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Mar 6, 2012 2:49 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Developer Continues Push For Public Hearing On Westhampton Beach Supermarket

Mar 7, 2012 11:06 AM

For one developer, the idea of building a new grocery store in Westhampton Beach is like the theme of the romantic comedy “Serendipity”: Fate will always unite two people who are destined to be together.

But village officials are maintaining that the developer’s request that they change the zoning code to accommodate him—instead of requiring him to seek a change of zone for his land—is more like another romantic comedy: “It’s Complicated.”

And, keeping true to their stance, Village Board members last week once again denied Westhampton developer Andrew Mendelson’s request that they schedule a public hearing to consider amending the village code to allow a supermarket to be built on land that he owns. Mr. Mendelson, who does not live in the village, owns two adjoining properties along the west side of Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton Beach that are zoned B-3 Business and Industrial I-1, and neither zoning currently permits grocery stores. For the past two months, Mr. Mendelson has been asking that two words—“grocery stores”—be added to the code so he can build an estimated 40,000-square-foot supermarket on his 4.2 acres.

At last Thursday night’s board meeting, Mr. Mendelson provided trustees with a map highlighting his two properties, as well as others in the area, and insisted that he is not getting his fair shake as a property owner and taxpayer due to the board’s refusal to discuss his plan in public.

When asked by Village Trustee Patricia DiBenedetto if a supermarket was the only possible use for his land, Mr. Mendelson responded: “It’s not the only possible use, it’s the use that, over the past seven years as I’ve lived in this village, that every person has come up to me and [asked], ‘Why don’t you build a grocery store there?’”

He added that neighbors have told him: “We don’t need any more little mini markets. We don’t need any more Chinese restaurants. We don’t need you to build a North Mall. We need a grocery store.”

But Westhampton Beach officials have countered that the current version of the village’s master plan, completed five years ago for approximately $30,000, does not allow supermarkets along Old Riverhead Road. They noted that that decision was made by members of a Planning Task Force who met over the course of a year and held multiple public hearings.

“Any consideration of a change without these processes would constitute a violation of the village master plan and be in direct opposition to what is currently contained within it,” said Westhampton Beach Village Clerk Rebecca Molinaro this week.

She explained that the process involves an examination of land use patterns, development potential, business inventories and future plans. She added that the most recent update allows supermarkets only in the village’s B-1 Business district, which primarily falls along Main Street.

“A master plan update is something that must be carefully considered since it costs time, money and must seek to address substantial changes in zoning that would be required to continue to promote the long-term viability of the village,” Ms. Molinaro added.

Nevertheless, Frank Isler, Mr. Mendelson’s attorney, as he addressed the board last week, urged members to set a public hearing to consider the amendment. “That doesn’t force your hand to adopt it or reject it,” he added, referring to his client’s supermarket proposal.

In response, Village Attorney Richard Haefeli stated that allowing such an amendment to the code goes against all reasonable, rational planning. “You can’t put a grocery store into an industrial district when there has never been an industrial district that permitted the grocery store,” Mr. Haefeli added.

Several residents came forward at last week’s meeting to offer their opinions on the request, and two suggested that the village might want to consider conducting a new zoning study—one that Mr. Mendelson should help pay for.

Colin Bester, a village resident who owns R2Q Construction LLC in Westhampton Beach, said the Waldbaum’s on Sunset Avenue “stinks” and that the village really needs a new supermarket. Waldbaum’s is the only local supermarket.

“I know that the village is losing lots of money to Riverhead and the new supermarkets in Hampton Bays,” he said. “If someone’s got to pay for it, let the man who wants to build a new supermarket pay for the new study. Maybe a good supermarket will attract residents of other towns to our village and maybe more money will flow into Main Street.”

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OK, this does not appear to be complicated. The Village did a master plan update 4 years ago. That plan prohibits supermarkets anywhere but the Main Street area of the VIllage. The plan was updated by input from Village residents and public hearings. The developer wants to put a supermarket on the highway where it is prohibited. According to your article two people spoke against the supermarket, one for it. It appears there is very little desire on the part of Village residents to change the ...more
By Sug Tonmi (25), southampton on Mar 6, 12 6:35 PM
It is not the right place for a supermarket, I agree with the original master plan. I do want an updated Waldbaums in Westhampton Beach and King Kullen in Eastport but it does not mean we need another supermarket!
By for truth and justice (11), Westhampton on Mar 7, 12 1:10 PM
Between WHB and SH, the common problem seems to Waldbaum's. Why not fix the problem instead of creating a new one?
By johnj (960), Westhampton on Mar 7, 12 2:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
What a concept!

But what do you have in mind?
By Frank Wheeler (1809), Northampton on Mar 7, 12 2:21 PM
The current financial condition of The (Once) Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company makes look like it will soon "fix" its own problem by going out of business. That won't help the Westhampton area have a decent place to shop for groceries - Mendelson'slan will.
By VOS (1170), WHB on Mar 7, 12 10:40 PM
Dare to think outside the box and promote new business and jobs. Who cares about Waldbaums anymore. I stopped shopping there. Might plans need to be updated to change with the times? Still no hotel at the airport and I've gone to numerous events at the new hotel in Riverhead. Waldbaums is not changing its ways so lets move on and promote development.
By realistic (463), westhampton on Mar 7, 12 9:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
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