Duryea’s Docket: Lawyers, Lawsuits, Appeals

T.E. McMorrow

There now are three different challenges in place concerning the certificate of occupancy issued to Marc Rowan, the owner of Duryea’s in Montauk, in February by the town’s lead building inspector, Ann Glennon. The CO allows Rowan to continue to run the area on the dock known as Duryea’s Lobster Deck as a high-end restaurant. Opponents say that there never was a full-service restaurant on the site, and that such a restaurant is illegal without a special permit from the East Hampton Town Planning Board.

Glennon said in an affidavit on file at both the East Hampton Town Zoning Board Appeals, as well as at the state courthouse in Riverhead, that she felt pressured by East Hampton town attorney Michael Sendlenski to sign off on the CO, even taking the unusual step of writing on the CO, “per court stipulation.”

Sendlenski had signed off on a settlement on behalf of the town and Duryea’s, but the East Hampton Town Board had never actually voted to approve the terms, leading to the current controversy. The settlement would have closed the book on three lawsuits Rowan had brought against the town over Duryea’s Dock.

Steven Stern, of Sokoloff-Stern, the attorney brought in by the town to navigate the legal waters churning around Duryea’s, said on Friday, April 19, that he was, on behalf of Glennon, seeking to annul the CO. He obtained a temporary restraining order from State Supreme Court Justice David Reilly April 10. Reilly was the judge who had been presented with the stipulation of settlement by Sendlenski and Rowan’s attorney on January 25.

The restraining order, for the moment, freezes any action on the settlement by either side. After hearing from three of the East Hampton Town Board members, as well as from Glennon, Sendlenski has retained his own lawyer, Anthony Pasca of Esseks, Hefter, Angel, Di Talia & Pasca.

The same day Reilly issued the restraining order, Walsh filed an appeal with the ZBA, to stop Glennon from revoking the CO.

It appears from court documents that Walsh has filed a fourth Article 78 suit, as well.

Meantime, according to Stern, the town needs to respond to the original lawsuits Walsh brought. In addition, both sides need to present briefs to Reilly concerning the CO, as well as the settlement itself.

Now, yet another party has dived into the legal waters. Jonathan Wallace of the law firm Ratschko Wallace, has also filed an appeal with the ZBA on behalf of several neighbors of Duryea’s Dock, who comprise the Tuthill Road Association. They are taking the opposite position from Rowan and Walsh, calling on the ZBA to void Glennon’s CO.

In an interview last week, Wallace said that the action with the ZBA had been in the works for some time. While it may appear to be repetitive of Stern’s action in state court, it needed to be filed in a timely manner to protect his client’s rights. He sees his client as an ally with the town in its opposition to the settlement, and would likely file a brief in support of the town.

Meantime, the town board, on April 18, voted to retain Stern’s firm on all matters Duryea, including appeals to the ZBA, by a unanimous 5-0 vote. When the board initially voted in March to hire Sokoloff-Stern in its attempt to void the settlement Sendlenski had reached with Rowan, it set the fee cap at $20,000.

On April 18, that fee cap was upped to $100,000.

On the same day the town board authorized Stern’s firm to take on Rowan, they also approved a request from the wealthy financial investor to host a three-day event at Duryea and Sons Inc. for the Montauk Music Festival. On Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18, Duryea’s Dock can host musical events from noon until 9 PM. On Sunday, the times will be from noon until 8.

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