A Citarella market in Southampton Village appears to be one step closer to reality.
At a Southampton Village Planning Board meeting on Monday night, board members closed a public hearing on a site plan application to renovate the shops in the mini-mall on Hampton Road into one large market.
Board members discussed concerns raised at previous meetings—parking, shopping cart storage and a planned upgraded septic system—and expect to make a decision at the next meeting of the board on May 6, depending on the applicant’s response to the concerns, according to Chairman Roy Stevenson.
According to Mr. Stevenson, the board’s tone concerning the application is positive because it meets the board’s standards.
“I don’t see how we can turn it down,” said board member Warren Hamer. “The village needs people who want to develop their properties. I’m glad to see something happening that is positive in that particular area of the village.”
In November, Elka LLC, which is owned by Arturo Quiros, submitted a site plan application to the Planning Board. Because a market is a permitted use under current zoning, the proposal would not require a change of use variance, just approval of the interior changes. The building currently has 11,451 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 1,777 square feet of non-medical office space upstairs. The plan would combine 20 Hampton Road, which is a single-story building, and 22 Hampton Road, which is a two-story building. They are joined by a long hallway, which is why it’s called a mini-mall.
The owner would transform the buildings into a single use by removing walls and reconfiguring the space to accommodate a market. An upgraded septic system and new stormwater basin behind the China Garden restaurant also are a part of the site plan.
The application has been controversial in recent months largely because there will be no additional parking added to accommodate the traffic that would follow once the new market opens.
According to Southampton attorney John Bennett, who is representing Elka LLC and the proprietors of Citarella, no additional parking is required because the proposed interior changes do not require a change of use variance and will not increase the square footage of the building.
There are approximately 100 spaces in the municipal parking lot behind the stores, according to Village Highway Superintendent Gary Goleski.
Many residents and business owners have said the parking lot hits about 80 percent capacity even during the winter months and can get only more crowded, especially since some drivers don’t adhere to various parking limits within the lot, and some Southampton School District staff members park there during the school day, although Mr. Goleski said that many teachers who used to park in the lot have moved to a school parking lot, where 40 spaces were recently added.
According to Mr. Hamer, the parking situation is one to be addressed by the Village Board and not the Planning Board, even though he said he and his fellow members are concerned. “The businesses on Hampton Road are businesses in which you drop in and do your business in a matter of minutes,” he said. “But it seems to me it’s going to be pretty crowded. The landlord and the owner will deal with parking and how to control it. It’s not our business. I would wish you the best of luck.”
Mr. Stevenson, who owns Stevenson’s Toys on Jobs Lane, said the parking issue should work itself out.
“As a store owner myself, to suddenly discover the next coolest thing and thousands of people are flocking to my store, I’d be happy about that,” he said. “The parking issue is almost self-regulating—if people find the parking horrible, they may not go to market and it may not do so well. But it is not up to the board or the legislative bodies’ place to make that decision. The businessman is making his effort. We’ll see what happens.”
Board members were also concerned about the impact new leaching pools for the upgraded septic system would have on the structure of the surrounding buildings and asked the site’s architect, Don Jewell, to work with Village Engineer Aldo Andreoli before the next meeting. Mr. Jewell said the applicant is still waiting on approval from the Suffolk County Health Department as well.
In response to a question by Mr. Hamer about shopping carts, Mr. Jewell said that carts would not be able to physically leave the store.
The Planning Board will discuss the site plan further at a work session on April 29, and a decision may be made at its May 6 meeting.