Approval for Arbor Will Have to Wait

Marc Rowan, an investment billionaire whose plans for the several commercial properties he has bought in Montauk have had the attention of East Hampton Town planners for quite some time, may have been expecting formal planning board approval of a site plan for his Arbor restaurant on Nov. 16, but it was not to be.

Arbor is at 240 Fort Pond Road, on low-lying land opposite the train station. Questions that had been raised about whether its septic system was illegal were set aside after long discussion when the board’s attorney, John Jilnicki, said only the Suffolk County Health Department had jurisdiction in the matter.

 Everything seemed ready until Mr. Rowan’s attorney, Tina Piette, sent a letter to the board on the day final approval was expected, objecting to three points in the determination.

One of Ms. Piette’s objections concerned a condition that “no music or entertainment is to take place upon the outside deck.” She also objected to a clause saying only wait staff could use an outdoor service bar, and to another that said patrons could not carry drinks onto the landscaped areas or the parking lot. 

“There are reasons why I am not agreeing to this condition,” Ms. Piette said about the music ban. “I did not agree to the condition when it was discussed. I was in the audience. There was no formal vote. This condition came as quite a surprise to me today. I didn’t think there was a consensus, and I certainly didn’t stand up here and say, ‘Yes, that’s fine.’ ”

She argued that the ban on outdoor music was based on a 1983 site plan that had been approved for a former restaurant at the site and noted that the code regarding music had changed since then.

The point about the outdoor service bar did not appear to be a major roadblock, however. She had written to the board back in September, saying, “Patrons waiting for seats at a table may be served there. However, there will be no barstools.”

With regard to the prohibition on customers carrying drinks outdoors, Ms. Piette said, “I do not want to put the applicant in the untenable position of banning patrons from standing, however briefly, on lawn and landscaped areas with a drink in their hand.”

“I do have to say, put this on the record, that it puts the person in control of the restaurant in the position that if somebody steps outside of this” — she pointed to a large diagram — “non-defined line for any reason, to make a telephone call, to perhaps pick up their children” in a troublesome position.

“A plan like this represents a negotiation, an agreement between the board and an applicant,” said Job Potter, a board member, about guests with drinks outdoors. He called that condition  “an important part of the negotiation.” He also objected to Ms. Piette’s “coming back at this late date.”

“Your objection has been heard. We will look at the file,” said Nancy Keeshan, the panel’s vice chairwoman, who took over the meeting after Reed Jones, the chairman, complained that it had been a long negotiation. He had to leave, he said.

“I do not understand,” Ms. Piette said, asking if the application was going to have to undergo another site plan process? “No,” Ms. Keeshan responded. “You’ve been heard, which is what you requested, right? We are going to review it, and that is what we will be doing at our next work session.”

“In other words, we are not going to change it today on the fly,” Diana Weir, another board member, added.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 7.