A Hedges Inn Wedding, After All

Tara and Kevin O’Brien, newlyweds, posed for photos after their wedding ceremony at the Hedges Inn. Durell Godfrey

In the end, love — and some shrewd legal maneuvering — conquered all, as the wedding for Kevin O’Brien and Tara McCauley took place at the Hedges Inn on Saturday, overcoming a bitter permitting dispute between East Hampton Village and the inn.

Just 16 days earlier, the village, citing code and zoning restrictions, had denied a permit for the wedding, which was to be held in a tent on the Hedges property. That denial brought the groom’s mother, Joanne Lester O’Brien, who is an East Hampton resident and a member of the Fire Department, to the March 16 village board meeting, where she tearfully pleaded to keep the nuptials on track. 

In the following days, Christopher Kelley, the inn’s lawyer, said he was working with the village to reach a compromise. Ms. O’Brien finally received word on March 21 that a permit would be approved, but some changes would need to be made to the plans for the reception. She was told that the reception could no longer take place in a tent next to the inn’s patio, portable toilets would need to be ordered, and valet parking would be required. “It’s not exactly what we wanted, but at this late date we’ll take it,” she said at the time. 

As it turned out, the ceremony was held on the Hedges Inn’s lawn, but the reception took place at an adjoining property at 72 James Lane, which is reported to be owned by the same owner as the Hedges Inn (representatives of the inn would not confirm who owns the house, and the permit application lists a limited liability company as the owner). “Code enforcement approved a tent permit for 72 James Lane,” confirmed Becky Molinaro Hansen, the village administrator, who said that the private residence had also received three other tent permits for the year. The other permits would likely cover the other outdoor events the Hedges had booked for 2018, including the June 9 wedding reception for the daughter of Stu Kaitz. Mr. Kaitz also took an impassioned stance against the initial permit denials at the March 16 village board meeting. 

A new law the village is considering would reserve the right to deny a permit for a large outdoor gathering at a private residence if the frequency of events is incompatible with the character of the surrounding area, but under the current code, Ms. Hansen pointed out, if no public roadway is being used for parking, a tent permit is all that is required for such an event.

Tented events at the Hedges Inn have been the source of frequent noise complaints over the years, predominantly from the inn’s neighbor, Patricia Handal, who has appeared at several trustee meetings seeking to curb the inn’s ability to hold large gatherings on its lawn. Although the inn was not the site of the reception for the O’Brien-McCauley wedding, there were noise complaints nevertheless. At 9:53 p.m. on Saturday, village police received a report from a resident of Jefferys Lane who was bothered by the sound of loud music and people talking “coming from the area of the Hedges Inn.” The report noted that an officer spoke to a manager of the inn who was in charge of the event. At the officer’s request, the manager then lowered the music and promised it would be cut off at 10:45 p.m.