A majority of members of the Southampton Town Board elected Tuesday to allow a supermarket developer to submit an application to change the zone of 7.26 acres along County Road 39 — a plan that brought out both critics and supporters to Tuesday’s board meeting.
Developer Robert Morrow’s LLC, Southampton Venture, seeks to build a shopping center anchored by a King Kullen supermarket, but before he can go to the Planning Board with his proposal, the Town Board must first approve changing the area currently zoned for highway business and residential to the "shopping center business" zone. While Tuesday's vote still leaves Morrow with a ways to go before meeting final approval, he has cleared a hurdle that critics hoped would have stopped the plan in its tracks.
Morrow's proposal, , is a scaled-down version of his earlier application for a planning development district, Tuckahoe Main Street, which . The revised plan includes a 40,000-square-foot supermarket, a 15,000-square-foot retail building and a 3,500-square-foot bank.
Southampton-Shinnecock Hills-Tuckahoe Citizens Advisory Committee Chair Bonnie Goebert said the committee is to the change of zone, and had stern words for the Town Board: “We are here today to watch five elected officials ignore the public outcry,” she said. “The project counters everything we cherish on the East End.”
Ultimately, four board members voted in favor of the reviewing the application, while Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, D-Noyac, dissented.
Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, I-Noyac, acknowledged that the application comes with controversy, but said that until there is a formal application, all aspects of the proposal cannot be studied and public input will not be part of the application’s record.
The Town Board met with Morrow's representatives in March during a "pre-submission work session," to learn about the plan and begin to consider whether to allow him to submit an application or to tell him is does not stand a chance and should go no further.
Fleming said the proposal seems inconsistent with studies that supported limiting businesses with a high volume of traffic on County Road 39 and said the building is two-and-a-half times bigger than what studies propose as a limit on the size of highway businesses. She said she wants to wait to proceed until the that is underway is complete.
Southampton Condos board member Anthony Scotty decried the plan, telling the Town Board that the proposed supermarket entrance will be 250 feet from the Hubbard Lane entrance to his community.
“We believe that the quality of our lifestyle with be depreciated,” he told the board. “The traffic congestion that will be generated by the 24-hour, 7-day-a-week operation will provide a great deal of noise, air quality and all of the other issues.”
But area resident Jay Durante and other speakers at Tuesday's meeting favored the plan. “We have to drive to Southampton or Hampton Bays to go to the supermarket,” he said. “To get a value like you do in King Kullen, it means a drive. I feel that having a supermarket [in Tuckahoe] will better serve the community.”
Durante said a new supermarket will not only cut down on travel time, but it also won’t change traffic flow because residents already take County Road 39 to get to a grocery store.
Southampton resident Richard Seacord agreed. “We need a modern supermarket,” he said. “I think the supermarket should be on the highway and is a necessity.”
Other supporters also cited the convenience of having a bigger supermarket closer to home.
Tuckahoe resident said that Southampton Venture has failed to identify a need for a supermarket. He said that while the developer says the supermarket will serve 48,000 people, the 2012 Census of North Sea, Tuckahoe and Shinnecock Hills showed a population of no more than 8,000.
“There are already two King Kullen megamalls in seven miles,” he added.
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Southampton-Shinnecock Hills-Tuckahoe CAC member Susan Van Olst said she drove to each of the existing area supermarkets — in Hampton Bays, Southampton and Bridgehampton — and none took longer than 16 minutes to get to. “It is very easy to get to these supermarkets,” she said. “I don't see a need for another. There is a difference between need and want. What if we want a Petco or Best Buy?”
She pointed to a recent supermarket proposal in Westhampton Beach Village that did not get very far. “The mayor of Westhampton Beach doesn't jump — he was presented with a supermarket and he said no. He said, ‘It doesn't meet the zoning so we won't have it here.’”