Better Late Than Never

Hamptons Editorial

A major loophole in the East Hampton Town zoning code was closed last week when the town board voted to no longer allow businesses to use off-site parking spaces to help meet their parking requirements if they want to add an
accessory use.

The change largely targets motels, which in the past decade have begun to transform themselves into “resorts” by offering improved amenities such as on-site bars and restaurants. Until now, when such businesses sought site-plan approval from the planning board, they often referred to “grandfathered-in” spaces like those in the municipal parking lot next door or those in that
town-owned alley out back.

The problem is that the town has grown astronomically since 1957 when it adopted its first zoning code, and it was not a problem if a motel that enjoyed full occupancy for only a couple of months a year used off-site parking for
overflow. But it is a problem today.

With weekend crowds showing up almost year-round and new accessory uses like bars and restaurants attracting even larger crowds to the town’s business districts, it makes sense for town planners to ask an applicant how it wants to handle the need for parking, just as Suffolk County would ask how it plans to handle the increased flow of wastewater.

Too often, applicants have tried to do an end-run around the town by first seeking liquor licenses from the State Liquor Authority, which, for reasons unknown to us, seems to approve those requests with nary a concern for what the town might say. In some cases, businesses have used that state-granted license as an excuse to open an on-site bar and then come to the town to get retroactive approval.

Everyone knows it’s tough to run a business. And it’s tougher yet to run one in an area with inflated real estate prices like those in East Hampton. It’s not surprising that business owners, faced with making huge mortgage payments every month, might look to maximize their revenue stream through expansion. Nobody is saying that is necessarily a bad thing. It just requires a little due diligence beforehand.

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