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Feb 5, 2019 12:12 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hedges Inn Sues East Hampton Village Over Wedding Receptions

The Hedges Inn.         KYRIL BROMLEY
Feb 5, 2019 12:42 PM

The Hedges Inn is suing East Hampton Village over the village’s attempts to stop tented outdoor weddings at the inn.

The suit, filed in State Supreme Court on January 23, seeks to reverse a determination last year that the inn could not hold special events outdoors because it did not have approved outdoor dining. It also seeks to nullify a village law, adopted last year, that disallows special event permits for pre-existing, nonconforming businesses like the Hedges Inn, which is on James Lane, located in a residential district.

Drama swirled last March when the village denied permits for four wedding receptions that had already been booked at the inn, with one bride’s father and one bridegroom’s mother emotionally beseeching the village to allow the weddings to go on—which they did, but at a property next to the Hedges, owned by one of the inn’s principals.

The village went on to adopt the new special events law, which went into effect in October, and the Hedges Inn asked the Village Zoning Board of Appeals to overturn the March determination of Building Inspector Kenneth Cullum that had denied special permits for the four weddings, arguing that the village had traditionally granted several permits every year to the inn. The ZBA turned down that appeal in December.

The lawsuit argues that nearby establishments are allowed to hold outdoor weddings under similar circumstance, as do East Hampton Town and neighboring villages. It calls the new law “spot zoning” and accuses the village of favoring one neighbor at the expense of the Hedges Inn.

Jenn Lilja, general manager at the Hedges Inn, said on Tuesday that weddings accounted for about 35 percent of the inn’s revenue, and that the inn had not booked future receptions, which are sometimes planned as far as two years ahead, for fear of having to cancel them.

Noting that the suit challenged the village’s interpretation of the zoning code that denied the permits, Village Administrator Becky Hansen said on Tuesday that “the village will defend itself in any lawsuit that seeks to invalidate or make inconsistent any provisions of the zoning code.”

Filed by Christopher Kelley of Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quartararo, the lawsuit names the ZBA, the village, the Village Board and Mr. Cullum.

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