A proposed change to the Southampton Village zoning code to allow a new grocery store in the highway business district came under fire at Thursday's village board meeting by two of the men who stand to lose the most if the law passes.
Mike DeGennaro of in Water Mill and Dennis Schmidt of called into question the need for another village supermarket, which would draw business away from their establishments. They had attended the meeting to hear a planned presentation by Southampton Village Planning Commission Chairman Siamak Samii on the proposal, but his presentation was rescheduled.
The law would affect nine parcels in the highway business district, but one in particular — the site of a closed car dealership — is being seriously eyed for a supermarket.
Mayor Mark Epley pointed out that passing the law does not mean a supermarket would be automatically approved; it would have to go through the normal process with the planning board and, because it would be considered a "special exception use," also need the green light from the village board.
“It doesn’t guarantee any property owner that they’re going to be able to do something,” he said of the law. “It affords the potential of an opportunity."
Schmidt said that in 1978, before he owned his first market, he was reamed out by the village building inspector for suggesting zoning be changed to allow for a grocery store in a certain location. He said the building inspector lectured him on the merits of zoning.
“Here we are 30 years later … and basically that’s what we’re doing. We're changing the zoning to accommodate something or someone,” Schmidt said.
With large supermarkets in both Hampton Bays and Bridgehampton, a short drive from the village, Schmidt said he doesn't see the need for a 20,000-square-foot grocery store in the village.
But Epley told Patch in November that village residents have embraced the idea of having a new supermarket. When they were up in arms against the , a new supermarket was the one idea in that proposal they liked, he said.
Schmidt says he struggles to pay bills in the winter months, when business is slower, and a new supermarket will only add to his difficulties. “We’re cutting up the pie," he said. "We’re really cutting it up.”
Schmidt also suggested that the proposed zoning change was being discussed in December, with a January public hearing slated, because many residents will have left for Florida and elsewhere. "Discuss it when there's people around," he told the board.
DeGennaro said he was the only member of the public to speak at the hearing the planning commission held before presenting the zoning change to the village board. He told the board a new grocery store would take market share away from his business.