Critics of a proposed zoning exception in Southampton Village on Thursday once again asked the board to drop the proposal altogether — or at least pick a different firm to study the law's impact.
The legislation that has both the community and the Village Board divided would allow for a new 20,000-square-foot grocery store to be built in the Highway Business zone. With critics threatening legislation if the law is adopted, and one board member saying he cannot vote for the law without further study of the ramifications, the board is now weighing whether to commission a costlier in-depth study.
Such a study could range in cost from $32,000 to upward of $80,000, depending on the depth of the study, according to Mayor Mark Epley.
An earlier study, commissioned by the village and prepared by consulting firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, was the subject of a public hearing in September. The firm concluded the impact of the legislation "will be either insignificant or mitigated, and all such impacts will be localized such that no regional impacts are expected.” It goes on to recommend that the Village Board votes to determine that further study under New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act is not necessary. But critics said the study had omitted many concerns that need to be address.
Attorney Carolyn Zenk, of Hampton Bays, told the Village Board Thursday that she was hired by concerned residents who want the supermarket law dropped. She said the village should not be spending taxpayers dollars for the benefit of one property owner.
While the law may affect as many as nine properties, only a former car dealership site at the corner of Flying Point Road and Hampton Road is already on a grocery chain's radar.
Peter Conrad, a resident of Southampton Meadows, the condo community adjacent to the site Fresh Market is eying for a grocery store, told Village Board members on Thursday that if the board refuses to abandon the law and pushes forward with a comprehensive study, the board should at least find a different firm to conduct it. He said Nelson, Pope & Voorhis has the incentive to come to the same conclusion as it had before.
Mayor Mark Epley was ill Thursday and missed the meeting, but he told Patch the following day that he stands by Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, a firm that the village has had a working relationship with for years.
"Nelson, Pope & Voorhis are environmental planners and I trust the work that they do," Epley said. "And if we were to do the study, I would support them doing it.”
Epley said that paying for the study now would help the village defeat a lawsuit later, when someone claims the village did not examine the environmental impact like it should have. However, he said the village will need to find the money to complete an in-depth study, and he plans to discuss it with his fellow board members when they convene for a work session Jan. 22.
A second resident of Southampton Meadows, Suzanne Ramos, told the Village Board on Thursday that putting a grocery in on Flying Point Road, far from the village center, would be devastating for village business and open the door to high-traffic commercial development on the County Road 39A corridor. She said that Epley should be critical of this plan, the same way he is critical of a King Kullen shopping center proposed on County Road 39 in Tuckahoe.