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Feb 22, 2012 12:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Village Tells Developer: No Supermarket For You!

Feb 22, 2012 12:40 PM

The Westhampton Beach Village Board has denied a developer’s request that it consider modifying the municipality’s zoning code in order to allow him to build a supermarket along the west side of Old Riverhead Road in the village.

At last week’s work session, board members informed Westhampton developer Andrew Mendelson that they would not entertain his petition, which was hand-delivered to Village Hall last month and seeks to alter the village code to permit the construction of a grocery store on two adjoining properties that he owns. The two properties, at 107 Old Riverhead Road and 105 Old Riverhead Road, are zoned B-3 Business and Industrial, respectively; neither zoning currently permits supermarkets.

When reached earlier this week, Mr. Mendelson said he will attend the next Village Board meeting, scheduled for Thursday, March 1, with a zoning map so he can point out to the trustees just how few properties his proposed change would impact.

“We are talking about a tiny corner,” Mr. Mendelson added. “It’s not a big deal.”

Mayor Conrad Teller, who did not address the developer during last week’s work session, said on Wednesday that Mr. Mendelson did not follow proper protocol.

“Mr. Mendelson is a developer and he knows how to proceed in this legal matter,” Mr. Teller said. “Taking the issue to the public is not the proper way to go about it.”

Mr. Mendelson wants to build a 35,000- to 40,000-square-foot supermarket on the estimated 4.3 acres that he owns along the west side of Old Riverhead Road, south of the train tracks. As part of his argument, the developer said the current village code essentially prohibits the opening of new supermarkets in Westhampton Beach, which is now served only by Waldbaum’s.

But Westhampton Beach Village Attorney Richard T. Haefeli informed him during last week’s work session that the board will not entertain his request.

“It’s nothing more than an attempt to avoid a request to rezone those two districts,” Mr. Haefeli said of Mr. Mendelson’s petition. “To permit that opens up all the other issues that are involved.”

He later added: “The application requires a full rezoning of two zoning districts and that’s only if the board wants to consider it.”

The Waldbaum’s on Sunset Avenue is the only such supermarket in the village and, as a result, Mr. Mendelson believes it maintains an unfair monopoly. Local shoppers who do not want to frequent the business must now do their shopping at the Stop & Shop in Hampton Bays, the King Kullen in Eastport or along Route 58 in Riverhead.

Mr. Haefeli explained that Waldbaum’s falls within the village’s B-1 Business district and that a grocery store, while under different ownership, has been in that location for more than 50 years. Both Mr. Teller and Mr. Haefeli pointed out that new supermarkets are allowed in the village, but they must be built in the B-1 Business district.

According to a survey that Mr. Mendelson recently presented to the board, more than half of 339 Westhampton Beach residents he polled said they do not like Waldbaum’s, while 40 percent of another 484 people who live in the surrounding hamlets also said they don’t like the supermarket.

Paul Houlihan, the building and zoning administrator for Westhampton Beach, said the village spent two years, beginning in April 2006, working on its master plan update. He added that the village’s 2006 Business District Comprehensive Plan was developed based on the input of local business owners, private citizens and developers. Mr. Houlihan also noted that Mr. Mendelson, who owned his two properties at the time, never offered any input back then.

“He owned that land then and he was nowhere to be found,” Mr. Houlihan said. “After all the work that the village put into the process it is disingenuous to go about it in this way.

“This isn’t about fighting with anyone,” he added. “This is about good government and developing a master plan.”

At least one Village Board member, meanwhile, commended Mr. Mendelson for his persistence. Patricia DiBenedetto also said that she, like many others, thinks the conditions at the Waldbaum’s are deplorable.

“It would be great to have another supermarket, but it is unfortunate that his property involves two different zones,” Ms. DiBenedetto said.

Noting that the zoning issue complicates things, she encouraged residents to tell the board if they want it to consider the developer’s request.

In November, Mr. Teller said he would not discuss Mr. Mendelson’s request until he filed a formal application to change the zoning of his property with the village. But rather than file an application, the developer last month filed a request that the village consider amending its zoning code.

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Do we really even need to argue the point that the Walbaums is a joke? Even my children ask me "what is wrong with this store". It is embarrassing that as a community/government we cant do better. I dont care about the politics involved...I just want a clean store to shop at.
By ba (49), speonk on Feb 22, 12 5:06 PM
You are correct. I dont know a person who doesnt share the same thought- oh- except the Mayor. I shop for groceries out of town and have for a while now. Unfortunately many of our Village Government dont care about local business (and the jobs and taxes they could bring in) and why should they- the tax payers keep on coughing up the tax increases. Lets see what they propose this year. A Decrease? That would be un-american.
By realistic (408), westhampton on Feb 22, 12 7:59 PM
“Taking the issue to the public is not the proper way to go about it.”

Then what is, Mayor?

Who exactly DO you represent. anyway?
By Mr. Z (9281), North Sea on Feb 22, 12 8:10 PM
Following proper protocol, thats all. Its the "emotion" of a nasty Walbaums that makes everyone in favor of a new supermarket. CR 31 is not the place for it as it will hurt Main St.
I think people in WHB that venture into Walbaums are telling them it is OK to treat them like ****. They should vote with their feet and pocketbook. Walbaums will soon get the message.
By But I'm a blank! (1274), Hampton Bays on Feb 23, 12 12:23 PM
Why not tear the Trolley Barn down and put a supermarket there?
By tenn tom (162), remsenburg on Feb 23, 12 8:01 AM