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Letter to the Editor: Village Board Should Hear Pros and Cons of Supermarket Proposal

Attorney for Andrew Mendelson, Frank A. Isler spells out why he thinks the village planner's presentation was inaccurate.

We represent Andrew Mendelson in connection with his project to build a .

While we, as attorneys, generally do not write letters to the editors, we feel compelled to do so since we were not given the opportunity to respond to the Village Planner's presentation regarding supermarket to the Village Board at its November 16, 2011 work session.  We believe, based upon our review of the Village's zoning history, its development of its master plan, and surveys undertaken by the Village and now by our client, that the presentation was inaccurate in several critical respects.  The most significant are listed below.

Inaccuracy # 1:   Since 1955, Village Zoning has never allowed a supermarket use outside the downtown Main Street (B-1 District)

Fact  # 1:  In 1987, the Village adopted a Shopping Overlay District which permitted supermarkets in the B-3 District.  Not only was a supermarket use permitted on Old Riverhead Road, the Planning Board expressly recommended in its 1992 report to the Village Board that the supermarket use continue as a permitted use when the Shopping District Overlay District was repealed.

Inaccuracy # 2:  A supermarket use was never allowed outside the downtown Main Street District because it would directly compete with downtown businesses.

Fact # 2:    The Village's own survey conducted in 1998 as part of its Master Plan update, found that 80% of residents shopped at the then A&P (now Waldbaums) but only a very few of those shoppers shopped on Main Street on the same trip.  This fall, we engaged an independent firm to update the prior survey.  Significantly, the 2011 survey of 339 Village of Westhampton Beach residents shows, that only 48% of them now shop at Waldbaums –down from 80% in 1998.  Of these residents that still shop at Waldbaums, only 32 of them reported any regular combination of a Waldbaum trip with a downtown shopping trip, which is less than 10% of the 339 Village residents polled.  These surveys demonstrate that supermarkets do not significantly benefit downtown business.

Inaccuracy # 3:  Supermarkets are compatible with the zoning uses in the Main Street district

Fact # 3:  The Zoning Code's own words belie this claim:  “The B-1 District is the downtown central business district of the Village.  The district is intended for daily retail shopping, personal and profession services, on-premises food consumption and visitor, tourist and resort shopping all with a strong pedestrian orientation” (emphasis added). On the other hand, the B-3 district calls for "general, vehicular and highway oriented businesses and commercial services, large-space users, high traffic and large-vehicle generators, bulky goods, and appliance dealers wholesalers and off-premises consumption of food items" (emphasis added).  A supermarket fits entirely into this description.  That is why the Planning Board had recommended that the supermarket use continue in the B-3 District.

 Inaccuracy # 4:  No retail uses are permitted in the B-2 and B-3 Districts

 Fact #4:  The Village Code allows for, among other things in the B-2 and B-3 Districts, the following retail uses:  bakeries, hardware stores, retail home furnishings, household appliances, liquor, beer and wine sales, coffee shops, luncheonettes, restaurants, music stores, consignment stores, gyms.

We feel the Village Board should have for a full discussion of the pros and cons of a new supermarket.  Board member Patricia DiBenedetto had it right: “I felt that we shut them down,” she said. “There needs to be stronger communication between government and the people, regardless of the issue.”

Frank A. Isler

Smith, Finkelstein, Lundberg, Isler & Yakaboski LLP

Riverhead, New York

Cay Chandler December 06, 2011 at 12:51 PM
I smell mendacity...... Seems someone on the Village Board has a vested interest here. Perhaps some journalistic investigation of the boards relationships to Walbaums need to be made.... That supermarket is ridiculously expensive, I drive all the way to Stop and Shop in Hampton Bays from Remsenburg, but I have a prius.
Elyse Richman December 06, 2011 at 01:58 PM
I live in this village and I would like to hear more, Waldbaums has no influence on my customers, if anything I have heard more often that many people leave town to do their grocery shopping, thats not a good thing for this village, They deserve to be heard and we can listen, We need to revitalize this village , way too many empty stores here, Look to the future .

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