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Jul 17, 2012 12:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Landlord Blames Westhampton Beach Village For Vacant Building

Jul 18, 2012 1:40 PM

A landlord is blaming Westhampton Beach Village for his inability to attract a new tenant to a vacant building that he owns on the southwest corner of Oak Street and Montauk Highway, one of the entrances to the village.

Micky Biss, a real estate developer who splits his time between Miami and Westhampton Beach, told village trustees during their work session on Monday night that the municipality forces potential business owners to jump through too many hoops before they are allowed to open in the village.

Mr. Biss, who owns the empty building that most recently housed The Corner Restaurant, as well as the former Johnny Chih’s Chinese restaurant that now features Big City Burgers, said he has had several tenants express interest over the past 18 months in leasing the vacant property and opening a restaurant. The problem, he added, is that all have backed out at the last minute after learning about the stipulations of a previous site plan that would have to be carried out before a business could open there.

Those bad experiences, he said on Tuesday morning, prompted him to try to sell the vacant building, though he now says it is off the market. A sign in building’s window states that both buildings are for sale.

According to Mr. Biss, his hands are being tied by actions taken by the former property owner, Jimmy Chih, adding that the property’s site plan is not economically feasible. That plan calls for the installation of additional drainage and parking, improvements that are needed to meet Suffolk County Health Department codes. The plan also calls for keeping clear both the village’s and county’s rights of way next to the land.

“There is no legal basis to tie the legal owner of a property to a site plan from the previous owner,” Mr. Biss said. “I know my land use and, for some reason, the village feels that I must be bound to his site plan.”

But Westhampton Beach Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan disagrees with that assessment. He pointed out that the old site plan is still attached to the property and noted that Mr. Biss has not yet filed a formal application with the village’s Planning Board to reopen a restaurant at the location. Part of that application must include a revised site plan, Mr. Houlihan said, to ensure that the building follows all village and county codes.

He added that if Mr. Biss files an application with a new site plan, both would be reviewed by the Planning Board and, if approved, replace the existing site plan. Currently, the building is not up to standard and cannot reopen as a restaurant, according to Mr. Houlihan.

“There is a clear route that you have to follow,” Mr. Houlihan said. “It has nothing to do with what I want you to do or what the trustees want you to do. It is the Planning Board site plan that has to be followed.”

Mr. Biss acknowledged that he has not filed any applications with the village, but said he thinks that politics—he does not believe the village wants a business to open at that location—are to blame for the roadblocks he keeps hitting. He said he does not understand why the village cannot simply ignore the old site plan and help him land a new tenant. On Monday night, he requested that the Village Board discard the old site plan.

But Mr. Houlihan, Mayor Conrad Teller and several Village Trustees reiterated that a new application must be filed, and approved, by the Planning Board, and that Mr. Biss cannot move forward without a site plan.

“You have to make an application for the use of that property with the Building Department,” Mr. Teller said. “You would love to hear me say that I will meet you at the property tomorrow and we will take away the site plan and put a business there. No, it is not going to happen.”

Village Trustee Ralph Urban agreed with the mayor, pointing out that the village is not responsible for the finances of individual property owners.

“If there is an old site plan that you do not want to follow, please submit your new ideas to the village,” Mr. Urban said. “There is a process that you have to go through, every business in the village has gone through the same process.

“If it is unaffordable for you, come up with something that is,” he continued. “It is not our responsibility to come up with something that is economically feasible for you.”

During the exchange, Mr. Houlihan said he has spoken with several of the potential tenants that Mr. Biss was referring to and most told him that they decided against renting the building because they think Mr. Biss should help bring the building up to code before they sign a lease.

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Not sure I'm following your logic?
Patchogue, Bellport, Shirley, Mastic--lax regulations--lots of vacant buildings
Westhampton Beach--strict regulations--few vacancies
So...are you saying loosen up the regs so we can look more like Mastic?
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Jul 19, 12 6:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
let's leave it looking like garbage instead of coming up with a plan such as phasing in the work. The problem is that government officials have no idea about costs and what it takes to survive in business. They follow the rules that they created to do nothing but protect their own jobs and benefits. Going into business is tough enough without being substantially in the hole before you can open. Strict public safety is important...having someone spend a forturne on a landscape design or what color ...more
By The Real World (368), southampton on Jul 19, 12 11:10 AM
Bring back Johnny Chih's ! !
By labrams (6), Southampton on Jul 19, 12 1:10 PM
I agree with The Real World the Village should allow a phasing in of the work. Let Bliss get a tenant in and give him a reasonable time period to get all the work done. Let it be cosmetically improved in the meantime. The Village Officials let the former owner Johnny Chih open up a new restaurant operated by Mickey Chih after Dora's closed. The Building Inspecter sat on his hands while the elected officials looked the other way. Mayor Teller is such a hypocrite. He let a "local" open a new establishment ...more
By beachgirl11978 (18), Westhampton Beach on Jul 20, 12 11:40 AM
Mr Bliss does not know land use laws:

Under the doctrine of caveat emptor, the buyer could not recover from the seller for defects on the property that rendered the property unfit for ordinary purposes.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jul 21, 12 3:41 PM
Keep voting in these ineffectual officials and this is what you get. If enough really serious business men and women in this town cared to simplify things and see this area become a vibrant business community, these kind of abuses would not be allowed to happen. In short, if you don't like how its being done, make the enough of an effort that change does happen. Whining about these kinds of things at the water cooler just does not cut it.
By Leon789 (50), westhampton on Jul 22, 12 7:40 PM