After two public hearings in which the critics dominated the conversation, fans of legislation proposed in Southampton Village to allow for a new grocery store spoke up at the final hearing Thursday.
The Village Board has yet to take a vote on the proposal, which would change the zoning code to allow a supermarket between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet to the built in the highway business district. While some supporters spoke up at the and public hearings, at the final hearing there were far more voices in favor as well as an abundance of letters.
While the law would apply to multiple properties in the highway business district, Walter Glennon, the owner of a defunct car dealership at the corner of Hampton Road and Flying Point Road, has already been talking to The Fresh Market, a North Carolina-based grocery chain, about building a store on his property. The Fresh Market went so far as to list the location on its website as “coming soon,” but later removed it. Craig Carlock, the president and CEO of The Fresh Market, wrote a letter to the Village Board that was read into the record Thursday apologizing for jumping the gun.
The board also received a 39 letters and emails between Monday and Thursday from supporters of the legislation — and supporters of that specific location being used for a supermarket.
“It is often not easy for older village residents to drive to neighboring towns to satisfy or supplement their grocery shopping options needs,” village residents Jacquelyn and John Crocker wrote. “We feel it would be a benefit to them and to all village residents to have another grocery shopping option within the village.”
Sharon Kerr wrote, “As a resident of the village, I would enjoy having an alternative to as well as seeing some sort of actual use of a very large, vacant and dilapidated building.”
“More options within Southampton Village are clearly needed,” wrote Water Mill resident Amy Cherry-Abitbol. “I know none of my neighbors and friends in Southampton who would not enthusiastically welcome new food markets.”
One email submitted to the Village Board contained an original message from Glennon, who urged people to attend Thursday’s hearing or to at least write the village saying they support the legislation.
“It is important to demonstrate public sentiment in favor of the proposed Amendment to the Village Zoning Code, specifically to allow for the Grocery Market use and for the construction of an appropriately sized building in the handful of parcels that constitute the Village Highway Business District,” Glennon’s message reads.
Glennon said opponents are a “vocal minority.”
Abe Wallach, who has spoken at length at each hearing and says he will sue the village if the legislation passes, continued Thursday to object to what he says is a zoning amendment designed specifically to accommodate The Fresh Market. “Without it saying it, it’s being geared to one property, one property in particular,” he said of the legislation.
While other speakers said the village needs more shopping choices, Wallach disagreed, pointing out that there are supermarkets in Bridgehampton and Hampton Bays, not far from the village. “Maybe Southampton is the cultural center, the restaurant center … but it just isn’t the supermarket center for the region,” he said.
Heather McCallion, a village resident and Southampton School Board member, did it not see it that way. “People who are raising families and taking care of children in the village don’t have the time to go to Hampton Bays,” she said.
Also speaking at Thursday’s hearing, village resident said, “I don’t see a reason not to have another store here … I think it’s good for the residents of this community to have more choices.”
Repeated criticisms of the legislation and Glennon site are the traffic that could be generated at an already busy intersection, that a 20,000-square-foot store will be too small for a true supermarket and therefore will not be an alternative to Waldbaum’s, and that the law was put on the table only after The Fresh Market showed interest in coming to Southampton.
If the legislation passes, anyone wishing to develop a supermarket will need site plan approval — and all the studies that entails — as well as the green light from the Village Board, since a supermarket will be considered a “special exception” use.
“They have to come on bended knee and convince us that the specific building their proposing is not going to be a traffic disaster,” Village Trustee Bill Hattrick said.