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Jul 13, 2010 5:35 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Wainscott community members see disconnect in developer's vision for Plitt Ford property

Jul 13, 2010 5:35 PM

When retail developer Gregg Saunders of Sagaponack won the bid last month for the former Plitt Ford property on Montauk Highway in Wainscott, he said he would try to build something the community truly wanted. Emerging at the top of his list were health food stores Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Wild by Nature, each of which he has had experience building in other parts of the country.

But if a big-box, high-end health food store is really what the community wants, then it wasn’t evident at the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee on Saturday, where a group of about 50 attended in hopes of seeing preliminary plans presented by architect Peter Cook. When Mr. Cook was unable to attend, Mr. Saunders was left to try to stay afloat in a sea of concerns over traffic, parking and the design.

The former Plitt Ford Lincoln Mercury dealership was put up for sale last year after it closed, and Mr. Saunders entered the winning $3.9-million bid in a two-day online auction at the end of June. Though the acquisition is recent, Mr. Saunders said he’s been considering developing the 2-acre plot since he first heard the property’s owners might be looking for a buyer two years ago. Though the deal never went through, Mr. Saunders said he’s been back and forth with the Town Building Department to figure out if he could eventually build a supermarket at the site.

Mr. Saunders said he will close on the property this week and then begin the process of submitting plans to the town. He said the new building will be much smaller than the large-scale Whole Foods and other health food stores elsewhere on Long Island. The minimum square footage required to build a food store is 10,000 square feet, he said; the maximum allowed for that lot is 25,000 square feet. He said he plans to tear down the existing structure and rebuild farther away from the highway and still have enough space in the rear of the property for parking. The store would be on one level, but the building could have a small, second floor for other uses by the retailer. He said depending on the retailer, there could also be a small, seated section for customers to eat in the store.

CAC Member Diana Weir expressed the general feeling that community members were not happy with the rundown building as it stands, but worried about what would be put in its place.

“It’s an eyesore and I’m glad it will be cleaned up,” she said. “But a lot of us are concerned about the amount of people it will bring in.”

Traffic was the main issue across the board, in terms of the potential for increased congestion on the highway, additional traffic on nearby residential streets and overflow parking on side streets in the neighborhood. Mr. Saunders said he didn’t anticipate a huge influx of people if he were to build a food store, and said he thought an attraction like that might draw the people already driving through the area.

“When you say it creates a lot of traffic, I think there’s so much traffic there already that it will pull people off the road,” he said.

Mr. Saunders seemed surprised by the concern and said he was worried not enough people would be drawn to the location.

“The retailers are concerned they won’t have business in the winter,” he said.

He said as his plans move forward, a Planning Board application will require an environmental impact statement and a traffic study, both of which he’ll comply with. Based on other projects he’s been involved with, he said one option to help with traffic flow is sometimes to delay a stoplight for 20 to 30 seconds, giving drivers trying to exit a property located on a busy street more time to turn onto the street.

Members of the committee groaned at the suggestion. Samuel Kramer said the CAC fought the installation of the light at Montauk Highway and Wainscott Northwest Road for five years because committee members feared traffic delays.

“You put a delay on that traffic light, you’re going to have traffic backed up to the village,” said member George Biercuk.

Kathy Giamo, a resident of Wainscott Woods who said she had a long career in development and planning, said she didn’t think building a large supermarket would be “fair” for the people who live in the area and that she would prefer to see more forward-thinking planning, like a small community center or anything to turn Wainscott into a more “walkable community.”

“I really cannot see any way this business can be developed at this property,” she said, adding that she was worried about night traffic from trucks making deliveries to the food store, which Mr. Saunders said he thought he could control.

“As a landlord, I can restrict certain things,” he said.

Wainscott resident Doug Spitzer, who lives near the former Star Room nightclub, said he was concerned about future development, and asked Mr. Saunders if he was interested in purchasing the other empty Montauk Highway lots next to Plitt Ford. Mr. Saunders said he had never considered purchasing the other properties until he received calls from real estate agents after the auction.

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"Kathy Giamo... said she didn’t think building a large supermarket would be “fair” for the people who live in the area and that she would prefer to see more forward-thinking planning, like a small community center or anything to turn Wainscott into a more “walkable community.” "I really cannot see any way this business can be developed at this property...”
What planet do these people come from? Wake up: when entities pay millions of dollars for commercial property (on Rt 27) they are going ...more
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Jul 14, 10 5:41 PM
3 members liked this comment
Typical response from people who have moved out here and expect their struture to be the last thing built! Wainscott rural? Really, what planet are these people from!
I just love the suggestion that he build a community center, was she serious... is she that out of touch? I love how community groups speak for everyone based upon their own values beliefs and not on a consensus of the community.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 15, 10 1:48 AM
Developers haven't been playing "fair" out here on the East End for a long time...look what has happened to Southampton Town...Illegal housing ....illegal plans pushed through at night ....money changeing hands at the blink of an eye. Too little-Too late...Be careful what you wish for Developers...you just may get it...and you will end up with MONEY PITS that the community that lives here year round can only shake their heads and say "I TOLD YOU SO---YOU BIG BUNCH OF GREEDY IDIOTS!" No more "Hamptons"---just ...more
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Jul 15, 10 7:53 AM
Don't let this tired old building become another "Bulova" eyesore. It would be nice to have an alternative to shopping at King Kullen.
By SagHarborBob (91), Sag Harbor on Jul 15, 10 11:44 AM
I hope the developer has success with whatever goes in this location but I also hope the town requires some sort of smart traffic flow, ideally working out a reconfiguration of the park lots for this property as well as the pizza place and the place next door to get traffic onto Wainscott Road so they enter the highway at the stop light.
By Rich Morey (357), Brooklyn on Jul 15, 10 4:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
you wonder why the[broke]ers called.i hope its turned into the great wainscott lawn like the former mark r lot was.
By asurest (117), easthampton on Jul 15, 10 5:59 PM
This is just too funny.

I had commented about "what was next", after the Tuckahoe Main St. proposal, and the Water Mill proposal.

Frightentingly prophetic...
Jul 16, 10 6:56 AM appended by Mr. Z
You know where the "major disconnect" is? The gap between the "haves", and the "have nots". Nothing like "de pecuniae" segregation to keep society whole...
By Mr. Z (11364), North Sea on Jul 16, 10 6:56 AM
When Bob Schaeffer says "Some of these issues are premature ... almost every issue here will be addressed over time" it makes you realize that there is no overall vision for Wainscott; with each property sale you have a different set of rules and aesthetic considerations. Why isn't there a comprehensive plan for this part of EH town? If there were a set of overall guidelines (not just laws and codes) and a real vision, then each project that comes before the planning board would have to conform ...more
By Laszlo Lowenstein (37), East Hampton on Jul 16, 10 9:43 AM
I'll admit I haven't been as far east as Wainscott for years but earlier this week I was on LI to meet with a client in Sag Harbor. If the traffic in Wainscott is similar to what I experienced this past Tuesday afternoon from Southampton to Bridgehamprton I have to ask, can any new store along the highway really make it that much worse? I grew up on the East End but hadn't ventured that far out since the '90s and was kind of shocked at how often I was inching along in traffic on my way to Sag ...more
By KashMinbar (6), Tucson on Jul 16, 10 2:00 PM
Actually, the no bike rinding, or skateboarding for that matter is for your safety.

You could hit sonmeone, or a driver negotiating a parking space could hit you.

We have those rules, because it has happened...
By Mr. Z (11364), North Sea on Jul 16, 10 5:59 PM
Yo Kash,

"I'll admit I haven't been as far east as Wainscott for years . . . "

Long trip from Tucson!

By PBR (4917), Southampton on Jul 16, 10 7:12 PM
Arizona's SB-1070, Love it.... Support it.... Hope it spreads to every state!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 16, 10 11:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
teparty nonsense
By setyoufree (69), Sag Harbor on Jul 19, 10 12:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Spell Check.... Know how to use it?

What laws do think should be optional? Obviously you think those concerning how one enters our country are optional, any others?
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 19, 10 4:32 PM
I am saddened to hear that a former neighbor supports this faulty AZ legislation/anti-immigration effort. Your gov hates your state and here's why:
-She says it's a dangerous place to live yet crime in border areas is DOWN significantly in past 5 years
-She says illegals take away jobs, yet illegal immigrants mostly hold farm jobs that NO ONE else will take. Lose those and the nation's supply of fresh produce will collapse overnight.
-She says the borders are broken yet the number ...more
By Laszlo Lowenstein (37), East Hampton on Jul 22, 10 3:08 PM
Laszlo: I hope you're not addressing this remark to me, there was nothing related to SB 1070 in my comment. But as long as you brought it up...

I agree, Jan Brewer is an embarrassment. But please, don't delude yourself with generic statistics about "border areas." There are still very dangerous places along the border - Google "The Third Country, Tucson Weekly" for an informative read. SB 1070 isn't about border security though. SB 1070 is Politics 101: Take the most divisive issue ...more
By KashMinbar (6), Tucson on Jul 22, 10 8:29 PM
Laszlo Lowenstein - your point has a huge weak spot, that is that the majority of our fresh produce comes from out side the country. Furthermore the people who cross AZ border don't necessarily stay there or take farm jobs. How do you think your landscaper got here? The majority of the restaurant kitchens here on the east end are staffed by people from Central & South America, think they are all legal? I have worked in many and more often than not they are ILLEGAL! Many are very nice and hard working, ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 23, 10 2:34 AM
The reason I bring up the border question is that the first step in solving our illegal immigration problem is securing the borders. Then dealing with those here illegally in whatever manner is worked out. We can't just create a path to citizenship with the borders open as it will only provide additional incentive for people to enter our country illegally. We have been too lenient in our border enforcement for decades, it is time to clamp down.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 23, 10 2:52 AM
Saunders has a fantastic idea, I hope it comes through with flying colors. Maybe it will inspire all the other landlords on the Wainscott strip to clean up their run down shacks. Wainscott a walking a town? Not likely. All Wainscott needs is another empty dump like the old Swamp/ Star Room. If one lives near a main street and does not expect to hear trucks they need to re-think their real estate choices. It's comically really, much like the homeowners on airport road that complain about the airport ...more
By splashdown (21), sag harbor on Jul 18, 10 12:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
The town has about 40K residents not the 20 we all wish. Yes most in Springs and Montauk not in the wanna-be Sagaponac community of Wainscott but 40K none the less. As a wider community we need the same things as every community of equal size needs. Auto dealers, gas stations,convience stores,retailers,(KMart, not R.Lauren), industry, and grocery stores. And even though Trader Joe is no King Kullen it's not a Citerella either. We need a grocery and it should go here. Fact
By facts man (148), east hampton on Jul 18, 10 9:12 AM
1 member liked this comment
I'd love a Whole foods store or Wild By Nature, so would a lot of others. People from Amagansett travel to Hampton Bays to shop at the natural food store there, according to what its employees told me last year, spending up to $800 a pop. I'd shop there year round.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Jul 18, 10 11:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
goldenrod...about the Wild By Nature in Hampton Bays, I hate it, honestly, push for a Trader Joes, much better store, WBN is completely overpriced.
By xtina72 (7), East Quogue on Jul 18, 10 5:19 PM
That is partly true, certain items are far more expensive there. If you use it as your only supermarket you will pay more for the common items than you would at a Stop & Shop. If you get what is only available at WBN and then get your other items at King Kullen or Stop & Shop. The rewards card at WBN keeps track of what you spend each month and they send out a coupon for between 10-20% off your total bill.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 19, 10 4:41 PM
What does Breadzilla, Twice Upon a Bagel and The Seafood shop think about this plan? We have great small businesses there already so, what good will this place add? King Kullen is 4 miles away, Waldbaums is 5 miles away, is that not close enough for a food store? I think adding a mega-store like Trader Joe's, or Whole Foods brings unwanted and unneeded traffic to the area. I doubt this idea has any legs, but it sure will stir the pot for the next 2-years. Mr. Saunders will need to share his ...more
By NYCUSA (1), New York on Jul 21, 10 2:55 PM
Answer to first question: small stores nearby won't like it because it represents competition. Should these stores have a say in who gets to compete? No. You rolls the dice, you takes your chances.
RE: Mr Saunders "well thought out plan," he doesn't have one. he has preliminary drawings and lots of "it will great, you'll see" comments. Don't trust anyone who invests in real estate who is saying it is for the public good unless he's willing to give it away (he is no Rockefeller). He wants ...more
By Laszlo Lowenstein (37), East Hampton on Jul 22, 10 2:59 PM
The small stores nearby will make it, the Seafood Shop & Breadzilla have a loyal customer base who will still seek their products. The seafood dept. in any supermarket just can't compare to what the Seafood Shop offers in freshness & locally sourced products. While these stores mentioned all would have a bakery, once again the products offered by Breadzilla are of artisan quality which the supermarket bakeries can't touch. The Bagel store could go either way, they do primarily a breakfast business, ...more
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Jul 23, 10 2:46 AM