While legislation currently under the ’s consideration would only create the legal means for a supermarket to be built in the village’s highway business zone, critics who blasted the proposal at a public hearing Tuesday see the zoning amendment as de facto approval of The Fresh Market putting a store on Hampton Road.
The prospect of changing zoning restrictions to accommodate one landowner — something Village Board members say is not their intent — is not sitting well with several residents and business owners.
Tuesday’s meeting was not as well attended as the on Jan. 12, and the crowd was a little less fiery, but the voice of opposition could chalk round two of the public hearing up as a win, as one trustee vocalized he was now leaning against the legislation — at least in its current form.
“My apprehensions have turned to complete misgivings about this proposal,” Trustee Richard Yastrzemski said during the hearing Tuesday. “I have more questions than I have answers about this.”
Yastrzemski said the law could set a dangerous precedent. “I find it extremely disconcerting that they are already advertising a Southampton location,” he said of The Fresh Market. The chain had been listing a new store at 630 Hampton Road on its website as “Coming Soon,” but the listing was removed by Wednesday afternoon.
A spokeswoman for The Fresh Market said the business does not comment on projected store openings.
The Fresh Market has been in talks with the owners of an empty car dealership at that Hampton Road location, but Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley says the law was drafted to satisfy the real need for a new grocery store in the village, and not just to accommodate the owners of the dealership.
Epley and the village trustees said Tuesday that they constantly hear from residents that they need more grocery shopping options, and that they are dissatisfied with the village’s sole supermarket, .
However, critics said Tuesday that The Fresh Market would not offer an alternative to Waldbaum’s, as it is a gourmet food store and does not offer all the non-food goods typical of a supermarket.
Dennis Schmidt, the owner of in the village and a fierce opponent of the proposal, said the legislation has such a broad definition of a supermarket that any business that sells food could call itself a supermarket.
“At the very least you have to refine your definition of what a supermarket is,” Schmidt told the board. “You can’t exclude anybody based on that definition.”
He questioned what amendment would come next for the highway business zone if a food store is indeed built, then goes out of business five years later and sits empty. He added that dissatisfaction with Waldbaum’s is a temporary problem, as the store could change hands at any time.
Abe Wallach, a village resident who says he will sue the village if the law passes, said that if the village has a problem with Waldbaum’s, then the issues should be dealt with, rather than creating another problem someplace else.
Rick Hummrich, speaking for the board of the Hampton Road condo complex Southampton Meadows, said that while condo residents were initially happy about having a new grocery store, their feelings toward the proposal changed when they learned The Fresh Market’s prices would likely be more expensive than Waldbaum’s. “It is not going to cure the problems with Waldbaum’s,” he said.
Trustee Bonnie Cannon noted that while the conversation was centered on The Fresh Market, the legislation itself is about creating a new territory in the village for supermarkets to exist, and not about The Fresh Market specifically.
Under the legislation, a supermarket would be a special exception use, meaning that any application to build a market would need the approval of not just the Planning Board, but the Village Board as well.
The hearing continues Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. at .