The future of one of the only four buildings in the Town of East Hampton that can be operated as a nightclub without obtaining a permit is safe, apparently, for now.
The East Hampton Town Planning Board gave an unambiguous thumbs down on an initial site-plan approval November 20 for a building that would have replaced the nightclub building, at 44 Three Mile Harbor Road. It is owned by Frank Cilione and his partner Rick Van Benschoten. The two purchased the building in 1998.
The site formerly also had a restaurant. However, Cilione leased that part of the building out to Spur East, a business that caters to independent entrepreneurs, providing them with workspace and other small business-related benefits.
The proposal Cilione brought before the board called for the demolition of the 5903-square-foot building, to be replaced by a 21,232-square-foot two-story building with a 12,000-square-foot retail space on the first floor, and six small apartments designated as affordable housing on the second floor, which would also contain office space. In addition, the basement would contain a parking garage 10,950 square feet in size, with spaces for 29 cars. The lot size is 35,000 square feet.
“We proposed to do a fairly aggressive mixed-use building,” Pam Glazer, the architect who designed the proposed new building, told the board. She called what she had designed “not something that has been precedented here in East Hampton.”
Glazer explained, “We are trying to get a sense of what would be acceptable for this site.”
Cilione told the board, “We want to redevelop the property to a more town-serving use,” adding that the design was inspired by the town’s recent series of hamlet studies. He said Spur East had expressed an interest in the new second-floor office space.
After Glazer and Cilione finished their presentation, board members explained why the proposal was, essentially, several bridges too far.
Louis Cortese was first up. “The graphics you prepared are beautiful,” he said. “Unfortunately, when I looked at the elements of this project, I was extremely dismayed. You really did get aggressive on a lot of things. You overshot on almost everything.”
Included in his list was the underground garage, which he said was below the level of ground water on the property, the amount of lot coverage the project called for, the lack of adequate parking, and overall size of the proposed store.
“This really isn’t the type of development we see in East Hampton,” Ian Calder-Piedmonte said. He pointed out that the number of parking spaces provided in the plan is far less than what is required for such a large project under the town code. He said that while he didn’t want to reject the proposal outright, it appeared to be “10 pounds of potatoes in a two-pound bag.”
“I just hosted the Hamptons Film Festival. We had parking up and down Three Mile Harbor Road,” Cilione responded about the parking. “It happens all the time.”
Next up was Randy Parsons. “You need to bring us something that meets our code. This is way over the top,” he said. “This, to me, is a non-starter.”
Vice-chair Kathleen Cunningham, who was filling in for board chairman Samuel Kramer, focused on the 12,000-square-foot retail space, so large that it is classified by the town as a box store. “The town specifically does not want big box stores. I can’t imagine that variance being granted. We are giving you our input.”
Cilione indicated his team would be going back to the drawing board. “We are in no rush to do this,” he said.
Ashley Heather, the founder of The Spur and Spur East spoke on the phone about the site on Saturday. Spur East opened earlier this year. He said that it was a successful year, and that the company continues to pick up new clients.
He explained how Spur East and the nightclub co-exist. “The building is split in two. The right side is still an event space,” he said. Spur East operates out of what used to be the restaurant on the site, which is on the left side of the building.
Heather said that the two businesses sharing the same building do not conflict, since his operation is usually closing by 8 or 9 PM, the time a nightclub is just getting going. As for the company’s future at the site, he said, “We are just keeping an open mind.” If Cilione does move forward with a plan for a new building that the town finds acceptable for the site in the next year, Heather said Spur East will find a new location for 2020.