The owner of Shelter Island’s century-old Ram’s Head Inn has taken the town to court after the municipality claimed the business’ 50-year-old dock was on public property and last month sent workers with chainsaws and a backhoe to dismantle it.
Aandrea Carter, of Sag Harbor, purchased the inn — a Colonial-style manor house that dates to 1919, features 17 guest rooms and has a 110-seat restaurant overlooking Coecles Harbor — last year. One of the inn’s selling points is its dock offering easy access by boat, Carter states in an affidavit.
Town officials said the dock was unsafe and that Carter removed a fence after it was erected by town workers, which is why they started to remove the dock itself.
“We are extremely confident that we will prevail when the court actually hears the case,” the town board said in a statement.
The Ram’s Head Inn is a 100-year-old inn and restaurant that overlooks Shelter Island’s Coecles Harbor and is accessible by boat or a vehicle.
Shelter Island Town began dismantling the inn’s 50-year-old dock last month, saying it was on public property, prompting the inn’s owner, Aandrea Carter, to sue the town.
Both parties are barred from altering the dock until the matter returns to court on July 7.
The board voted 5-0 on March 1 to declare multiple surveys showed that the dock is on town property and authorized town attorney Stephen Kiely to send a letter stating the dock would be removed within 30 days.
Carter’s Sag Harbor attorney, Alex Kriegsman, said his client and the town tried to work out an agreement before the town took action. He argues that Carter should be allowed to continue using the dock because the inn’s previous owners had done so for 50 years.
“My client is just trying to operate a business the way it has been run for decades,” Kriegsman told Newsday on Tuesday.
Carter filed a lawsuit against Shelter Island in state Supreme Court in Riverhead on May 24, naming Town Supervisor Gerry Siller, Kiely and the four other town board members as defendants.
The complaint said Kiely proposed a compromise where Carter would build a dock on a neighboring property and then relinquish rights to the current dock. The town attorney then sent a formal letter on May 11 informing Carter she had until June 9 to remove the dock, despite those negotiations. Kriegsman replied that his client rejected Shelter Island’s premise and intended to fight it. Five days later the town erected a fence around the area and started to demolish the structure, according to court papers.
“It is shocking to see the government destroying my business property,” Carter said Wednesday, adding she hopes they can resolve the issue. “As an American, of course I expect due process.”
The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Carter owns the dock and unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. Judge Joseph Santorelli signed a temporary restraining order the same day the lawsuit was filed preventing the town or Carter from making any additional alterations to the dock.
Guests can still arrive at the damaged dock by boat, but must be ferried ashore, Carter said. The inn can still be reached by another dock Carter purchased last winter, or by car.
The lawsuit also notes Siller has publicly conceded that Kiely’s past work for the Soloviev family, which owns The Chequit, a rival business, “would most certainly have the appearance” of a conflict of interest. Neither Siller nor Kiely responded to requests for comment.
The case is due back in court July 7.