A developer seeking to build a new supermarket in Westhampton Beach took formal steps this week to get the ball rolling.
On Monday, Westhampton resident Andrew Mendelson hand-delivered a petition to Westhampton Beach Village Hall asking officials to change the village’s zoning code to allow supermarkets in the underlying zoning of two properties that he owns on Old Riverhead Road, south of the Long Island Rail Road station.
“I’m only asking for the addition of two words”—“grocery stores”—Mr. Mendelson pointed out. “It’s that simple.”
Mr. Mendelson and his business partners are looking to build an estimated 40,000-square-foot supermarket on 4.2 acres that they own on the west side of Old Riverhead Road. The firm Self-Storage-Westhampton LLC, which has offices in Southampton, owns the two lots at 107 Old Riverhead Road and 105 Riverhead Road. The first parcel is zoned B-3 Business and the second is zoned Industrial. The petition asks officials to change the zoning code to include grocery stores as a permitted use in both zones.
But Westhampton Beach Village Planner Kyle Collins said that if the code were changed, the owners of any one of approximately 12 businesses in the village now zoned B-3 Business or Industrial would be allowed to build supermarkets on their properties—potentially opening the door for other similar proposals to follow.
Mr. Mendelson said he opted to seek a change to the zoning code rather than filing a formal application—which would have included a change of zone request—because an application that applied only to his property might be considered spot zoning. “This is not being done for me alone,” he said.
Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller, who flatly refused in November to grant Mr. Mendelson’s request for an informational meeting to outline his plan for a new supermarket because an application had yet to be filed, said on Monday that he believes Mr. Mendelson has begun taking the proper steps. Still, the mayor said he would like for Mr. Mendelson to file an application.
“He’s doing the right thing,” Mr. Teller said. But, the mayor added, “It should have been an application.”
Village Attorney Richard Haefeli said in the fall that Village Board members would ultimately decide if they were going to entertain a formal application, because the supermarket would require a change of zone.
Shoppers, Mr. Mendelson said, are heading to supermarkets in Hampton Bays and Riverhead, and drawing business away from the village, because they do not like the only option in town, the Waldbaum’s on Sunset Avenue. “I’m saying shop local,” he said. “Let’s get a decent supermarket and keep people here.”
Mr. Mendelson also delivered to Village Hall on Monday a copy of a survey he conducted in June that was distributed to 339 residents of Westhampton Beach and 384 people living in the surrounding communities of Remsenburg, Speonk, Westhampton and Quogue. The survey asked residents whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Waldbaum’s. Fifty-two percent of those living in Westhampton Beach, and 40 percent of those in the surrounding hamlets, said they do not like the supermarket, according to Mr. Mendelson.
Other survey questions asked residents where they purchase most of their groceries, and whether or not they visit Main Street while making trips to the supermarket. Some business owners in the village have said that allowing a supermarket on Old Riverhead Road would draw shoppers away from the heart of the village. According to the survey, only 15 percent of those living in Westhampton Beach said they would make fewer trips to Main Street if a supermarket opened north of Montauk Highway.
Some local business owners, meanwhile, have said that they don’t think allowing a second supermarket to open in the village will hurt their businesses.
“I’m not worried,’ said Elyse Richman, the owner of the Shock stores on Main Street in Westhampton Beach. “No one comes into my store with groceries. They don’t come in for eggs.”
Erin Finley, the owner of Sydney’s “Taylor” Made Cuisine, said that while she “hates” Waldbaum’s, she would prefer that a new supermarket be built closer to Main Street.
“I would love to see it closer, maybe in the old bowling alley,” said Ms. Finley, whose shop is also located on Main Street. “Sunset Avenue is becoming to look more and more decrepit. It’s really sad. I would hate to see them continue to build on the other side of Montauk Highway and have more vacancy down here.”