A tip of the hat goes to Lou Cortese, a member of the East Hampton Town Planning Board, for calling out a certain flexibility in the way land-use laws are applied. “We always say our code is good and prevents overdevelopment,” he said during a recent board meeting. “But when applications come in front of the planning board and Z.B.A. and we relax the code, it doesn’t matter.” He is correct.
Consider, for example, a reversal in February of a decision by the town zoning board of appeals regarding a Montauk bar and restaurant that it had first agreed was operating illegally as a nightclub. The town’s top building inspector had said that there was a problem in that, over time, the Shagwong, where dancing had always been an occasional thing, was now hosting D.J.s and sometimes asking a cover charge, unlike what a restaurant would do. Several members of the zoning board bought the argument equating spontaneous dancing with running a nightclub and gave the Shagwong another chance to argue its case. It does not take a fortune teller to guess where this is headed in the hamlet already dealing with a drugs and alcohol-fueled party scene.
In the planning board matter that got Mr. Cortese’s goat, Carissa’s, an ultra-luxe bakery and eatery on Pantigo Road, sought permission for a new, 2,600-square-foot building that would come up short on the required parking and also significantly exceed wastewater limits. The limp carrot that the Carissa’s owners offered was that the additional septic flow would be for “affordable housing,” only this would be taken by its own staff and not available to the public.
Unfortunately, It was not clear that most of the rest of the planning board took this as seriously as Mr. Cortese did. As it may turn out, Suffolk health authorities appear willing to go where the Town of East Hampton would not, in arguing forcefully against putting more poop into the groundwater. For a community that puts such a premium on clean water, the Carissa’s proposal should have been a nonstarter. It is an embarrassment that the county should be the voice of restraint in this case.