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Nov 19, 2015 4:43 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach To Hold Public Hearing On Proposed CVS

The Village of Westhampton Beach will hold a public hearing on December 3 to discuss an exception that could allow CVS to occupy the abandoned bowling alley on Sunset Avenue. GREG WEHNER
Nov 24, 2015 2:02 PM

The Westhampton Beach Village Board will hold a public hearing next Thursday, December 3, regarding a special exception permit application that, if approved, would allow a CVS Pharmacy to open in the space of the former bowling alley on Sunset Avenue.

The trustees are not expected to vote on the application itself, filed by Manhattan-based Sunset West LLC and Tessera LLC developers on behalf of CVS, until January at the earliest, according to village officials.

The applicant is seeking permission to allow CVS to open a 10,000-square-foot pharmacy in the gutted bowling alley building, an approval that would allow the chain store to occupy half of the unfinished 20,000-square-foot structure.

The special exemption permit is needed because the property, which falls within the village’s Main Street/Business 1 District, caps the space that can be occupied by a single business at 3,000 square feet. That zoning, approved several years earlier, was specifically designed to prevent larger chain stores from opening in Westhampton Beach. Plans for the property date back nearly a decade.

Board members unanimously approved the resolution to schedule the hearing during last week’s work session, after learning from Village Attorney Stephen Angel that the current plan addresses all changes previously suggested by the village.

According to Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Maria Moore, in 2006 the Village Board approved the original plans that called for 12 smaller stores to occupy the space at the bowling alley building. Shortly after they were approved, the plans changed and, instead, the development company requested permission to open one large business, a CVS Pharmacy, and several smaller stores, including a possible restaurant.

The mayor noted that many versions of the site plan have been submitted to the village for review over the years, and subsequently revised.

“I can’t speak to what occurred before I became mayor, but since last year, the village planner, engineer, attorney and building department have been coordinating with the property owner, his builder, architect and attorney to come to a satisfactory resolution,” Ms. Moore wrote in an email.

Westhampton Beach Village Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan said the property owners, Sunset West LLC and Tessera LLC, are now hoping to renovate the building into a multi-use commercial complex and, to date, have secured two different approvals. The first application, submitted in 2008, sought to renovate the bowling alley and build two 5,000-square-foot stores in its place. That plan was approved in 2009.

But Mr. Houlihan noted that when the economy crashed, the developers held out on the project and did not touch their plans again until 2012. That’s when they secured permission to abandon their previous plan and instead convert the building into a mixed-use structure that features the pharmacy, retail shops and restaurants.

At the present time, CVS is the only potential tenant for the complex, according to Mr. Houlihan.

Many of the ensuing changes dealt with the aesthetics, and ensuring that the plans adhere to the village code. For example, earlier plans showed the proposed CVS with fake doors facing out toward Sunset Avenue and the parking lot. It was also suggested that the developer come up with an alternative that would place the CVS in the middle of the building to maximize the other shops that could be viewed from the outside, and they were successful.

“We now have a plan that deals with that difficult zoning alternative, the articulate look on the outside, and it’s not fake because there are three stores on each side,” Mr. Angel said to the mayor and the board during last week’s work session. “Since it seems to me that they’ve dealt with all of the issues that were identified by the experts, we can move this thing along if you want to move it along.”

Current plans show the CVS Pharmacy occupying the center of the building, with three different shops on each side of it. Along Sunset Avenue, there would be a 2,508-square-foot space dedicated for a 50-seat restaurant, a 945-square-foot retail store and a 1,166-square-foot space for a wet-use store with food storage that can be used for a Starbucks or yogurt shop. Facing the parking lot to the north of the building will be another wet-use store with food storage that will measure 1,010 square feet, along with a 964-square-foot retail store and a 1,054-square-foot retail store.

Business owners along Sunset Avenue said they have mixed feelings regarding the proposed development, though most agree that the process has taken far too long.

Lou Cassara, the owner of Barth’s Pharmacy, which has locations in Westhampton Beach, East Moriches and East Quogue, said he is not happy with the proposal. If the CVS is approved, it will be the second chain pharmacy to operate within the village. The other, Rite-Aid, sits on Main Street in the village.

“If an exception is made to allow this 10,000-square-foot store, the village is setting up a precedent to anyone who sat before them in the past, which could lead to potential lawsuits coming their way,” Mr. Cassara said. “Asking for the 10,000 square feet is the same as asking for a seven-story house in the village, except it’s horizontal.”

Heather Repp, who works at the nearby Sunset Court Deli, said there has been talks of CVS moving into that building for years, but nothing has happened yet.

“I wish they kept the building open as a bowling alley,” she said. “Kids in the area have nothing to do other than go to the movie theater.”

In March, a market analysis of the potential impact of allowing a CVS Pharmacy to occupy the old bowling alley building found that it would likely hurt existing businesses and provide little to no tax benefit to the village. The analysis was requested by the village.

As for Mr. Cassara, he said he has no plans to close shop if CVS is allowed to open. In fact, he is making plans to hand over the company’s reins to his son Conor.

“My son is in pharmacy school and is doing quite well,” said Mr. Cassara, whose son is currently enrolled at Ohio Northern University. “My intention is to give him every opportunity to serve the Village of Westhampton Beach for many years to come.

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By NEWLONDON (48), westhampton beach on Nov 19, 15 9:30 PM
Gee, I thought bigger was better. Why is a chain drug store allowed but not a chain fast food store?
By tenn tom (255), remsenburg on Nov 20, 15 7:32 AM
Did the Rite Aid on Main St. close or something?

How many pharmacies do you need over there?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (740), southampton on Nov 20, 15 7:38 AM
Well there are two pharmacies now so they are adding a third. It's really not for a town to decide how much a particular community can bear. Adam Smith posited that market forces will dictate. If WHB can have three then all will prosper. if only two, then one will fold.

Everyone cried poor Barth's but the stay open only until 7, so they can be quite useless if a child has an ear infection at night.

Further to that logic of "too much" Look at how many banks there are! There ...more
By Hambone (513), New York on Nov 20, 15 10:42 AM
2 members liked this comment
Maybe the space could be chain store alley: CVS, Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, and Subway. Maybe another bank! Sounds quaint. Great job town planners! I think I'd rather have the empty bowling alley.
By nycleo (5), Westhampton Beach on Nov 30, 15 10:21 AM
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