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Jul 15, 2008 7:29 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Surf Lodge spawns parking problems in Montauk

Jul 15, 2008 7:29 AM

East Hampton Town Police this summer have issued more than 100 parking tickets for illegally parked cars near the newly popular restaurant, motel and nightspot in Montauk, the Surf Lodge on Fort Pond.

Police Chief Todd Sarris has asked the Town Board to make a nearby roadway a no-parking zone to curb what he and residents say is a dangerous situation created by parked cars jammed along the roadside. According to Chief Sarris, the line-up of illegally parked cars has reached proportions never seen before at the location, which has long been been a popular nightclub but had never generated the amount of traffic seen this summer.

Police recently began a crackdown, enforcing no parking restrictions along Edgemere Street. The chief said that 113 parking summonses had been written for cars near the hotel and restaurant since Memorial Day weekend, most in the last couple of weeks.

The road has always been a no-parking zone but police rarely enforced the ban in the past, Chief Sarris said, since parking there had not posed a significant hazard.

“Someone is going to get killed,” said Lisa Grenci, chairwoman of the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee. “It’s worse than it’s ever been. In the old days, the Shebeen,” a former club at the site, “didn’t get rocking until at least 11 p.m. Now its afternoon and evening, when everyone is heading to dinner and to the beach. There are cars lined up all the way to town and people walking down the road in the dark.”

Whatever business occupied it, the Surf Lodge site has long been a popular nightspot with Montauk’s young people. But those businesses drew a late-night partying crowd. This summer the crowds at the Surf Lodge have been arriving all day long, beginning earlier in the day, Chief Sarris said, overwhelming the property’s small parking area.

The Surf Lodge ties itself to Montauk’s surfing heritage, showing surfing movies on a large movie screen inside the restaurant lobby. The building is decorated by local surfer and designer Tracy Feith. Sam Talbot, a former contestant on the television show “Top Chef,” is the chef.

Trying to discourage the illegal parking, police have been “cracking down hard this year,” the police chief said this week. “We’ve issued a ton of summonses but it hasn’t seemed to put a stop to things. It seems like they treat the cost of the ticket as just part of the price of going out.”

Chief Sarris added that he has asked the Town Board to designate Industrial Road, which intersects Edgemere Street near the Surf Lodge, as a no-parking road also. Industrial Road has been a particular problem with the parked cars because there is no shoulder where the road runs along Fort Pond.

The chief said the town had received a number of noise complaints about the Surf Lodge from homeowners across Fort Pond in the Shepherd’s Neck neighborhood but the Surf Lodge management seems to have addressed those issues and the complaints have waned in recent weeks.

But Ms. Grenci said the town has not been enforcing a number of code provisions at the Surf Lodge, including the operation of a hair salon and a clothing boutique within the building, commercial uses not included in the building’s status as a legal pre-existing, non-conforming restaurant. She also questioned whether the building received permits for some of the additions it made to the property, including decorative sand dunes that were built along the edge of Fort Pond.

Town Natural Resources Department head Larry Penny said a special permit was not required for the sand dunes, which were part of a natural revegetation plan for the property.

Ms. Grenci said the “lack of enforcement” at Surf Lodge is part of a pattern of lax treatment of businesses in Montauk, where Duryea’s Seafood Dock has operated a restaurant for 17 years without a certificate of occupancy.

“Basically, there’s no code enforcement,” she said. “There was never outdoor dining before, no retail, there’s no on-site parking. Where are the stringent laws that East Hampton is supposedly known for?”

Richard Cahn, a director of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, said that the members of his group also have expressed concerns about the Surf Lodge’s compliance with local law.

“As far as we know, the Surf Lodge has never gone to the Planning Board or to the ZBA,” he said. “There’s a retail shop supposedly and a hair salon. Those aren’t permitted uses there.”

A call to the Surf Lodge requesting comment from an owner was not returned.

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