Private Parking On Public Land In Montauk?

Owners of Hero Beach have marked these parking spaces on South Eton Street as private property, threatening to tow any cars parked there without authorization. The land actually belongs to the Town of East Hampton.

In downtown Montauk, parking, both public and private, particularly by the beach, is always at a premium during the season. The representatives of Hero Beach Resort, also known as Oceanside Resort, rolled out a formula for a parking calculation for the property that would claim domain over public land before the East Hampton Town Planning Board May 22. Board members were not thrilled.

“You don’t have any claim to own what you have been using,” board member Randy Parsons told Britton Bistrian of Land Use Solutions, who was on hand representing Hero Beach, along with attorney Tiffany Scarloto.

Hero Beach owners want to legalize a restaurant/bar they have already built, and for which they have obtained a liquor license. As part of the site plan needed to legalize the bar/restaurant, Bistrian had presented the planning board with a list of six covenants, signed off on by Jon Krasner, the managing ownership partner of the site.

A likely key among the six covenants is the first, in which the owners agree to add a state-of-the-art septic system, something board members had been urging.

When it comes to parking, covenant number six reads, Hero Beach “will enforce that all on-site parking is for hotel guests.” Defining what an on-site parking space is, is the rub.

Currently, spaces that are owned by the town and the state on South Eton Street are marked with signs that warn they are on private property, and “violators towed at vehicle owner’s expense.” This fact is not exactly news. The presence of the signs on South Eton Street were documented well over a year ago, yet they remain.

A survey Bistrian presented to the board shows that eight of the 19 parking spaces Hero Beach claims in the front, enclosed parking area at the entrance to the resort are partially in the public right of way. The resort currently has just 11 spaces it can truly call its own.

Because the bar has 16 seats, when combined with the number of rooms at the resort, a total of 43 parking spaces is needed.

Bistrian proposed adding 11 more spaces on site by removing the only natural vegetation on the southern border of the property on South Emerson Street. The spaces would require drivers parking their cars to pull head in, meaning when they leave, they would be backing out onto South Emerson, which is busy during the season, particularly when Montauk Highway traffic comes to a stop, as it did much of the past holiday weekend.

Bistrian’s formula counted the 11 in front, the new 11 added on South Emerson, and the eight in the enclosed lot on Montauk Highway. She wanted to be able to draw at least 11 of the needed 13 to achieve the required parking on site from South Eton Street. However, with eight of the spaces on South Eton totally in the public right of way, and the rest mostly in the public right of way, she had a tough sell.

“If someone comes down to park for the beach, and they park in one of your head-in spots on Eton that are not at all on your property, will they see a sign there that says don’t park here, this is for the hotel?” board member Ed Krug asked. Parsons replied that there are private parking signs already in place.

“Frankly, I don’t think you should have the signs there,” Ian Calder-Piedmonte said.

John Jilnicki, attorney for the board, weighed in. “You can’t have signage like that. It is not for the property owner to decide. It is a town highway. It is not for the property owner to decide the parking regs there.”

Samuel Kramer, the board’s chair, said, “There is a big difference between something that is owned by the town and something that is owned by the applicant.”

The board has the power to waive the need for all 43 spaces, under the right circumstances. Eric Schantz, a senior planner for the town, suggested that the applicant consider at least proposing using some of the large lawn area on the south of the property, instead of the head-in spaces that would replace the vegetation on South Emerson.

Sharon McCobb, who lives in Montauk, said that cars frequently come “whizzing around the corner” at South Eton and Emerson, and called the sharp “L” turn dangerous.

Another of the covenants raised some concern from board members. Number three agrees to limit the total number of guests on the property to 200, “unless a special event/mass gathering permit is obtained from the Town of East Hampton.” The liquor license obtained by Hero Beach from the State Liquor Authority allows 499 guests to be served on the property. Board member Kathleen Cunningham said she would be comfortable with 200 being the cap even when a mass gathering permit has been obtained.

Bistrian had indicated that the owners wanted to go to public hearing. Calder Piedmonte cautioned that they were risking a possible rejection if the site plan went to public hearing too soon. He also said he believed a lower number of guests in the property, perhaps 120, was more in order.

“We cannot create a parking problem at this site, at the entrance to Montauk. It is a dangerous spot to begin with,” Krug said.

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