Controversial legislation that would allow for a new supermarket in Southampton Village has been shelved, for now, after the Village Board agreed during a work session Tuesday that a number of matters that are up in the air must be resolved before an informed decision can be made.
It comes down to three major concerns, according to Trustee Richard Yastrzemki: what the completion of the widening of County Road 39A will mean for traffic; whether a proposed shopping center in Tuckahoe anchored by a King Kullen supermarket will get the approval of Southampton Town; and what the results of a retail business study the village commissioned are.
The supermarket legislation would provide for a special exception use in the zoning code to allow a grocery store to be built in the Highway Business District, which runs from County Road 39A to Flying Point Road. One property, on the corner of Flying Point Road and Hampton Road, is already being eyed by a developer, and has become the focal point of the public debate.
Regarding the widening of County Road 39A, a Suffolk County project that adds a second eastbound lane, Trustee Michael Irving said he is waiting to see how the final result will impact traffic.
"The board felt that we really need to see where the Country Road 39 project ends up and what kind of impact it has going forward, before making any kind of decision,” Irving said.
Meanwhile the supermarket proposal in Tuckahoe, which is in the Southampton Town Board's jurisdiction, is still unresolved. Though members of the Village Board have spoken out against that proposal — saying it will hurt the village's business district, among other concerns — whether it gets approved or not is out of the village's hands.
The addition of a new supermarket in the surrounding area could take the wind out of the sails of proponents of the Southampton Village proposal, who say they are underserved when it comes to grocery shopping options.
“Clearly if it were approved you could no longer make the argument that there was an unmet need,” Trustee William Hattrick said. If the Tuckahoe supermarket is approved, he said, he'd rather avoid the controversy and expense of adopting legislation for a Southampton Village grocery store.
Among the anticipated expenses are a State Environmental Quality Review Act study on the impact of the legislation, and litigation the village has been threatened with should the law be approved.
However, a nearby supermarket may not completely quash some residents' desire for another option within the village boundaries.
Southampton Village's sole supermarket is Waldbaum's on Jagger Lane, which both residents and board members have said is inadequate. Trustee Nancy McGann said Tuesday that there is not enough parking, and there is not enough room inside the supermarket to keep the shelves stocked with all the products residents need. She said that while in the past shoppers could head to Gristedes or IGA if Waldbaum's did not have what they were looking for, those grocery stores that were once in the village center are no longer in business.
The third concern that Yastrzemki identified is that the Village Board is still waiting for the results of a study it commissioned from Gibbs Planning Group in November, on what retail opportunities are being underexploited in the village's business district. Among the study's findings may be ideal locations for green grocers around the village.
McGann said she wants to know if a new supermarket should really be within walking distance of the village center, as residents have suggested to her, or if Gibbs finds that it not ideal.
The study will likely be complete by the end of February, said Jay Diesing, the president of the Southampton Association, a civic group that helped the village pay for it.
The board mulled passing a resolution to formalize their decision to wait on the legislation and discontinue proceedings, but ultimately decided that it was not necessary.
Following the meeting, resident Abraham Wallach — the fiercest critic of the proposal — said he thinks the Village Board made the right decision to gather all the facts before moving forward on the legislation. Wallach told the board in April that residents with legal standing will sue the village if the supermarket law is adopted, and he is among a group of residents who have hired attorney Carolyn Zenk to fight the law before it even comes to a vote.