Neighbors’ objections to plans to reopen a long-defunct restaurant in a Montauk motel has sparked a tit-for-tat face-off between the hotel owners and a neighbor who has spearheaded the legal challenge.
The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals spent four hours earlier this month hearing a litany of back-and-forth arguments of two contrasting appeals from attorneys and property owners in the Montauk Beach section of Montauk, off Old Montauk Highway.
The motel owner, former town supervisor and current Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, has asked to be able to reestablish a 60-seat restaurant that has been closed since the early 1970s in the motel his family owns. The town issued him a building permit last spring.
The determination of the town building department, that the restaurant was existing and could be reopened because the space where the former restaurant was remained and was noted in a certificate of occupancy in 2005, was challenged by a neighbor of the motel, Jane Concannon. The challenge claims that the use of the restaurant had long ago been abandoned and that town codes amended in the 1980s required that creating a restaurant in a motel be made a special permit.
In a seemingly related turn-about, Mr. Schneiderman and his sister, Helen Ficalora, filed a matching appeal of a building inspector’s determination, over building permits issued to Ms. Concannon’s son, Chris Concannon, on a neighboring property. That permit granted permission for the renovation and expansion of a house that, Mr. Schneiderman’s appeal claims, was razed and rebuilt to dimensions that exceeded what should have been allowed under town codes.
At the marathon hearing before the ZBA on December 1, both sides traded barbs and claims that the other’s appeals were long past the allowed window for such challenges of permit issuances, and misapplied regardless.
“Existence has no special meaning here,” attorney David Eagan, who represents the Concannons, said. “The restaurant has not operated since the early 1970s. It has not existed since then.”
If the ZBA were to side with Mr. Eagan, Mr. Schneiderman would have to go to the town Planning Board to apply for a new permit for the restaurant.
Mr. Schneiderman’s attorneys, Richard Whalen and Anthony Pasca, countered that the Concannons’ appeal should not even be considered by the ZBA because the certificate of occupancy was issued in 2005 and Ms. Concannon had acknowledged a building permit on the property to reconstruct a deck in 2010. That permit described the property as a “motel, restaurant and resort”—proof Mr. Pasca said that Ms. Concannon could have been aware of the restaurant and had chosen not to raise issue with it.
Regardless of the timeliness of the challenge, Mr. Whelan argued, the CO for the motel, including the restaurant, was issued in 2005—the year Mr. Schneiderman moved from the town supervisors office to the County Legislature—after an inspection by building inspectors showed the former restaurant space and commercial kitchen to be intact as when it had operated.
“The space was still there, the equipment was still there, the kitchen was still furnished,” Mr. Whalen said. “Three levels of government have confronted this question.”
Several neighbors of the Breakers also testified that the restaurant had not operated and appealed to the ZBA to not allow a new restaurant to open in the space, for fear it would quickly become another bustling night spot of the sort that have sparked torrents of outrage from Montauk residents over the noise from summer revelry in recent summers.
“We’re not saying don’t give Jay his restaurant. We’re just saying apply the rules to Jay like anyone else,” Chris Concannon said. “Make him go to the Planning Board and explain how his restaurant is going to operate.”