suggestions weren’t taken seriously,” Ms. Keeshan said. “The plan hasn’t changed, neither has my opinion of the application.”

Other critics cited the proximity of the gas station to Fort Pond and the fact that there are no other canopies above gas stations in Montauk as the reasons for their vote to deny.

The dissenters said they found the application reasonable and having little or no impact on the character or scenic vistas of downtown Montauk.

“I think the canopy is very useful,” said Bob Schaeffer. “I don’t see that it jeopardizes any scenic vistas.”

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