Carissa’s Bakery has made a difficult but necessary decision, to reduce its restaurant capacity by six seats. Doing so decreases its septic waste to 790 gallons per day, which falls below the grandfathered limit of 794 gallons. The move is expected to speed Carissa’s application to merge two building lots, at 219 and 221 Pantigo Road in East Hampton.
In a Planning Department memo, Tina Vavilis LaGarenne, the town’s principal planner, wrote that her staff “finds this resolution of the sanitary flow to be beneficial.” Not only will the “overall sanitary flow” be reduced, she wrote, but “at the same time, affordable housing will be provided.”
The application is complex. First, the building at 219 Pantigo, which at present houses an architect, would be demolished. The two-story building replacing it would have a 1,300-square-foot basement for storage and a 1,446-square-foot first floor, which would connect to the restaurant and include a staff break room, office space, and a relocated baking kitchen. Upstairs, an 1,194-square-foot three-bedroom apartment would house employees.
In addition to planning board approval, Carissa’s will need two variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals; one because the new structure pierces the pyramid-law setback, and the other because it falls within a side-yard setback.
The three-bedroom apartment request is what pushed the bakery above its septic limit, which already exceeds, by a multiple of three, the 225 gallons per day that would be allowed if a new restaurant were built there.
At the May 3 meeting of the planning board, five members supported the plan to reduce the restaurant’s seating capacity. One, Louis Cortese, did not.
Mr. Cortese, who often takes a very hard look at sanitary flows, which directly impact the health of the town’s groundwater, was not thrilled at the grandfathered amount, but recognized there was nothing he could do about it. He argued that the housing, however, since “it would only benefit the restaurant,” was self-serving.
“Here you’re allowing more density, adding a second floor. If we want to keep the community bucolic and rural and not overly developed with the kind of intensity we’re seeing, we’ve got to put our foot down on some of these applications, and if it hurts the applicant, I’m sorry. I’d rather slice off the self-interest of the applicant than sacrifice the community,” he said. “In short, if you’re asking for expansion and you’re grandfathered somewhere else for something, I’m not going to grant the expansion.”
“People cannot live out here,” said Sharon McCobb, another board member. “If we want these businesses to exist, we’re going to have to do something for them. This apartment is one of those things. I feel really strongly about that — we have to come up with solutions for housing.”
Alexander Kruhly, the architect, speaking for Carissa’s, said, “Yes, the housing is for the staff, but the fact that we can now have staff on our property frees up rentals for the cop, or the teacher, or whoever it might be.” The bakery, he told the board, wants to improve conditions for its staff, and providing housing is part of the equation to attract, and retain, workers.
In addition, he noted, by merging lots with 219 Pantigo, Carissa’s gains eight more parking spots, giving it 16 in total — still, like the grandfathered septic flow, way below what would be required for a brand-new restaurant.
“The restaurant has eight [parking] spaces right now, and we’ve all acknowledged it’s a nightmare,” Mr. Kruhly said. “By doing this, we can get 16. Is it going to fix the problem? No. Is it doubling the existing capacity? Yes. It’s going to make a difference.”
As for the apartments, the third bedroom will require approval from the town’s Department of Housing and Community Development. “The two-bedroom restriction is intended to cap the occupancy at four,” Mr. Kruhly explained. “We’ve asked for three bedrooms for more privacy. We’re not trying to increase capacity, but make better living conditions for the staff.”
“Who is going to bunk up?” joked Randy Parsons.
“That’s outside of our purview,” deadpanned Samuel Kramer, the board chairman.
The board issued a negative declaration for the project per the State Environmental Quality Review Act, and requested that Carissa’s bring its lighting into compliance with town standards. The town fire marshal must still approve the construction of an apartment over the bakery, and the Z.B.A. must still rule on the variance requests.
The County Health Department is reportedly poised to approve the septic plan, pending minor changes. Once all that is done and the planning board approves an updated lighting plan, a public hearing will be scheduled.