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Westhampton Beach quashes discussion on proposed religious boundary

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Jessica DiNapoli   Oct 23, 2008 2:46 PM

At least half of the 20 people attending last week’s Westhampton Beach Village Board work session walked out of the meeting room at Village Hall after learning that a controversial religious boundary proposal would not be open for discussion.

Mayor Conrad Teller announced at the start of the meeting that the proposed eruv, a religious boundary sought by the Hampton Synagogue that would allow Orthodox Jews to push and carry items on the Sabbath and on their way to temple, would “not be brought up” during last Wednesday’s work session. He also emphasized that there was no item on the meeting agenda pertaining to the boundary.

“Someone said they would be discussing the eruv,” said Westhampton Beach resident Peter Zegler while standing outside the meeting room following Mayor Teller’s announcement. “The rumor went around,” added Mr. Zegler, who said he opposes the proposed boundary.

The Hampton Synagogue first began seeking a proclamation from the village for the proposed boundary in February, but withdraw the application in May with the intent of reintroducing it this fall. However, the synagogue has not re-filed the application and Village Board members have kept their opinions on the topic close to the vest.

Meanwhile, a group called Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv has held two meetings on the withdrawn application, and the formation of an anti-eruv group called the Separation of Church and State in the Greater Westhampton Area has further fueled public debate. The Hampton Synagogue also hosted a highly attended and controversial meeting in August that was supposed to shed light about the house of worship’s request for the boundary.

On Tuesday, Mr. Teller acknowledged that there was a rumor circulating that the eruv would be discussed at last Wednesday’s meeting. But he explained that the board does not currently have an application before it and, therefore, there is no reason to discuss the withdrawn application.

Morris Tuchman, president of the Hampton Synagogue, said in a previous interview that the house of worship has no immediate plans to resubmit the application, which seeks permission to install between 30 and 40 black plastic pipes on preexisting telephones in the village to demarcate the eruv’s boundaries.

Before exiting last week’s meeting, Mr. Zegler asked board members if they could put the eruv on the agenda as a topic of discussion. Mr. Teller said it would be impossible to honor that request.

Standing outside the village meeting room, Charles Gottesman, a member of Jewish People Opposed to the Eruv, said he came to the work session expecting a discussion on the matter because the “synagogue cannot be trusted.”

At a previous meeting of that organization, anti-eruv activist Irene Barrett, who lives in neighboring Quiogue, said the synagogue would try to “sneak” the proclamation in during a board meeting in the winter, when fewer village residents are in attendance.

In other news, Westhampton Beach resident Stephen Ramsay aired complaints about loud music that he says is originating from the Sunset Cafe on Sunset Avenue. The small eatery, which opened in 2006, serves organic foods.

Mr. Ramsay, the husband of former Westhampton Beach Planning Board member Barbara Ramsay, said he also took issue with the fact that Sunset Cafe advertises itself as a “wine and martini bar” and offers live Latin music on some Saturday nights, which can be loud. The couple lives on Sunset Avenue, just south of the business.

The cafe is now seeking permission from the Village Board for an outdoor music application, an item that will be discussed during a public hearing scheduled for the board’s next meeting on Thursday, November 6.

Mr. Ramsay contends that the “wine and martini bar” aspect of Sunset Cafe veers from its original use that was approved by the Planning Board. The permit allows the business to operate as an 18-seat coffee shop and luncheonette that primarily serves food.

Mr. Ramsay made an official complaint about the establishment with the village on October 11 and, since then, Westhampton Beach Building Inspector Paul Houlihan has investigated the establishment twice, on October 17 and last Saturday.

In the complaint file, Mr. Houlihan wrote that on Saturday night there were about 25 people inside the cafe listening to music. The doors were closed.

Village Attorney Bo Bishop noted that if the Sunset Cafe did transform itself into a bar, and moved away from serving food, the owners would have to apply for a change of zone from the village. Mr. Bishop added that, at the present time and in his opinion, the owners would not require a change of zone.

The owners of the Sunset Cafe—listed only as 49 Sunset Company Inc. in village records—could not be reached for comment this week. The business is only open Friday through Sunday this time of the year. Shop hours are 8 a.m. until midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Sunday.

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