The attorney representing the owners of the former Westhampton Bowl property on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach is charging that village officials are stalling on his client’s application, which now seeks permission to lease half of the 20,000-square-foot building to a pharmacy chain even though village code prohibits stores of that size.
At the board’s last meeting on Thursday, September 4, John Bennett of Southampton, the lawyer for Sunset West LLC and Teserra, demanded that members immediately review his clients’ modified application, which was filed just that morning and seeks to allow a 10,000-square-foot CVS Pharmacy to open on the property. He also urged the board to hire a company to conduct a market analysis and traffic study, both of which are required by the village code if any chain store seeks to move into the village.
“We haven’t been delaying things,” countered Village Trustee Patricia DiBenedetto, in response to Mr. Bennett’s requests. “We received additional information today that we still have to review.”
Her statements were echoed by Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore. “The application was not complete and we only received the new information today,” she told Mr. Bennett, who insisted that the application should already have been deemed complete.
The additional information filed last Thursday morning included a breakdown of how CVS intends to divvy up the space it intends to lease for the pharmacy, groceries and other items. Mr. Bennett is also representing the chain in its quest to open a store in the hamlet of Bridgehampton.
The site plan in question, which originally called for multiple retail stores and a restaurant, was approved in May 2009 by the Westhampton Beach Village Planning Board; however, the petition to add a CVS to that plan was submitted, erroneously, to the same board this past April, when it was supposed to have been filed with the Village Board, according to Westhampton Beach officials.
After receiving the amended proposal in April, Westhampton Beach Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan said he advised Mr. Bennett that he needed to file the document with the Village Board, which he did not do. The plan had to be revised because village code does not allow businesses to occupy storefronts that are larger than 3,000 square feet in size unless they first secure Village Board approval.
In addition to gutting and renovating the existing 20,000-square-foot building that formerly housed the bowling alley, the original plan called for the construction of a pair of 5,000-square-foot, two-story buildings just to the north of the old bowling alley, with one on the corner of Sunset Avenue and Mill Road. Plans for those buildings are still in the works. The application, however, originally called for a 50-seat restaurant and between eight and 10 small retail stores within the larger building. Also, two entrances—one on each road—will lead to the 105-space parking lot behind the buildings.
Mr. Houlihan explained that the proposal submitted in April was missing a floor plan outlining the new design for the building. He also pointed out that the Village Board received the updated site plan—one that includes the proposed layout of the space—last Thursday morning, only a few hours before that night’s meeting.
Mr. Bennett is contending that the original application was complete and the board should have hired a company to conduct the market analysis by now. The analysis will examine how the pharmacy, if approved, would impact the village in terms of traffic, employment and property values. It will also examine its effect on existing retail stores; Barth’s Pharmacy is located almost directly across the street from where the CVS would open, and a Rite Aid already operates on the eastern end of Main Street.
Mr. Houlihan noted that board members will most likely review the new information, including the floor plans for the new design, at their next work session scheduled for Wednesday, September 17, at 7 p.m.
Update Nearly Complete
Also last week, the board passed a resolution that will pay $4,400 to D&B Engineers and Architects P.C. of Woodbury to assist the village in modifying its stormwater program.
The Department of Environmental Conservation notified the village in the spring that three modifications were necessary: the village needs to mark the outfalls in the municipality where stormwater flows into larger bodies of water; it must create an acknowledgment form for contractors that describes the stormwater program and highlights the village code’s specifications on illicit waste; and it must update the progress of specific changes made to handle stormwater flowing from the Highway Department property that sits just off Old Riverhead Road and south of Gabreski Airport.
Mr. Houlihan explained that the DEC reviews stormwater programs annually and makes suggestions. He noted that about 95 percent of the outfalls in the village are marked at this point and all modifications and paperwork will be submitted by the DEC’s September 25 deadline.
D&B Engineers has been working with the village on this program since 2009.
Citing an article that ran in last week’s issue of The Press, two residents also asked the board about the possibility of the Westhampton Beach and Southampton Town police departments merging down the road—with board members insisting that they did not know anything about preliminary discussions between the village and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.
“We need to see a proposal from Southampton,” Ms. Moore said. “As of right now, we don’t have anything.”
Two people, including longtime village resident and blogger Dean Speir, wondered aloud what sparked the rumors of such merger talks. Each board member stated that they have never been officially approached by anyone at Town Hall regarding the topic.
“They didn’t come up with this out of nowhere,” said Mr. Speir, referring to last week’s article in The Press. Board members suggested that he should speak with the reporter.