Tuesday, August 29, 2006

EXTRA! EXTRA! Town of Hempstead Sues Own Zoning Board

Biting The Hand It Feeds? Who Would Have Ever Thunk It?

In a seemingly unprecedented move, the Town of Hempstead has filed suit against its own Zoning Board of Appeals, in a dispute involving a deck over Reynold's Channel.

Could it be that the Town of Hempstead, always known for its Band-Aid approach, is suddenly becoming more proactive?

Newsday reports on this strange occurence. We surmise there must have either been a full moon, or something more in the water of Reynold's Channel than just salt and fluke!

The Town's curious suit against itself raises not only eyebrows here at The Community Alliance, but a few questions, as well.

Who will be picking up the tab for legal fees in this lawsuit which pits Town of Hempstead against Town of Hempstead? [Ah, that would be John Q. Public!] Can the Town of Hempstead really sue itself? [Maybe the Town considers its Zoning Board as a seperate legal entity, much like the Town's Sanitary Districts. Local control versus out of control.]

What next? Perhaps Joe Ra, as Town Attorney, will commence a lawsuit (or an Article 78 Proceeding) against Joe Ra, as General Counsel for Town of Hempstead Sanitary District 6.

In Hempstead Town, stranger things have happened!

Hempstead sues its zoning board over bar

Newsday Staff Writer

The Hempstead Town Board has taken the highly unusual step of suing its own zoning board of appeals over a popular Point Lookout waterfront bar.

At issue is the outdoor deck behind Scotty's Marina that overlooks Reynold's Channel. For patrons, it's been a prime spot to take in the view with a drink. For neighbors, it's been a nuisance.

The town board views the use of the deck as violating the rights of the Town of Hempstead, which owns the underwater land below the channel, and disagrees with the Hempstead zoning board of appeals decision that permitted dining there in November 2005.

The town board appoints members to the zoning board, an independent body.

Town Attorney Joseph Ra said the bar owners had never obtained the necessary permit to build it. The zoning board has decided to revisit the situation and has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 13 at 2 p.m.

In 1999, Tom and Roberta Doheny, who own Scotty's Fishing Station and Marina, opened The Buoy Bar. At first, the bar and seating was contained on the deck, but the owners later sought to create an indoor bar with some outside seating.

The zoning board ruled on Nov. 30 that the owners did not need special permission to operate an indoor restaurant and granted a parking variance. The zoning board also found that the owners had the right to use the deck for dining. "... A member of the public could perhaps bring food from home and consume it on the deck," the zoning board wrote. "The mere consumption of food on the deck is not a restaurant."

The town board, however, argues that it alone governs the waterway rights and that the zoning board overstepped its authority. According to the lawsuit, "Scotty's Marina's proposed use of the deck for outdoor drinking and dining by customers of its bar and grill is patently unrelated to the riparian right of access to the waterway for commerce and navigation." The town board dismissed the zoning board's "hyper-contrived determination that 'the deck is not a restaurant.'"Controversy over the bar has divided the cozy beach community.

The owners say their establishment is low-key.But critics complain of noise and crowds and say they don't want to deal with patrons urinating in their bushes or events such as a "Speedo Nite."
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

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