After the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied The Style Bar’s application for a parking variance on December 16, 2008, Peri and Ira Gurfein, owners of the business, decided to file an Article 78 lawsuit against the village over the ZBA’s decision. New York State Supreme Court proceedings on the case are scheduled to begin on Thursday, March 30 in Riverhead.
The Gurfeins’ variance request for six off-site parking spaces stems from an expansion the couple made to their business in 2000. At the time, a village moratorium was in place and the Gurfeins converted a portion of a second floor residential space into an accessory, commercial use of the ground floor beauty parlor business they had been operating.
However, the ZBA maintains this expansion was made without the required building permits and the Gurfeins’ certificate of occupancy doesn’t allow commercial use of the second floor space. In order to continue operating their business on the second floor, the Gurfeins require six additional parking spaces. Since on-site space at the Bay Street location is at a premium, the Gurfeins needed a variance for off-site parking.
The ZBA, however, voted against the Gurfeins’ request. The ZBA said there is already a parking shortage in the village business district and added that giving the Gurfeins a variance for six-off site spaces would worsen the situation and create an undesirable change to the neighborhood. The board added that by expanding the business without providing the necessary parking, the Gufeins significantly affected the village parking problems, since the ZBA claims the enlargement increased the business floor area by more than 100 percent. Finally, the board concluded the Gurfeins created the hardship themselves because they consciously bypassed the village approval process for their commercial expansion.
However, the Gurfeins’ lawyer, Robert Marcincuk, stated in lawsuit documents, the ZBA’s decision was “retaliatory and designed to punish the Petitioners for their business expansion/renovations without first obtaining a building permit or other necessary Village approvals.”
During an interview, Marcinuk said “We are saying [perhaps] we created the situation by expanding, but the self-created hardship alone isn’t determinative as to whether or not the zoning board of appeals should have denied granting the variance.”
Marcinuk claims the board was presented with several letters from owners of neighboring businesses, who said the Style Bar didn’t have an adverse impact on the neighborhood. He added that the expanded business has been in operation since 2000. Marcinuk said there isn’t a feasible alternative for the Gurfeins since it is impossible to create on-site parking for the business.
Marcinuk went on to state that a similar parking variance was granted to Bay Partners, LLC, for the Tutto Il Giorno Restaurant on Bay Street in February 2008. The restaurant sought to create outdoor seating during the summer, which required additional parking. The ZBA, however, found outdoor seating had been operated from the site since 1975, and thus wouldn’t be a substantial change to the neighborhood. Bay Partners was subsequently granted the variance.
In December, members of the ZBA said the Tutto Il Giorno approval wasn’t equivalent to the Style Bar application due to the different circumstances of both businesses.
Of the lawsuit, chairman of the ZBA Michael Bromberg said, “I think our board is right and [the Gurfeins] are wrong.”
Above: A view of the Style Bar.Â