Westhampton Beach Trustees Ask For Cost Of Updating Master Plan

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The Westhampton Beach Village Board has directed its planner to calculate the estimated cost and outline the procedure it must follow to reopen and reexamine its master plan, a document last updated in 2007 that dictates zoning restrictions.

The action, approved unanimously as a resolution at the board’s most recent meeting last Thursday, June 6, could be the first step in allowing a developer to build a supermarket on the west side of Old Riverhead Road, in an area where zoning does not currently allow such businesses.

Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker explained at the meeting that the trustees would need the requested information should they elect to reopen and possibly amend the document, though they haven’t yet decided to follow that course.

The action is the first the board has taken since Westhampton developer Andrew Mendelson of LMS Development repeatedly requested that the board amend the zoning code to add the words “grocery store” to its definition of the B-3 business zoning district. He has been demanding the change so that he can construct a grocery store on 4.2 acres he owns along Old Riverhead Road.

His land, which is actually two properties, is also partially zoned I-1 Industrial. Neither zoning district permits the construction of grocery stores, which are allowed only in the village’s B-1 business zone, which spans Main Street and Sunset Avenue. The Waldbaum’s on Sunset Avenue is the only supermarket in the village.

Village Attorney Richard Haefeli has repeatedly stressed to the board that in order to add those words to the zoning code, the trustees would have to amend its master plan. Under a state law that governs villages, all land use regulations must be consistent with the recommendations of the master plan.

“You can’t just plug ‘supermarket’ into the existing zoning code without that,” he said. “I don’t understand why people are objecting to the fact that if the Board of Trustees wishes to move forward on this, they want to review it. They want to get the input from the village residents and not just have a developer walk in [and] say, ‘I want this use put in.’”

Frank Isler, Mr. Mendelson’s attorney, told the board that he does not think there is a need to amend the master plan because the grocery store use, in his opinion, is consistent with the kind of development that the B-3 zone permits—vehicular and highway-dependent commercial services. Mr. Haefeli disputed that assertion, and said that grocery stores in that area of the village are not consistent with the master plan.

Ms. Isler countered by stating that a grocery store would require frequent deliveries from large trucks, activities that do not fit with the pedestrian-centered businesses on Sunset Avenue and Main Street. “I think it’s a no-brainer that that’s not a use that you want in your downtown area,” he said.

Mr. Tucker pointed out that the village has changed over that past seven years since the master plan was last updated, and it might be warranted for the trustees to reexamine it. He also said that decision was not based solely on Mr. Mendelson’s request; Mr. Tucker said the document might need to be reexamined to make sure that it still meets the overall needs of the village.

When reached on Monday, Village Planner Kyle Collins said he would need to discuss the scope of the master plan update with the trustees before he can put together a proposal with an estimated cost. He said he and the trustees must analyze the implications of any possible amendments to determine their potential effects on the other zones in the village and the area as a whole.

He added that the process would take a minimum of six months to complete, though it could stretch much longer depending on the extent of public involvement and the scope of the project. By law, the trustees would need to hold a public hearing before adopting an update to the master plan. But Mr. Collins noted that, in the past, he has created a committee that has included both village residents and business owners in order to gather their input and recommendations prior to proposing changes to the document.

Local Laws PassedDuring the same meeting, the trustees also passed two local laws pertaining to parking at village beaches.

The first amends Chapter 123 of the code and makes it illegal to transfer the village’s beach permit stickers from one vehicle to another. Those who violate the law can be fined up to $100 per offense. The stickers are required to park at the village’s two beaches between May and September.

The second law amends Chapter 196 of the code to make it illegal for vehicles to double-park, or park anywhere aside from the designated spaces in village lots and on village streets.

The board held public hearings on both changes, though no one from the public spoke about either item.

The board also held a public hearing about a proposed change to the code that would cap the number of chairs and tables that are allowed outside restaurants and businesses in the downtown area. Currently, there is no limit on the number that businesses are allowed to have, though the plans are subject to Planning Board review.

The trustees proposed a cap of 28 chairs and seven tables, though Simon Jorna, who owns the Beach Bakery Cafe, objected and asked that they consider allowing a higher number of small, bistro-style tables.

The trustees agreed to reconsider the final numbers, and kept the hearing open for more discussion at the next meeting on Monday, July 1.

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