Southampton Village Planning Board Approves Citarella Site Plan

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The Southampton Village Planning Board on Monday night approved a site plan application that would bring a Citarella gourmet market to the village. While shoppers will have another grocery option, it will not be the full-fledged supermarket that many have longed for in a village that has seen its number of supermarkets dwindle over the years.

Pending approval from the Suffolk County Department of Health and a building permit, the Citarella will join other chain stores—Pottery Barn and BookHampton— on Hampton Road.

Once the applicant, Hampton Road Realty—no longer Elka LLC, the owner listed on the application—is given the green light, the mini-mall will be converted to a gourmet market.

According to Village Attorney Elbert W. “Beau” Robinson Jr., the property switched hands back in March from Elka LLC to Hampton Road Realty. John Bennett, of Bennett and Read of Southampton, who is representing the applicant, confirmed on Tuesday that Hampton Road Realty is indeed affiliated with Citarella.

To transform the buildings into a single use, walls will be removed and reconfigured to accommodate a market. The mini-mall currently has 11,451 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 1,777 square feet of non-medical office space upstairs.

Additionally, an upgraded septic system will be installed behind the China Garden restaurant. Although not required, the applicant has agreed to install rings to collect rainwater at the recommendation of the village.

The Village Hall board room was nearly empty on Monday night when the Planning Board voted on the application, a quiet end to a process that brought a roomful of critics to its first public hearing in March.

Concern surrounded the application early on because the site plan review did not include looking at perceived parking issues since its interior changes do not require a change of use variance. A market is a permitted use under the current zoning of the property—the building housed an A&P grocery store years ago.

Neighbors and residents said the parking lot was already hitting about 80 percent capacity during the winter months and will only get more crowded, especially since some drivers don’t adhere to various parking limits within the lot, and some Southampton School staff members park there during the school day.

Although board members acknowledged parking as a problem, they said on Monday that it was not within their power to address it, and that it was instead up to the Village Board of Trustees to find a solution.

“We are painfully aware of the parking situation, but it’s not within our jurisdiction to rule on it,” said Planning Board Member Steve Lemanski, noting that the application was for a change in occupancy and not a change in use, the latter of which would have indeed required a look at parking.

In the board’s decision, parking was mentioned as a detail that was concerning but one they could not address.

“Parking and delivery access involves more than the subject properties, and because the subject properties are entitled to pre-existing exemptions to off-street parking requirements, the Planning Board lacks jurisdiction to attempt a remedy or amelioration to the issues presented,” it said.

The Planning Board said in the decision that members alerted the Village Board of the issue of parking and the “potential for delay, frustration and disruption of public patronage of the area.”

According to Mayor Mark Epley, parking is something the Village Board is currently working on, and noted that employee parking is an issue that needs to be looked at since many people park right outside their respective businesses.

Otherwise, the application made it through the process with few issues, according to the board’s decision: “Were it not for several issues ancillary to the use of the properties, this application presented few new issues for review.”

Just last week, the board discussed drainage at the property, a concern of some officials who pointed to flooding during rainstorms.

According to Mr. Robinson, there is substantial water runoff at the property and a village engineer suggested that the applicant install recharge basins 
underneath the village parking lot behind the buildings and asked Citarella if it would do so.

Agreeing to the proposal, Mr. Bennett sent two letters to the Village Trustees requesting their stamp of approval. Mr. Bennett said the trustees had not replied, and so he and his client agreed to keep the offer open until May 1, 2015. If the trustees accept, the owner of the property would have permission to enter village property—the parking lot—and install the basins. Mr. Bennett said the work would not be done during the summer season, but likely during the fall.

When asked when construction is slated to begin, he said it was too early to tell and couldn’t say when doors would open. He said when it does open, it would benefit Southampton Village.

“It’s going to be great foot traffic into Southampton Village,” he said. “I grew up in Southampton and it’s always been the jewel of the Hamptons—that’s what it should be. It will be a great shot in the arm to the village.”

Mayor Epley said he agrees that it should bring a lot of business to surrounding stores, but said a Citarella wouldn’t necessarily fill the village residents’ need for a grocery store.

“It won’t answer the full need—Citarella is a boutique food store,” he said. “The average guy is not going to benefit from them.”

The mayor also said he still supports putting a Fresh Market at the corner of Hampton Road and Flying Point Road—the Glennon family’s parcel—but that the idea didn’t have majority support from the Village Board.

On Tuesday, Walter Glennon said that while he could not comment immediately, he would still like to be in on the on-going dialogue about a supermarket in Southampton Village.

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