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Jul 13, 2010 5:05 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town officials under fire for Surf Lodge parking agreement

Jul 13, 2010 5:05 PM

East Hampton Town officials came under fire Monday night for what one Montauk man called “a sweetheart deal” for an establishment that many see as a nuisance.

Richard Valcich was referring to the Surf Lodge and the lease the town has drawn up with the hotel, restaurant and nightclub to use the Montauk Playhouse for parking on the weekends. The agreement comes with a $5,000 fee and a September expiration date and was unanimously approved by the board, with the exception of Councilwoman Julia Prince, who is on leave. Though the deal is all but done, the actual agreement has yet to be signed, said Councilwoman Theresa Quigley.

Ms. Quigley and Supervisor Bill Wilkinson faced a deluge of criticism when they attended the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday night. CAC members and other residents told them they thought the town should not be accommodating to an establishment that has a history of violations. Furthermore, they said the town did not get enough money for the deal.

“We’re trying to address a very specific problem,” Ms. Quigley said. “We thought we solved the parking problem. We didn’t intend to create new problems.”

Mr. Wilkinson said the catalyst for the agreement was a busy Memorial Day weekend at the Surf Lodge when safety issues caused by a parking situation in which clubgoers leave their cars parked illegally along the roadside, were glaringly obvious. He said when there was a fire on Industrial Road that weekend, a fire truck and ambulance were rerouted around Fort Pond because they could not get through the crowded side streets with cars parked on both sides of Edgemere and Industrial roads.

Mr. Wilkinson said parking restrictions around the Surf Lodge were rarely enforced. In addition to the lease agreement for the Playhouse property, the town said it would extend the no-parking zone to include all housefronts on South Industrial Road and has hired four temporary officers to patrol the area and enforce parking regulations. In addition, the Surf Lodge has hired an additional security guard and will hire a shuttle to bring people from the Playhouse to the establishment.

“This was not done to make money, it was done to mitigate the traffic issue and improve safety,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “We were very fortunate not to have a catastrophe Memorial Day weekend.”

Though many at the meeting, business owners especially, thought the practice was unfair, they also said that if the town was going to sign such an agreement it should have been more lucrative.

“We could have easily gotten $50,000 from them in one weekend,” said CAC Chairwoman Lisa Grenci. “We don’t have a problem with these guys coming in here, we have a problem that they are getting a break when the local people would not have such an easy time getting that parking.”

Ms. Grenci added that community members suffer because of the huge crowds and noise at the Surf Lodge, and said the CAC has been trying to work with Surf Lodge owner Jamie Mulholland to get him to bring the establishment into compliance after it received numerous town code violations, many for noise and septic issues. Many community members have expressed concern that septic flow from the Surf Lodge would pollute Fort Pond.

Mr. Wilkinson said he did not see the two issues as being connected and said he did not feel comfortable bargaining one for the other. And according to Ms. Quigley, who said she spoke to the town fire marshal on Monday, the Surf Lodge has a much higher legal occupancy than many thought.

Chief Fire Marshal Mike Johnson said the interior and the deck can accommodate 134 and 130 people, respectively, and the beach area outside the building has no occupancy restrictions.

“People are upset because you are accommodating an operation that has become a public nuisance,” said James Ketchum. “You say you’re concerned about public safety when you have the legal mechanism to close the place down. If you’re sincere in your concern, close the place down.”

Diane Hausman, a member of the CAC and the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation, said she was disappointed that the foundation had never been consulted about the decision to use the property, which is owned by the town.

“At no time did we ever come to an agreement,” she said. “We feel a total lack of respect from the entire Town Board that none of you—with the exception of Julia who was not there to vote—paid attention to any of us.”

Ms. Grenci also suggested the board might have held a public hearing over the issue to gauge community concerns.

“We regulated,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “That’s what we do. Not everything is for public hearing.”

Tom Grenci, a town police officer and member of the Montauk Fire Department, supported the decision and said it is a much needed and drastic improvement.

“I was on that call,” he said about the Memorial Day fire. “Something had to be done and I think something intelligent was done to control that traffic.”

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"the town said it would extend the no-parking zone to include all housefronts on South Industrial Road and has hired four temporary officers to patrol the area and enforce parking regulations"

Sounds like this is going to COST the town money.
By Sag Native (54), East Hampton on Jul 14, 10 1:05 PM
That would depend on how many tickets they write.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 15, 10 1:20 AM
$5000.00 is not NEARLY enough.what were you thinking?
By montauk resident (41), montauk on Jul 14, 10 1:53 PM
Success is punished in Montauk. This club took a beat up establishement that nobody loved and turned it around while bringing in a good class of consumer. Other bars attract a Jersey Shore crowd who urinate in my lawn and threaten my wife a I with violence. I hope someone like these people buy the old Oyster Pond space but please stay away from the Montauket!
By Bray (2), Montauk on Jul 14, 10 5:42 PM
Agree - Surf Lodge is the epicenter of what's driving the new Montauk, which everyone loves to hate, while benefiting from all the jobs and cash that the new scene is bringing (including the spill over Amagansett and EH). And I noticed a demonstrably better traffic flow/parking control situation the couple of times I drove by last weekend. Kudo's for the town board for trying to facilitate solutions.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Jul 14, 10 5:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
People who are concerned about fairness should consider the parking issues at Manucci's esp. on weekends (plus 7 or 8 irish kids to a room), somewhere in the middle the parking on Edgemere turns from Surf Lodge to ENE, and at the Harvest it goes from Johns Drive Inn to Bridgehampton Natnl. Bank. Do we try to shut them all down or does the former judge like to frequent these establishments?
By independent observer (34), east hampton on Jul 14, 10 7:14 PM
I would guess part of the problem with the parking from the Surf Lodge is the aloofness of the patrons as they walk in the road as if it were a pedestrian thoroughfare. I think comparing the parking overflow from ENE to the Surf Lodge is like comparing the Titanic to the SS Minnow.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 15, 10 1:24 AM
thank you. the people in the street is my ONLY problem with the surf lodge
By tm (174), mtk on Jul 15, 10 11:33 AM
“It’s not just the vehicles,” he said. “It’s the pedestrians walking down the road or on the white line. If someone had been killed there we’d be sitting here saying, ‘Why didn’t we do something about it?’ Well, we’re doing something about it.”

LOL.... Try the double yellow line, as if they own the freaking road!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 15, 10 1:26 AM
If something is unsafe just get rid of it...don't try to mitigate the danger and come up with a solution. Is that really how people in Montauk want the Town Board to address problems? I guess the Town should close establishments on Montauk Highway that create dangerous traffic, and close every motel that has six or seven in a room, and close restaurants that have bad septic systems, and do not allow charity events on the green because they most certainly cause traffic and pedestrian safety problems ...more
By formertbm (76), east hampton on Jul 17, 10 12:13 AM
1 member liked this comment