New businesses in East Hampton Town are required to build parking spaces for their customers and, when they cannot do it, pay a fee in lieu of providing the parking.
But when Montauk Brewing Co. recently asked to have the fee waived when it applied to change the use of its building on South Erie Avenue to retail only, the request created a problem for the town board.
In more than 20 years, the town has collected about $100,000 and never spent a cent. Therefore, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley argued, it would be unfair to charge any business for parking spaces it could not provide.
In addition, under the town code, the fees cannot be used for anything except buying land for parking. And another provision stipulates the money can be spent only in the community where it is raised.
The money cannot be used even to repair parking areas, Quigley said. "Just to acquire new land. And, it's a drop in the bucket."
Councilman Dominick Stanzione noted the money would reduce town costs for new land acquisition for parking, but that it also would force East Hampton to spend a lot more money than it would ever get from the special account.
In the Montauk Brewing case, there is no space to add parking for the new business -- the company wants to change from a custom workshop with retail space to retail use only. That's because the town had already acquired all the vacant land in the area to build its own municipal parking lot.
Supervisor Bill Wilkinson noted the town does have 43 parking spaces across the street from the Peconic Brewing Co. building, and that the business is precisely the kind the town is trying to encourage: It is owned by three East Hampton High School graduates trying to carve out a future in East Hampton.
Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc argued that waiving the fee for Montauk Brewing would be unfair to other businesses that have paid it over the past two decades. But Quigley argued it would be just as wrong to collect money from new businesses that likely will never be spent.
The discussion ended when Wilkinson asked town attorney John Jilnicki: "Do we have the legal power to waive this fee?"
The answer was not simple. The town, Jilnicki said, can waive some fees under some circumstances, such as waiving the cost of police services for nonprofit groups holding public events. But, he added, it would take research to determine whether this particular fee could be waived for a for-profit company.
In the end, the resolution was tabled. The board decided to study the issue at a future work session.