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Opponents Slam Supermarket Zoning Plan

Southampton Village proposal to allow grocery stores on the County Road 39A corridor finds little support at public hearing Thursday, and even meets a lawsuit threat.

Critics of a plan for a new grocery store on the site of a closed car dealership berated members of the Southampton Village Board Thursday night, with one resident threatening to sue the village if the proposal that would allow such development in the highway business zone passes.

At issue was what kind of precedent the law would set, whether the village even needs another grocery store and if the spot being eyed for one is suited for a supermarket. The law would affect nine parcels in the highway business zone, but the dealership site on the corner of Hampton and Flying Point roads is being actively pursued by The Fresh Market, a chain of grocery stores that already lists a store at the dealership’s address as “Coming Soon” on its website.

Village Mayor Mark Epley said that passing the law does not guarantee a supermarket will be built anywhere. He said it would still require planning board approval for the site plan and other review, then — because a supermarket would be a special exception use — the plan would ultimately come before the Village Board for a vote.

“It’s not a rubber stamp on anything,” Epley said.

But many critics did not see it that way.

“I know when I see a case of spot zoning,” said Abe Wallach, who identified himself as a city planner. He said the other eight properties were included under the proposed zoning amendment to make it look like it is not spot zoning, the unlawful practice of making a zoning change that is out of step with a master plan for the benefit of one parcel.

“I personally will file a lawsuit, on principal, and I will pay for it myself,” Wallach said. “I will have to refer this matter to the proper authorities for investigation.”

Rachel Verno, chair of the Water Mill Citizens Advisory Committee, said the CAC voted to oppose the zoning amendment because, she says, it was brought on by a developer, and not village and town planners.

But Epley said that is not the case. For years, he said, residents have been asking the board to do something to bring a new supermarket into the village. According to Epley, the residents often complain about the quality of and want an alternative, and he’s told Waldbaum’s executives that. “I’ve told the regional vice president it’s the worst store in the village,” he said.

Village Trustee Nancy McGann said there were once five grocery shopping options within village boundaries, but now there are only two, Schmidt’s and Waldbaum’s.

Wallach said the board makes Southampton sound like a medieval village where the gates close at night and no one can get out. He said that, in reality, shoppers can drive to nearby supermarkets in Bridgehampton or Hampton Bays.

Dennis Schmidt of said The Fresh Market is not an alternative to Waldbaum’s, as it is more of a gourmet food store than a supermarket.

Mike DeGennaro of at the Water Mill Commons, located 1.5 miles from the car dealership site, said a new grocery store would be devastating for his business and the others at the Commons, and it would add traffic right at a bottleneck, where eastbound traffic on Hampton Road and County Road 39A gets onto Montauk Highway.

But Village Trustee Bill Hattrick refuted the argument that there would be more traffic in the village. “We’re not all going to eat twice as much because we have two stores,” he said.

Southampton-Shinnecock Hills-Tuckahoe Citizens Advisory Committee Chair Bonnie Goebert said the majority of her CAC opposed the zoning amendment, saying it would be the death of a historic village and wreck the quality of life for Flying Point Road residents.

She said the law would set a dangerous precedent and open the door for the likes of Walgreen’s and Target.

Arnold Paster, representing the owners of 33 Flying Point Road, an office building to the south of the site, said they would fiercely fight a grocery store there.

Former Village Trustee Paul Robinson suggested that the dealership site would make a much better park than supermarket.

Among one of the few supporters of the proposal was Michele Sacconaghi, a yoga instructor in the village who said she favors more shopping options in the area.

Others also agreed with the need for another grocery store, but said they wanted it any place but the dealership site, citing traffic and safety among their concerns.

Kathryn Stachecki, whose family owns a barn and two acres on County Road 39 that is up for sale, said she’s like to see the law pass so her family can unload the property. She said hers is a family of farmers, and the property has become an economic hardship to them that they cannot sell under current zoning restrictions.

The public hearing will continue at the Village Board work session Jan. 24.

Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) January 13, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Via Southampton Patch's Facebook page, Diane commented, "Southampton desperately needs a new grocery store." and "My sister likes that "Best Yet" store in Riverhead, maybe that should move to Southampton. Waldbaum's needs a good cleaning and a complete new staff of people over the age of 19. I have never experienced such rude staff as there, that's too bad because I used to work there as a teenager when it was A&P." Elizabeth said, "Anyone but Waldbaum's" While Carol said, "How about a Whole Foods???"
The Beav January 13, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Delete The Beav 6:17 pm on Friday, January 13, 2012 I support the idea of having a second grocery store, just like we had before Gristede'a closed. That corner will one day be developed into "something". Why not give us all something we can enjoy every day of the week. Mr Wallach is way off base with his accusations. The proposed zoning change would be a boost to the east end of our village. Maybe that God awful Carvel mall would one day become the cornerstone of the east gateway. Right now it looks like the cornerstone to a derelict graveyard! As for Mr Schmidt, why wouldn't he complain? Better to keep the competition out of town if you possibly can. It doesn't make it a bad choice for area residents. As for Avanti, i am sorry to say this but your store needs a lot of help. It is not a substitute for a second village grocery store and never will be. Everyone should look at The Fresh Market's website and you will see why it could be a good fit for Southampton.
Mary Beth January 14, 2012 at 01:24 AM
"Desperately needs"? Seriously? Nonsense
Peconic Sunset January 15, 2012 at 05:49 PM
I would not trade off the character of Southampton for the convenience of another grocery store. It will set a precedent for additional development, impact traffic flows and increase traffic in the village. Village Trustee Bill Hattrick should consider that a new store could become a destination for people outside of the village who will travel to the new store.
raphael March 16, 2012 at 07:38 AM
I know Mr. Wallach and he is far from being off base. A community and a society exist based on laws. Zoning laws exist to allow for rational orderly devlelpment. If every time we changed zoning to meet the needs of individual property owners we would chaos. In this case the chaos of impossible traffic especially during the summer months exists at the intersection where the proposed market is to be located. The zoning as it currently exists was meant to keep additional traffic to a minimum. If you increase traffic with a high generator traffic use, like a food market, you will only exaserbate what already is an intolerable situation. Zoning laws exist for a reason.
Tim March 26, 2012 at 03:07 PM
The community does desperately need a more modern choice for the working class and clean up all the signs of economic decay. While the gourmet stores are nice, who can afford to shop there on a daily basis. The village is looking a little shabby with empty and abandon space everywhere. For a small community, urban blight is setting in and foolish pride is in the way If Mr Wallace wants to sue and use his own money, let him. It will be dismissed as frivolous lawsuit. The Zoning board needs to step to the front and the line and plan the aesthetics and traffic flow.

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