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Mar 26, 2014 5:04 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

CVS Eyes Bridgehampton; CAC Wants Answers From Town Building Inspector

Mar 27, 2014 7:40 AM

The fate of a proposed two-story CVS on Main Street in Bridgehampton might now rest in the hands of Southampton Town’s chief building inspector, prompting local civic leaders to consider hiring an attorney if the pharmacy chain succeeds in dancing around the zoning code.

The CVS Caremark corporation, following two years of negotiations, signed a 25-year lease last week with BNB Ventures IV, the owners of the vacant property at 2510 Montauk Highway, located just east of Starbucks. The contract calls for the construction of a building that would feature a 4,400-square-foot retail store on the ground floor and a 4,400-square-foot pharmacy on the second floor. The basement, also measuring 4,400 square feet, would serve as storage space.

In February, a building permit was issued to BNB Ventures for the shell of the building—an overall design that members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee support—and Paul Kanavos, the real estate developer behind BNB Ventures, said construction could begin “in the near future.”

Michael Benincasa, the town’s chief building inspector, confirmed last week that he had been working with CVS officials for weeks on an application for the combination pharmacy/retail store.

That is because CVS, if it were to occupy the entire building, would have needed to secure a special exemption permit from the Planning Board. But if the pharmacy chain divided its operation into two separate corporate entities, replete with separate entrances for the two businesses, officials could avoid having to secure the permit.

And since the building permit has already been approved, Mr. Benincasa—and not the Town Planning Board—now has the final say on whether CVS can open for business.

“It has to be two clearly separate entities,” Mr. Benincasa said, noting that he was under the impression that CVS already separates its pharmacy and retail operations for legal and insurance reasons. “Two separate entrances, two different tenant spaces, fire separations, that sort of thing,” he added.

Mr. Benincasa said CVS officials had already planned to “split” the store into two entities when they approached him. “They know the code,” he said, referring to representatives of the chain.

On Monday night, Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera told Bridgehampton CAC meeting attendees that she anticipates CVS will file its build-out application, the plan for the building’s interior, with the Planning Board in the near future. But she also stressed that the decision to allow CVS to split into two separate corporations, allowing it to occupy the entire building, will fall squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Benincasa.

At the same meeting, riled-up crowd members expressed their opposition to the project and CAC Co-Chair Nancy Walter-Yvertes vowed to hire an attorney to “do something artful and slow down the process.”

“They are very excited and very pleased to be at that spot,” Ms. Walter-Yvertes said, referring to CVS officials who had been working for some time to gain a foothold in the hamlet. “It is outrageous. Why should we welcome them with open arms? They want to sell trash, beach balls and lawn chairs, not treat people.”

Ms. Scalera was firm in that there has been nothing official filed with the town yet, noting that no one at the town level, beyond Mr. Benincasa, knew about the project before CAC members began to ask questions.

Over the past month, members of the community group have met with Southampton Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins, Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Ms. Scalera to discuss the rumors that CVS was close to signing a lease in the area. All told the CAC that they had no knowledge of such plans.

Then, on March 8, after calling a listed number for BNB Ventures, the CAC was contacted by the regional director of real estate for CVS, Dave Berman, offering to meet and discuss their plans.

“Why did it take six weeks to get a confirmation that CVS was a proposed tenant?” asked Nancy Walter-Yvertes, chair of the Bridgehampton CAC. “And why did it come from them and not Town Hall? The town is either stonewalling us, or CVS is working on its own in a vacuum.”

According to Ms. Walter-Yvertes and other CAC members in attendance at the meeting with Mr. Berman, he presented two mock-ups, complete with drawn-in shutter designs and the specific signage that will be placed in front of the store.

According to the design copies, a “non-prototypical CVS layout” is planned, with rear and front entrances, two floors and a 26-square-foot stand-alone CVS sign outside. The plans also indicate that the project is “self-developed,” or otherwise coming from the CVS corporation itself, not someone trying to open a franchise. Several years ago, CVS attempted and failed to branch out in neighboring Sag Harbor, an effort that spurred a broad rewriting of the village’s zoning and building codes.

Mr. Collins said last Thursday that he had not seen official plans for the property, but noted that it had been “flagged” by the Building Department’s computers after rumors began to spread that CVS was close to signing a lease. He said he did that to ensure that inspectors were reminded about the 5,000-square-foot limit on store sizes.

In 2011, designs for the building on file with the town called for the structure to house between three and six tenants. The top floor was originally pitched to house three “affordably priced apartments,” according to CAC members, and the first floor was to be two or three small shops or seasonal boutiques. In all, six different uses were permitted.

None of those uses, however, called for a single tenant to occupy the entire building,

When asked during Monday night’s meeting about Mr. Benincasa’s comments that different corporation names would technically satisfy the law and allow CVS to open, Ms. Scalera said she thought “common sense would prevail.”

“If you are violating the spirit and intent of the law, I think the building inspector would see through that,” she said. “Logically, I don’t think that’d fly, but it is in his purview. He might seek counsel, he might not.”

Someone in the crowd interrupted her, asking, “Does Benincasa know our concerns?” Ms. Scalera nodded in response and noted that Mr. Benincasa’s determination could always be appealed to the Town Zoning Board of Appeals.

Joining Ms. Scalera from the town on Monday was Janice Scherer, the principal planner for the town’s Long Range Planning Division. Ms. Scherer told the crowd, which was in favor of passing a town law that outlaws chain stores, that the 5,000-square-foot limit now in place in the village-business zoned area is designed to already do that.

“I can assure you that no one has known about CVS all this time,” Ms. Scherer added. “These companies are very quiet about things. Maybe someone somewhere knew [about it], but certainly not in the planning division.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Kanavos said he was unable to recall whether the lease with CVS was contingent on the firm securing the required permits to actually open in Bridgehampton. He did note, however, that such a clause is typical in most commercial development leases.

“At the end of the day, I live in the community, I understand the concerns of the community and I care tremendously about the East End,” Mr. Kanavos said. “I have been away and I truly didn’t realize the significance or scope of the CAC concerns, and I now plan on and look forward to meeting with them very soon. I would love to sit down, provide them with accurate, detailed information of the plans, and see if we can’t change their perspective.”

Mr. Kanavos went on to say that in his mind, the questions are more about the national chain than they are about the actual impact on the community, saying the pharmacy would “clearly fill a need,” and that the foot traffic would only help local merchants.

Staff writer Michael Wright contributed to this story.

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Does it seem shocking that the SH Town Chief Building Inspector is actually suggesting to CVS how it can "get around the code" by having two separate subsidiary companies create the legal fiction that all of a sudden one intended use can become two?

I thought this was the role of the applicant's attorney, and that the building inspector was supposed to be on the side of compliance with the law?

What do his superiors say about his role in this "end run" around the code?
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Mar 21, 14 12:50 PM
3 members liked this comment
Just what we need. Why not throw a couple more real estate stores in there while you're at it.
By johnj (1019), Westhampton on Mar 21, 14 1:09 PM
John J. It is not up to you or the CAC to determine "what we need". A Company such as CVS (or any other) would not invest in an area without performing a feasibility study. Unfortunately, the costs associated with going through the Town's planning process prohibit local establishments from expansion or moving. I think it is funny how the same people that oppose a Panera or Subway I see eating there after its built. Let the market dictate what a community needs.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Mar 21, 14 2:50 PM
And the laws on the books . . .
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Mar 21, 14 3:28 PM
No one opposes Panera or Subway, it is the location and the impact of lifestyle that is concerned. There are commercial buildings from Southampton to East Hampton that are built and ready to accommodate a franchise and they stand empty. Look at Watermill. I can't count the number of vacant building that are owned by Kimco. Bridgehampton Commons has a few open spots as well. Why drop a CVS on a intersection like that in Bridgehampton when there are commercial locations a mile away that are empty.
By deelove (152), Bridgehampton on Mar 22, 14 10:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
There goes the kitchiness of BH, MCDonalds drive through should be next. BH is becoming Suburbia. While I like CVS it belongs over by Kimco and not on Main Street. Main St charm is the boutigue stores. It all started to go down hill with the Starbucks franchise.....
By North Sea Citizen (564), North Sea on Mar 22, 14 6:49 AM
2 members liked this comment
I agree with North Sea. I would hope the CAC would see the harm in a store like CVS being dropped in the middle of Bridghampton. It just does not fit. I'm not even sure there is enough need for another drug store in Bridgehampton. People can drive to East Hampton or Southampton for that. Those villages have the space and need Bridgehampton does not. There are vacant store fronts at Bridgehampton Commons, CVS should be there where is belongs.
By deelove (152), Bridgehampton on Mar 22, 14 10:09 AM
Why drive to Southampton or East Hampton for a CVS, just go to Rite Aid in BH Commons...
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Mar 22, 14 3:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
My point was that we have a rite aid in BH and if you wanted another choice of store you candy drive to EH or SH where there pharmacies other than rite aid. Rite aid is not the greatest, but sometimes I will stop at a different chain in another town.
By deelove (152), Bridgehampton on Mar 25, 14 10:51 PM
This is a horrible place for another of the sheeples magic pill pusher.s If we as a country weren't so hooked on a pill for every problem the proliferation of pharmacies wouldn't be as out of control as it is. It doesn't belong there as said previously, it will destroy the character of the Main Street portion of BH. Starbucks is very unobtrusive aesthetically. Traffic due to Starbucks is another issue. Why does CVS need two floors? As for CBI Benincasa suggesting how a huge corporation can circumvent ...more
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Mar 22, 14 3:02 PM
2 members liked this comment
Bastard suburbia, and the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th boroughs...
By Mr. Z (11647), North Sea on Mar 22, 14 11:33 PM
Now where will Walgreens locate?
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 23, 14 4:42 PM
seems not a lot of parking will be on site. a lot of Topping Rose help parks in the lot north of the site. since there is no parking available most times from May thru Sept perhaps the town should be looking at ways to cut the traffic in the main street area. the cvs belongs somewhere but not in the village.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Mar 23, 14 7:26 PM
To all that oppose this. Show up to the public hearing. The CAC is NOT a elected agency and should not be relied upon to make decisions. It has a purpose, but to be involved in planning is not one of them. We have elected officials for that. Again, no one other than big box stores can afford the process. Get used to it.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Mar 24, 14 9:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
The quote about fenestration at the end of the article makes one wonder about impartiality here:

“I think it would look kind of cool,” Mr. Benincasa said. “They could just black them out but they said they were amenable to doing this instead.”

Is this really an accurate quote from "Southampton Town’s Chief Building Inspector Michael Benincasa?"
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Mar 24, 14 9:57 AM
Dear Real World,

You are correct the CAC is not a publicly elected body with decision making ability. Rather, the CAC has an advisory role. In a Township as large as Southampton I would think that the Town fathers would appreciate our fact finding mission.

I would add that I am certain it is not the Chief Building Inspector's role to suggest to how to flout the intentions of the our zoning code. In fact he/she should be encouraging responsible, sustainable development in our Town.
By alejandro (1), Southampton on Mar 24, 14 3:56 PM
... the Town Board has lost sight of maintaining the rural seaside character of the East End. They do not have the ability to deal with these developers whose proposals mark the beginning of the end of that which we have. Large commercial developments i.e. a proposed technology park at an airport which is now devolved to an industrial park, the privatization and subsequent pollution of Shinnecock Canal, a golf course which was proposed with 82 homes is actually now slated for 115 after the PDD ...more
By William Rodney (555), southampton on Mar 25, 14 11:18 AM
It is amazing we have cars on the east end. There was probably a CAC that wanted the "rural seaside" character with just horse and buggies. A CAC lawyering up shows how crazy the process is. Don't complain when prices go up, and your grand kids cannot afford or find a home. The same people who say we don't want another Riverhead are the same ones that shop there. Hypocrites.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Mar 25, 14 12:06 PM
Seems pretty clear that nobody wants this but you tRW. I wonder why that is?
By johnj (1019), Westhampton on Mar 25, 14 12:47 PM
Who is nobody? I see, lets have a town wide vote on every project. All I am saying is that the process prohibits local entrepreneurs from going into business. And a 40 or 50 or even a 500 member CAC is carrying too much weight in town hall without being elected. Why even bother with a Town Planner or boards. CVS wouldn't dip its hat in the arena unless there is a need: a need that many would probably like to fill but they don't have deep enough pockets to do so before they go into business. BTW ...more
By The Real World (368), southampton on Mar 25, 14 1:00 PM
There are places in this country where towns do make their decisions based on referendums. If we've learned anything by now, it's that you can't trust politicians to do what they say. Town wide votes would take the power from special interests and likely reduces the God complex found in too many political hacks.
Hampton, NH is one area that uses the model.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Mar 25, 14 6:18 PM
That would be a process called "direct democracy".
By Mr. Z (11647), North Sea on Mar 26, 14 9:35 AM
... local entrepeneurs?
By William Rodney (555), southampton on Mar 25, 14 1:34 PM
I bet the old beverage store is looking pretty good right now...
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Mar 25, 14 2:12 PM
3 members liked this comment
Its only an issue because CVS wants more than 5,000 sq. feet. Anybody else can come along, including 7-eleven and/or Duncan Donuts, and go straight in as-of-right. The problem is the same as EH - the laws are on the books and then when something starts going in/up that people don't like, then they want to change it (ala 7-11 in MTK, and soon-to-be in Amagansett). They should designate Main St a historic district - certainly that intersection - before something much worse than CVS moves in.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Mar 25, 14 2:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
In the update to the article, Ms. Scalera was diplomatically kind to Mr. Benincasa IMO. Hopefully each and every member of the Town Board has expressed harsher words to the CBI in private.

Not to mention the Town Attorney.
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Mar 25, 14 3:22 PM
So what's wrong with beach balls & beach chairs? Plenty of merchants already sell them. Will they be harassed by the CAC too? Lots of us like sitting on beach chairs at the beach while our kids play, sometimes with beach balls. Will they be banned by the CAC on Bridgehampton beaches too?
By G (339), Southampton on Mar 25, 14 3:23 PM
The building inspector to determine whether or not CVS can split into 3 different corporations in order to occupy a building ? This is not only unheard of but should pave the way for CVS. To the CAC: save your money on a lawyer and take care of the trees.
By wmdwjr (76), east hampton on Mar 25, 14 4:37 PM
The CBI does not have the authority to bypass the Code with this blatant sleight of hand, as Ms. Scalera seemed to hint.

If he does not come to his senses, the Town Board should consider disciplinary action, including termination, in my personal opinion.

By PBR (4951), Southampton on Mar 25, 14 4:44 PM
Why, then, is Ms. Scalera indirectly quoted in the article as saying it is under Mr. Benincasa's purview. Who needs the discipline here- the Board or the CBI ?
CVS must be having a good laugh right now.
By wmdwjr (76), east hampton on Mar 25, 14 5:10 PM
She was being diplomatic IMO, giving the CBI room to get out of the SNAFU he has created.
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Mar 25, 14 6:29 PM
Ms. Walter-Yvertes is quite the elitist. In case you haven't noticed we're thick with the service providers that the wealthy require. The Hamptons are just a marketing exercise now... Pilates anyone?
By Split Rock (68), North Haven on Mar 25, 14 7:03 PM
Im not sure that the CAC can hire an attorney being appointed by the town as an advisory committee, can only make the publics thoughts known about an issue to the full Town Board. So the CAC is involved in the planning process by developers et al seeking the publics temperature about a project. Sometimes they find out first hand sometimes as an after thought. CAC memebers are always on the look out in their hamlets. Commercilization of our rural east end is a big part of the issues across town that ...more
By North Sea Citizen (564), North Sea on Mar 26, 14 6:43 AM
if the town is smart it will purchase the property and preserve it as an entity of Bridgehampton's ongoing way of NOT falling thru the cracks of big business. I recently donated photos of the dedication of the monument with horse and buggy and also around the flagpole dancing the mapole fromt the early 1900's to the BH historical Soc. We need to protect these old and important moments in our little village's history. Perhaps it is time for us BH oldies as well as the "new" oldies to fight back ...more
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Mar 26, 14 8:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
Why don't one of you big mouths buy the subject parcel?
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Mar 26, 14 11:53 PM
Why has nobody pointed out that there is a Rite-Aid less than a mile down the road?
By johnj (1019), Westhampton on Mar 27, 14 4:41 PM
ICE and deelove mentioned this above, however if one's insurance and prescription plans are already in the CVS computer, Rite-Aid is not a realistic alternative IMO in today's world.
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Mar 27, 14 8:52 PM
This place is DONE…face it! The BOOM that we claim to have been living through has been happening for the past 30 years. What we have experienced was something merely in its infancy. A new, stronger, uglier, bigger, heartless boom is coming on strong like a rambunctious toddler. You thought the end was near…it has just begun. Isn't that right Mr. Farrell ?!?
By saggguy (20), SAGAPONACK on Mar 27, 14 9:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well said -- "like a rambunctious toddler" !

Indeed.
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Mar 28, 14 6:34 AM
The print version of this story [blue link at top] indicates that the lease has been signed, and that this is now in the hands of Mr. Benincasa.

Ah, good to have the fox guarding the hen house!
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Mar 28, 14 2:08 PM
Under Mr. Benincasa's reasoning quoted below, if CVS split the operation into 4 uses, would they be entitled to 20,000 square feet?

This would completely eviscerate the intent of the code.

For whom is he working?

___________________________

" “It has to be two clearly separate entities,” Mr. Benincasa said, noting that he was under the impression that CVS already separates its pharmacy and retail operations for legal and insurance reasons. “Two ...more
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Mar 28, 14 4:11 PM
Rape the world for all it's worth, every inch of planet Earth.

Like we have another planet to got to...
By Mr. Z (11647), North Sea on Apr 1, 14 11:03 PM
William Rodney and sagguy have it right, the place is going to pot, and local government is to blame. Mr. Rodney's criticism of key town officials, elected and appointed, is especially apt.

Some say follow the money, referring to contributions by development interests to certain officials' election campaigns. Others say that the amounts donated aren't enough to corrupt anyone, much less a savvy politician with an eye to the future, and that's persuasive.

On the other hand, ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Mar 29, 14 11:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
The traffic on Lumber Lane is horrendous during the summer. I have counted 60 vehicles every 5 minutes between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm in the summer. Crossing Montauk Hiway at the Lumber Lane stop light is like playing bumper cars with traffic lined up halfway to Maple Lane. A CVS store would certainly place a blemish on our quaint village.
By patricia Brennan (8), San Jose on Mar 30, 14 12:06 AM
BH should have incorporated years ago to rid our selves of the money making "board" members who carry out the "will" of the township. we need to divest BH from the town much as Sagaponack has done and protect our little village from the onslaught of the town and it's low mentality and developer's dreams. Let's act NOW!!!
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Apr 1, 14 5:24 PM
New article out.
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Apr 1, 14 6:38 PM
I wonder why sagguy even came out of his house, much less left his hedged & gated property in gazillionaire sagaponack? Maybe he didn't as he has no clue who is actually building in sagaponack? If you don't like companies doing their job and the following the allowed building code, move back to New Jersey where you originally came from. Ok? I hear the shore there is nice..........
Love the thousands of no parking signs in sagaponack placed every 20 feet along every road and field - that's nice ...more
By G (339), Southampton on Apr 2, 14 11:09 AM
If there are provisions in the building code to do this, why aim the gun at the CBI? Does anyone think that the CVS people DIDNT know about that when they bought the property?
These companies don't hire their cousin Vinny as attorneys. There are hoards of them just looking for loopholes in town codes. And they do a good job of it.
I don't like the idea of a CVS either, but in reality, how can you keep CVS from doing it, but we would be happy to have a local pharmacy expand and do the same? ...more
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Apr 2, 14 11:39 AM
See the new article -- they are applying for a special exception to permit more than 5,000 s. f., which is how it should have been done in the beginning (without the CBI being creative to get around the intent of the code's square footage limition IMO).
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Apr 2, 14 12:02 PM
blank!, you might want to check the editorial in this week's Press [and see comments in the other article].
By PBR (4951), Southampton on Apr 4, 14 5:59 AM
intersting stuff. speaking of vacant buildings, whats up with that candy store in water mill with the 2 apartments that has had a big "for sale" sign up for like 10 years now? and that building on the highway in southampton that has those big round windows? and that other place near carvel that used to be a diner? But mostly i want to know about that candy store.
By milkdilk (49), Southampton on Apr 2, 14 4:45 PM
power tools, home improvements, building supplies, Eastern Long Island