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Nov 25, 2009 11:08 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Montauk smiley faces require town approval

Nov 25, 2009 11:08 AM

Bright and visible even on the grayest of days, the three yellow smiley faces painted onto the side of the Oceanside Beach Resort in Montauk may be in jeopardy, or at least the two that were painted without East Hampton Town approval.

Ken Walles, owner of the motel, said he painted one smiley face onto the side of the building three years ago while repainting the entire building. He said after he recently added two new smiley faces, he was cited for a town code violation for not getting prior approval from the Architectural Review Board. He will appear before the 
board on December 3 and the members will decide whether the smiley faces can stay or if two will have to be removed, said David Wilts, chairman of the ARB.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people love it,” Mr. Walles said of his wall decorations, but he admitted that he was cited with the code violation after some in the community complained. He said that at recent Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee meetings, some in attendance thought he had taken the idea too far.

Lisa Grenci, chairwoman of the Montauk CAC, said the topic had come up in jest many times at meetings but that the CAC as a board had never asked Mr. Walles to go to the ARB.

“I don’t really care one way or the other, personally,” she said. “Some people love it, some people hate it. It’s up to the ARB board to decide if he can keep them.”

Mr. Wilts said Mr. Walles has to file an application for the additional smiley faces and that the board will take into consideration his explanation and any public comment at the meeting before making a decision.

The first smiley face came out of boredom and curiosity, Mr. Walles said. While he and a friend were repainting the building from yellow to sage, he said they drew eyes and a smile in black paint on the eastern wall of the building and started repainting the rest of the building from the west.

“I said, ‘Let’s leave it there while we’re painting and just see if anyone says anything,’” Mr. Walles said.

And people did. He said before they were finished painting, a few people had stopped by the motel to say they liked the idea and thought he should keep it, so he left that wall yellow with the eyes and smile painted on it.

“I think it’s cute,” said Laraine Creegan, director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, which is located just down the block. She said she thought it represented the right feeling for a place like Montauk.

Mr. Walles said he got approval from the ARB six months after he finished the original paint job, but recently he wanted to “clean it up,” and make it more “family oriented.” He repainted, this time creating a line of three circular faces touching cheek to cheek.

“He told me it’s a family,” said Ms. Creegan.

Mr. Walles he said he welcomes community input and wants to do whatever will make the community happy. Around Montauk, many people like the faces. Mr. Walles said many have told him they would show up at the ARB meeting and even start a petition.

“It’s just funny how small things can stir people up,” he said. “There are bigger things to worry about.”

He said he just sees the faces as a fun way to make people think, “keep smiling,” as they drive by.

“They’re there, they’re on his property, they’re not offensive,” said Joanna Sepp, a Montauk resident. “I wouldn’t want to see anyone make him take them down. It should be up to him.”

“I think they’re whimsical and fun,” said Jerry Mckeon, another resident. “If they tell him to take them down he should replace them with frowning faces.”

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He should paint a big middle finger next, because you the town will make him paint over the smiley faces.
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Nov 30, 09 11:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
How stupid is the town. The faces are cute and clever.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 30, 09 2:18 PM
I really liked the single smile. If preferred it to the new trio, but that's just a matter of personal taste. Laraine Creegan is right. It's a fun place, at the beach, why shouldn't he take advantage of the fact that being in Montauk makes you smile? The real news story is that the Town is once again sticking its nose into private business for no substantive reason.
By Liman (30), Montauk on Nov 30, 09 2:22 PM
2 members liked this comment
Drove past this motel this past Friday with out of town family. They all remarked about how nice and friendly it looked and thought it was probably an indication of the attitude of the town. Guess I can let them know that's not true now!
By Native Westhamptonite (14), Westhampton on Nov 30, 09 2:24 PM
As a full time resident of Montauk I love it and so does the rest of my family.
By GLOJRANS (3), MONTAUK on Nov 30, 09 2:52 PM
Montauk remains the dumping ground. Can you imagine if something like this showed up on a motel in Wainscott or an Inn in East Hampton? It would last about 48 hours. (Except that it wouldn't show up in the first place.) Mr. Walles has been pushing the envelope ever since he bought this place -- much to the detriment of the hamlet. The MVA -- which puts so much time and money into sprucing up Montauk main street -- should be working hard to get this type of junk out of downtown. The EHT ARB should ...more
By rss0246 (23), East Hampton on Nov 30, 09 4:59 PM
Sleazy, low brow graffiti, nothing more.
By wendel (7), Miller Place on Nov 30, 09 5:50 PM
wendel.....stay in Miller Place.
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Dec 1, 09 7:12 AM
Hey, don't be smackin' Miller Place. Let the town rule against the smiley faces, and see how it plays in the local and national press. If you've got a problem with a smiley face, I don't want to hang out with you. There's men and women in the US Armed Forces (plus civilians in combat zones) DYING overseas and coming home in body bags, your president is about to send more meat into the grinder, and you're worried about a FRICKIN' SMILEY FACE? Provincial, stuck uppity self-righteous sticks in the ...more
By Undertow (64), Southampton on Dec 1, 09 10:34 AM
2 members liked this comment
Funny huh? There are so many more urgent matters. In case you don't know it Montauk is a bit funky, always was always will be.
My fair Montauk
By BlackDog (47), East Hampton on Dec 1, 09 5:42 PM
2 members liked this comment
I would love to see a video about this go viral.
Imagine- the eyes of the world on Montauk!
By Montaukette (46), Waterland on Dec 11, 09 7:37 PM