The most vocal critic of legislation in Southampton Village to amend the zoning code to allow a supermarket to be built in the Highway Business district, Abraham Wallach, addressed the Village Board Thursday evening to state in no uncertain terms that the board can expect to be slapped with a lawsuit as soon as the law is adopted.
Wallach had previously told the Village Board on several occasions that he believes the legislation is a case of illegal spot zoning, designed to benefit one property — namely, a defunct car dealership at the corner of Hampton and Flying Point roads — while masked as a broader initiative that affects the entire Highway Business district. At Thursday’s Village Board meeting, he said he was clearly defining the issues on the record so that when a court rules against the village, the judge will take note that the board had been warned and force the village to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees.
Wallach said he was asked to read the statement into the record on behalf of a number of condo and community associations and at least 10 businesses. He explained that he would not be a plaintiff himself, but rather, parties with standing would file the lawsuit “the day this ordinance or anything similar to it is implemented.”
Wallach has suggested that, as an alternative, the village resolve its needs for a new supermarket by condemning the property on Jagger Lane, buying the ’s next door, and inviting a company to build a new supermarket there after relocating the historic White house.
When Wallach , and again Thursday night, Village Board members expressed skepticism about its feasibility.
Village Trustee Bill Hattrick put the question to Wallach, “Are we in the business of selecting who in the hell comes here and serves us?”
Wallach retorted that condemning underutilized properties for a public purpose is a tried and true practice in the United States for 75 years.
“They have to be paid fair market value for their property,” Wallach noted. “You can’t just take their property.”
Hattrick did not believe condemning the land and bringing in a new supermarket would be as cut and dry as Wallach insisted. “You seem to be offering us a choice of who sues us,” he said.
In an interview with Patch on March 23, Wallach, a former city planner who also worked for Donald Trump, explained his motivations behind his campaign against the supermarket legislation, which would give the Village Board discretion to approve a special exception use application for a supermarket between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet. Planning Board approval and a traffic study would also be required.
“It's about heavy traffic, it's about abuse of power and it's about protecting the future of this village and all the other villages in the Hamptons,” Wallach said.
Tourism is the Hamptons’ golden goose, he said, and destroying the nature of a tourist area through overdevelopment and “making County Road 39 look like Shirley,” will stop the wealthy from coming to Southampton.
“If you don’t properly control what happens in your community there is always potential of destroying it,” he said. “Especially when it’s so small and everything you do has a major impact.”
The Village Board has not set a date to vote on the legislation.