November 29, 2006
Pete Hammerle's not going to let them skate this time. Discussing the Buckskill Winter Club in work session last week, the East Hampton Town councilman hinted that should the club open for ice-skating before all the proper approvals have been procured, he'd support legal action to close the popular venue.
Within days, operators of the club filed a legal action against the town, looking to get the permits they need.
When it opened sans permits in December 2004, the ice-skating facility became an instant fave among local families. Neighbors, on the other hand, were none too pleased to see a busy recreational use in their residential subdivision.
Reacting to the complaints, during the summer of 2005, the town board adopted zoning code regulations relating to converting tennis courts to ice rinks, as Buckskill had done. Town officials directed Doug and Kathryn DeGroot, who operate the facility, to obtain site plan approval for improvements. By opening time last winter, they hadn't, and the threat of closure loomed. Once skaters began to use the site, the club began to receive almost daily summonses for violating the town code.
Confronted by a petition boasting hundreds of signatures from patrons entreating the town to let the ice rink stay open on a limited basis, town board members relented. An agreement crafted between Supervisor Bill McGintee and the DeGroots allowed continued operation, with the proviso that the entrepreneurs seek site plan approval.
It has yet to be granted. The couple filed an application but review has not moved swiftly enough to green light a legal opening anytime soon. The application was last reviewed by the town planning board November 1. Board members sent the applicants back, still unsatisfied with lighting and parking proposals. Revised plans need to be submitted and analyzed before the application can be deemed complete and scheduled for a public hearing.
Meanwhile, the DeGroots appealed the Building Inspector's refusal to give them a certificate of occupancy before the Zoning Board of Appeals last summer. The ZBA upheld the official's decision, and this week saw another legal maneuver. Attorneys for the club filed an Article 78 proceeding seeking to overturn the ZBA's decision in State Supreme Court on Monday.