Barn, Arbor Restaurant Cause Dispute

The East Hampton Town Planning Board meeting on Dec. 7, which included public hearings and site plan reviews, was unusually contentious. Debated at length were a proposal to build a 2,800-square-foot barn on an 11-acre parcel, which is part of the 35-acre Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, and a site plan for the Arbor, a Montauk restaurant.

The barn planned by the community supported agriculture farm is bordered on three sides by Old Stone Highway, Side Hill Road, and Deep Lane, and on land donated 27 years ago to the Peconic Land Trust by Deborah Ann Light. 

Robert Schwagerl, who owns a house on a private part of Quail Hill, is a designer who once headed the town’s architectural review board. He told the board that he did not oppose a barn but found the location troubling. “Deborah wanted this to be a small farm with a small facility,” he said, alleging that a dirt access road had been created illegally and that building the barn in the proposed location would mean cutting down a stand of cedar trees. The property abuts his  property, as well as his brother’s.

Andrew Strong, the attorney representing the trust, said cedars would not have to be cut down. The barn, he said, “is going to be tucked into the cedar trees and partially shielded from view.” He also said a 1968 aerial photograph of the site showed an existing dirt road.

“The building of this barn supports one of Deborah’s wishes,” Layton Guenther, the farm’s manager, said. She noted that the farm now uses a 30-by-40-foot structure that was designed for boats.

Nancy Goell of East Hampton, who is on the board of both the trust and the farm, spoke in support of the proposal. “The barn is placed well. This farm has grown from 35 families now to 250. Many children come to learn how food is grown. We need this farm,” she said.

The board is expected to take up the matter at a forthcoming meeting.

A site plan that already had been the subject of a public hearing was back on the agenda. The Arbor restaurant, opposite the train station in Montauk, is owned by Marc J. Rowan, a billionaire who has been buying properties on and near Fort Pond Bay. The site plan seemed to be headed for board approval on Nov. 16, when Tina Piette, the attorney representing Mr. Rowan, objected to three conditions. They involved an outdoor circular bar and whether patrons with drinks in hand would be allowed to move onto a landscaped area near Flamingo Avenue. The board and the applicant had very different views of what had been agreed upon previously.

Ms. Piette reiterated her opinion that prohibiting patrons with drinks from going from the bar to the adjacent landscaped area was onerous. Apparently restaurant patrons ­sometimes have to wait outdoors before being seated. “Where are people going to wait?” Ms. Piette asked. “Isn’t there a hostess?” Nancy Keeshan, a board member who lives in Montauk, responded. 

“What is the issue with the condition that would restrict the dining and consumption of beverages from an area where you say they aren’t going to be?” Michael Sendlenski, the town attorney, asked. He said that if a patron with a drink stepped onto the lawn, he or she would be in violation of the site plan. “That is what we are talking about, exactly,” Ian Calder-Piedmonte, a board member, said. Ms. Piette responded, “I think that puts somebody serving at that bar, a hostess or waitress, in the unfortunate position” of having to tell patrons they cannot step onto the lawn. Mr.  Calder-Piedmonte then asked if a barrier, shrubbery or a fence could be installed to prevent customers from wandering onto the lawn. 

Also in dispute is whether the outdoor bar would be only a service bar for the waitstaff. “If patrons are going to the bar, and ordering drinks, that is not a service bar,” Margueritte Wolffsohn, director of the Planning Department, said. According to the Planning Department, such a use would change the designation under zoning from a restaurant to a bar/tavern, or add bar/tavern as a second use, which could affect sanitary flow and required parking. “I don’t know why someone would want to do a circular bar, unless they wanted to use the entire area,” Job Potter, a member of the board, said. The board was scheduled to take up the matter again last night.

The board also heard from a representative of AT&T regarding construction of a cellphone tower or, alternatively, a campanile concealing a tower on the property of St. Peter’s Chapel in Springs. The board voted to wait for the town’s architectural review board to weigh in before deciding on the merits of the proposals. 

There also was little debate on another matter that night — the subdivision of 40 former farmland acres between Wainscott Hollow Road, north of Wainscott’s Main Street, and Sayre’s Path. Once owned by Ronald Lauder and then by a limited liability corporation, plans for the subdivision have been the subject of two successful lawsuits against the town. 

In 2009, the board voted to deny a site plan after finding fault with the location of a 14,500-square-foot house. That decision was tossed out in 2011 by the New York State Supreme Court’s civil branch as being arbitrary and capricious. In 2014, Mary Jane Asato, the L.L.C.’s attorney, presented the board with a new proposal for seven buildable lots and a large agricultural reserve. In 2015, the board deadlocked on the proposal, which, among other things, called for a long driveway off Wainscott Hollow Road to access several of the house lots, which fronted on Sayre’s Path. The 3-to-3 deadlock would have been broken by Diana Weir, who had been against the new layout but was absent when the  vote was taken. At the time, Ms. Asato warned the board, “My remedy is to basically challenge it through the courts.” Earlier this year, Justice James Hudson found for Ms. Asato’s clients. 

The planning board had little appetite for another review of the subdivision when it came back on Dec. 7. “It is pretty clear that we have to approve something,” Mr. Calder-Piedmonte said. Approval, however, will now await an assessment by an independent engineer