Saying that he did not intend on speaking before the Westhampton Beach Village Board on Monday night, Micky Biss, the owner of the Corner Restaurant on Montauk Highway, asked the village trustees to help him "turn the lights back on" in the building, which has sat empty for the past seven years.
"This property sits at the gateway to the village and I want to know why the village board is not more interested to spur the commerce of the village, which I see struggling. I personally can keep the place vacant and an eye sore because that is what I've been forced to do," said Biss, who splits his time between Westhampton Beach and Miami.
According to Biss, a pre-existing site plan, which was approved before he took ownership of the property, is preventing him from developing the property.
"There is no legal basis to tie the site plan to me as the new owner," he said, noting that the requirements set forth in the site plan have proved not to be financially feasible for any of the potential tenants that have sought to open a restaurant in the location.
The conversation quickly became contentious with Mayor Conrad Teller and Paul Houlihan, the village's building and zoning administrator, saying that Biss was in fact informed prior to the purchase of the property that there was a site plan intact that must be abided to.
Meanwhile, other village board members, admitting confusion — they had been unaware of the issue — attempted to get to the bottom of the problem.
The argument wore on for about 45 minutes with a plethora of torts and retorts and Biss accusing the board of "politicking," questioning Trustee Hank Tucker's "tone," as well as threatening to sell the property.
Newly elected board member Ralph Urban spoke in an attempt to resolve the situation, urging Biss to submit a new site plan to the village planning board.
He said, "We would like you to do something with the property. Any closed property is an eyesore, but if you don’t want to do what is in the existing site plan, then please submit your new ideas to the village. There is a process to go through. It is not our responsibility to come up with something that is affordable for you to do."
According to Houlihan, Biss did attempt to submit a revision in the past for the existing site plan; however, Houlihan said some of the revisions depicted plantings on the county's right-of-way, something the village could not approve.
But Houlihan told Biss: "If you come in with something that is conforming to the village code, we can put it through to the planning board."
Biss agreed and said he would be in to speak with Houlihan later in the week.