Hedges Inn Sues East Hampton Village

The Hedges Inn on James Lane in East Hampton Village. Independent/Stephen J. Kotz
The Hedges Inn on James Lane in East Hampton Village. Independent/Stephen J. Kotz

Weddings are known to cause great stress as it is, and now the Hedges Inn says the actions of East Hampton Village, making it illegal for it to hold outdoor weddings, are causing stress to its bottom line as well.

In a press release this week, the inn announced that its attorney, Christopher Kelley, had filed suit on its behalf against the village in New York State Supreme Court over its refusal to grant permits for four weddings that were scheduled last year at the James Lane establishment as well as its adoption of a new law the inn claims unfairly singles it out and will prevent it from holding future outdoor weddings.

The saga began in March 2018 when the village board denied the inn permits to hold four outdoor weddings that had been scheduled for the summer of 2018. Only after representatives of the families who had scheduled the weddings came forward did the village board relent and allow the events to go on as scheduled on a neighboring property owned by one of the inn’s principals, the release stated.

Later, the suit charges the village board adopted a new special events law that “singled out preexisting, nonconforming inns in residential zones” and prohibits them from obtaining permits for outdoor weddings.

The inn says the rationale the village building inspector gave for initially denying the permits for the weddings was that it did not have approval for outdoor dining. The Hedges Inn asked the village Zoning Board of Appeals to overturn that determination so it could book additional weddings in the future, but the ZBA refused to do so in a ruling issued in December. In the meantime, the village board adopted its new law, making it more difficult for businesses to hold weddings and other outdoor events.

The inn claims that special events under tents are regularly approved in both villages and towns on the East End. It notes in its suit that other properties in the village that do not have approvals for outdoor dining in place are allowed to host such outdoor events, citing, among others, the Mulford Farm property just down the street from the inn.

In the release, Jennifer Lilja, the inn’s general manager, stated that since the current owners took over the inn in 2007, it has never been cited for a noise or parking violation. She charged that the village had acted to ban it from holding weddings because of complaints made by a single neighbor. The village board “has unfairly singled us out, going so far as to create a new law that exclusively hurts our business to accommodate our neighbor,” she said in the release. “It is absolutely clear to us that the special treatment she has received is a gross misuse of power that should not be tolerated,” she added.

Lilja added that the inn only knew of the neighbor’s objections because police would be called on the evenings it held weddings.

She said the inn, which is open from May to December, limited itself to no more than six weddings, indoor and outdoor, a season, and that the new village law would reduce its revenues by as much as 35 percent.

Village Administrator Rebecca Molinaro Hansen said via email that the village “will defend itself in any lawsuit that seeks to invalidate or make inconsistent any provisions of the zoning code.”

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