A discussion on Westhampton Beach Village business districts – specifically related to a recent – devolved into a heated debate at Westhampton Beach Village Hall on Wednesday night until Mayor Conrad Teller silenced a back row of about five men, including the potential developer.
Other than a few questions, Teller declined to listen to the developer, Andrew Mendelson of Westhampton, who attended the work session with his attorney, Frank Isler of Riverhead. Teller said he did not want to belabor the issue because the village had no formal application for a change of zone or new site plan before it.
Village Attorney Richard Haefeli said during the meeting the village has the option to not consider the proposal, if it's filed, but does not normally allow discussion during work sessions on applications that have not been officially submitted.
Mendelson, who built the Waldbaum’s on County Road 58 in Riverhead, said he had hoped to have a more public discussion on his proposal to construct a supermarket on four acres of land across from Westhampton Coachworks, property he has owned for almost 10 years and tried to develop before. He said he has completed a survey of village residents that shows they are unhappy with , but still wants a public information session to gauge community interest, he said.
Isler said the sense he got from the meeting was a “no” from the village on the proposal. The developer was not sure whether or not he would file a formal application for the project but said a possible next step may be holding his own informational session.
Teller said he would not have a public information session without a formal application.
“We hit a brick wall,” Mendelson said.
At the start of the meeting, Village Planner Kyle Collins explained the village’s planning scheme: the B1 downtown area, including Main Street and Sunset Avenue, is meant to be pedestrian and offer residents their everyday needs.
The B2 district, including Montauk Highway and Old Riverhead Road, has “higher order,” uses including paint outlets, carpet shops and appliance stores – businesses not requiring daily drop-ins, he said. He mentioned that B2 does allow for businesses offering off-site food consumption.
“It does not have convenience or daily shopping uses,” Collins said.
The zoning scheme has dated back to 1953, he said. It has prevented the village downtown from deteriorating like Riverhead, Patchogue and other Long Island areas that have had strip mall centers built outside downtown thoroughfares.
“Our forefathers had it right in the ‘50s by not allowing retail in the B2,” Collins said. “It competes and undermines the business district.”