By Stephen J. Kotz
The uneasy cease-fire in the battle between Page at 63 Main and Sag Harbor Village officials over the restaurant’s expansion efforts ended when the village planning board again took up the application on Tuesday, March 24.
Last summer, the restaurant was cited by the village for overreaching its site-plan approval when it constructed improvements for the Back Page on Division Street behind the main restaurant. The village maintained that what was supposed to be a waiting area, where diners could have hors d’oeuvres and a drink while waiting for a table in the main restaurant, had been used instead as a late-night hangout and outdoor dining area. When the matter was not cleared up, the village board revoked the restaurant’s outdoor dining license. Page sued and won a temporary restraining order, but its suit was later dismissed.
Dennis Downes, the attorney for the restaurant, conceded the Back Page has “functioned a little differently” than what was originally approved but said the restaurant should still be granted site-plan approval for the work. “The use of the area has changed,” he told the board. “The use of the facility is still a restaurant.”
Planning Board member Larry Perrine, who filled in for the board’s chairman, Greg Ferraris, who recused himself after having done some accounting work for some of Page’s partners, said the board was not happy with the way uninvents had unfolded.
He said the restaurant’s owners had first substituted a patio that was larger than a lawn area it replaced and moved an enclosed and refrigerated Dumpster to a position along the property line. The Dumpster, the village said, posed a fire hazard and also required a variance.
Mr. Perrine said instead of a waiting area to be used during regular hours the Back Page had “later hours—hours as late as 4 a.m. in the morning have been reported by neighbors to me personally. It’s almost like a late night bar scene. It is almost functioning as a second business.”
Last month, Page received variances from the village Zoning Board of Appeals allowing it to keep its Dumpster along the property line next to Murph’s Tavern and keep the expanded patio area. Mr. Perrine said the Planning Board was not advised of that action.
“In order to get the variance we had to work with three building inspectors,” Mr. Downes said, and when planning board attorney Denise Schoen said current building inspector Tom Preiato had not signed off on whether the Dumpster enclosure was fireproof, as required, Mr. Downes grew testy.
“You know what really bothers me? All this stuff comes up after the fact,” he said. “If Tom has an objection, he needs to provide a list of deficiencies so we can take care of it. I can’t guess.”
“That is an unbelievably unfair assessment of this process,” Ms. Schoen replied.
Last year, when the matter was before the planning board, Mr. Downes and one of Page’s owners, Gerard Wawryk, insisted that a survey showing the changed location of the Dumpster had been approved by the board when Ms. Schoen was out of the room. Mr. Perrine dismissed that account, telling them he had personally listened to all the recordings of the board’s meetings, and the matter had never been discussed.
Mr. Wawryk threatened to once again sue the village. “We’ll wind up back in court,” he said. “That’s all there is to it. That’s the way it’s going to be.”
The board tabled the matter to next month’s meeting, as it waits for Page to certify the Dumpster is indeed fireproof, provide updated surveys, and submit a description for precisely what it plans to do with the site plan.
Hagen Seeks Bed and Breakfast
The board also held a hearing on Zoning Board chairman Anton Hagen’s application to legalize a bed and breakfast he has operated in his home on Main Street. Mr. Hagen told the board he was trying to comply with an initiative undertaken by the village board to legalize bed and breakfasts to ensure they meet fire and other safety standards.
Although the board asked Mr. Hagen to provide an engineer’s report to address whether his house’s sanitary system was up to the task, he told it that the stubborn winter weather had made it impossible to uncover the sanitary system and mark its location on a survey.
Nonetheless, in a letter to the board, he requested that it approve his application before the report is in hand, noting that he is retired and plans to supplement his income with the bed and breakfast business.
That request drew a rebuke from Mr. Ferraris. “For you of all people to request special treatment for your application is almost unthinkable,” he told Mr. Hagen.
The board adjourned the hearing until next month.