Bayville variance for American Legion spurs lawsuit

Vincent Libertini, commander of American Legion Post 1285 Vincent Libertini, commander of American Legion Post 1285 in Bayville, in the outside waterfront patio area behind the post's building. (Aug. 8, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

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Two Bayville residents have sued the village zoning board in an effort to overturn its approval for the American Legion post to hold outdoor wedding ceremonies, alleging it would invade their privacy and hurt property values.

Even though the approval last month came with restrictions to avoid noise and other problems for neighbors, the two residents of the property west of the legion hall filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Mineola on Dec. 13.

In his suit filed on behalf of Alice Lovegrove and Michael Ryan, attorney Mark Matarazzo of Oyster Bay claims the zoning board granted Robert H. Spittel Post 1285 three use variances since 1959 "without following the standards required by law" allowing "full indoor and outdoor commercial use."

The legion has said it would close the post at 45 Bayville Ave. without the income from catering, and caterers would not use the facility without being able to hold ceremonies outdoors by Long Island Sound.

After three hearings where most neighbors and other speakers supported the application, the board unanimously voted to allow outdoor wedding ceremonies of up to one hour between 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., with music limited to four stringed and unamplified instruments. It also required the legion to use valet parking and allow outdoor smoking only by the front entrance to minimize the impact on surrounding residents.

The lawsuit alleges the board "deliberately ignored the standards for use variances required" by the state's village law and a New York Court of Appeals ruling in 1981. It adds the decision would "infringe on the petitioners' privacy, right to quiet enjoyment of their property, and lower the value" of their property.

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The two neighbors contend the initial variance in 1959 should have been voided when the property was turned into a full-time commercial catering hall, but in any case it automatically expired in 1964 when the legion failed to renew it.

The suit says the legion failed to provide evidence of financial hardship, as required by state law. Village attorney Dominic Bianco could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Legion attorney Jeffrey D. Forchelli of Uniondale said: "We asked for a minor modification of a condition of a use variance from 1979. They are trying to relitigate variances that are not at issue and for which the statute of limitations has long ago expired."

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The post's most recent tenant, the WaterView Club, was evicted in April because it owed about $200,000 in back taxes, back rent and utility payments -- and it generated complaints from neighbors.

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