The owner of a property along Montauk Highway in Westhampton that most recently housed a nightclub and restaurant is seeking a variance that would advance his plans to demolish the structure and build 14 apartments in its place.
Lawrence Citarelli Jr., president of the Westhampton Beach building firm Lawrence III Corporation, appeared before the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals last Thursday, February 7, to present his plans that call for the construction of three two-story structures on the 1.7-acre parcel. Town records list the owner of the lot as Citron 19 Montauk LLC, in care of Mr. Citarelli.
The property is zoned R-20. half-acre residential, which does not permit apartments or the former nightclub. As a result, Mr. Citarelli is seeking a variance that would allow a change from one preexisting nonconforming use to another. If the board grants the request, Mr. Citarelli would need to present a site plan to the Southampton Town Planning Board for approval before construction can begin. Under the current zoning, he would be permitted to divide the property into three lots and build a single-family home on each parcel, according to Southampton Town Planner Clare Vail.
Apart from the nightclub, which formerly operated under the name Tantra Lounge, there is also a vacant 1.5-story single-family home on the property, along with a detached garage, which Mr. Citarelli said have fallen into disrepair. Those structures would also be demolished to make way for the three new apartment buildings which would house 10 one-bedroom units and four two-bedroom units totalling 12,800 square feet.
The proposed plan would also include 26 parking spaces. Currently, there are 62 spaces at the site, according to the Zoning Board of Appeals application.
“Being a resident of Westhampton, I’d love to see that gone and these apartments there,” ZBA Chairman Herbert Phillips said during last week’s meeting.
Mr. Citarelli said he purchased the property in 2006 after it was seized by the government. Since then he has been working to redevelop the site. The process was delayed, he said, by a disagreement over whether the nightclub use had been abandoned, though Southampton Town Building Inspector Michael Benincasa ultimately issued a determination that it was still valid.
David Gilmartin Jr., an attorney from the Bridgehampton firm Farrell Fritz P.C., who represents Mr. Citarelli, pointed out that the surrounding neighborhood is mostly residential, meaning the apartments would be an appropriate fit for the site. He pointed out that nightclubs can be detrimental to neighborhoods, and that the proposed change in use would eliminate the preexisting nonconforming designation.
No residents addressed the board regarding the application at last week’s meeting, though some neighbors submitted a letter expressing their strong support of the project.
“Quite frankly, Mr. Citarelli would be a hero to the neighborhood by demolishing those structures and revamping the property with the newly proposed housing units,” Reece and Alison Padavan, who live at 16 Montauk Highway in Westhampton, wrote in a letter sent to the zoning board.
The board is expected to hear the application again during the first meeting of March, after which it is expected to issue a decision.