Code Violation - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1831801

Code Violation

John Kosciusko’s letter [“Plans For 230 Elm,” Letters, October 28] is a reminder of the important role that organizations like the Southampton Polish American Political Society (and its facility) play in a village like ours.

However, a discussion of the current request to add a second-floor outdoor deck must start with all relevant facts.

According to the Southampton Village Building Department, the society pulled a building permit in 1931, and, in 1934, received an operating permit for “Meeting purposes, Dancing, Entertaining of all kinds, bowling in basement.” The society is a private social/political membership organization, and these activities would have been for the enjoyment of its members only.

Any reasonable interpretation would, of course, allow the hall to be used for members’ personal events and larger community events, like those Mr. Kosciusko cites for the centennial of Our Lady of Poland and in honor of Southampton High’s football coach.

So far, so good.

However, in 2000, a new certificate of occupancy appeared for the property, describing the use as “catering/conference facility with licensed bar & bowling alley.” This is where the currently assumed catering use and any related applications encounter a fatal flaw.

“Catering” is a prohibited use in Southampton Village and has been for decades. It is not even available on a special exception basis.

To establish a commercial catering use in Southampton Village would require a revision to code and/or a use variance. (The “bar” use is a special exception use and would have similarly required special approval.) However, the Building Department indicates that no such code revision or Zoning Board of Appeals action ever took place.

The magical appearance of the words “catering” and “bar” in the 2000 certificate of occupancy seems, therefore, to be an error. Even if unintentional, such errors can never be cured by the passage of time or otherwise establish a “grandfathered” use, regardless of how long that use has continued.

Sure, the society’s members and other community organization should be allowed to use, even lease, the hall — but that is a far cry from a commercial catering operation like Elegant Affairs. And while I applaud the society for planning to use the proceeds of the lease for charitable work, good intentions and good deeds don’t create a free pass from zoning code.

Simply put, commercial catering is not (nor ever has been under village code) a legal use for that property, and both the 2000 certificate of occupancy and 2021 building permit appear to be invalid. Until these fundamental issues are clarified (and any necessary approvals granted), work at the site should be halted and any hearing regarding the requested deck addition postponed.

Rob Coburn

Southampton Village