A developer seeking village approval to build a supermarket off Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton Beach repeated a request last week that a public hearing be held on the issue—and at least one village trustee later said he would favor scheduling such a forum.
Trustee Charlie Palmer said he would support holding a hearing for Westhampton developer Andrew Mendelson, of LSM Development, the owner of two adjacent properties, totaling 4.2 acres, along the west side of the road. They are zoned B-3 business and I-1 industrial, which does not permit the construction of supermarkets; those businesses are only allowed in the B-1 business zone along Main Street and Sunset Avenue in the village.
The developer has appeared before the board on numerous occasions in recent years to request that it add the words “grocery store” to its definition of a B-3 zone in its master plan, thereby permitting him to build one on his property.
“It’s a hearing that would bring issues to the table,” Mr. Palmer said this week. He explained that it would be an opportunity for residents to discuss their ideas and state whether they support the change.
But other board members are not as enthusiastic, mostly because of the expense of updating the master plan to accommodate Mr. Mendelson.
“We’re not obligated to do anything,” Mayor Conrad Teller said on Tuesday, later adding that other board members could view things differently.
The mayor added that the issue will be discussed at the next trustees
’ meeting, possibly with a resolution, though he said he did not know what the document would say. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, June 6, at 7 p.m.
Trustee Ralph Urban said this week he is uncertain where he stands on the issue, while Trustee Patricia DiBenedetto said she would support the board revisiting the master plan.
“I think the dynamics of the village have changed,” she said. “I think that’s the next logical step and how we need to look at this in order to make progress.”
Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker did not return calls seeking comment.
During a work session on May 22, Village Attorney Richard Haefeli told the board that it would need to amend its master plan, a lengthy and costly process, in order to accommodate Mr. Mendelson. The village master plan was first adopted in 1999 and last revisited and updated in 2007.
Village Planner Kyle Collins also attended the meeting to discuss the master plan, which outlines development and zoning regulations, and makes recommendations for future development. Under New York State village law, once a village adopts a master plan, all subsequent land use regulations must be in accordance with its recommendations. Allowing a grocery store in the B-3 zone would be contrary to the objectives that the village plan outlines, Mr. Collins said.
He explained further that the B-3 zone, located along the highways, was designed to permit vehicle-friendly commercial businesses, such as wholesale or bulk-goods stores, that residents would not visit on a daily basis. That zone excludes uses that would compete directly with businesses in the downtown area, which is zoned B-1 and allows for more pedestrian-friendly businesses, such as those related to personal shopping and services.
Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan said Mr. Mendelson could file an application seeking a change of zone from B-3 to B-1, though the Village Board is not obligated to consider any such application if it determines that it is not consistent with the master plan, nor is it obligated to hold a public hearing. Mr. Haefeli said no one has ever submitted an application for a change of zone in the village.
During the work session, Mr. Mendelson’s attorney, Frank Isler of Riverhead, said if the board determined that the grocery store use was consistent with the master plan’s recommendations for the B-3 zone, an amendment would not be necessary.
“I think if you carefully read this plan independently,
you see that there is ample rational basis for you to find that what we’re asking you to amend is consistent with it,” Mr. Isler said.
He also asked the board to pass a resolution at its next meeting scheduling a hearing on the topic.
Also during last week’s work session, the board discussed the possibility of charging out-of-towners $25 for a day pass to visit the village’s two beaches—Rogers and Lashley—between Monday and Thursday to bring in additional revenue.
Some expressed concern that the lots would fill up quickly, forcing locals to park elsewhere, while others suggested raising the price and limiting the number of spaces for visitors.
The village currently charges year-round residents from Westhampton, Remsenburg, Speonk and Quiogue and seasonal Westhampton Beach renters $425 for the beach passes. The fee goes up to $725 for seasonal renters in Westhampton, Remsenburg, Speonk and Quiogue. Village residents can visit the beaches for free, while non-resident students, and motel and bed-and-breakfast guests are charged $10 a day.
Visitors from out of town are not currently permitted to use the beach on a daily basis.
Board members said they would discuss the idea again at the next meeting before a decision is made.