Some residents are concerned about a planned 7-Eleven store located near the IGA in Amagansett.
A building permit was issued last week to Richard Principi, the owner of the former Villa Prince Ristorante on Montauk Highway, to make interior alterations to his building, which includes specifications for a 7-Eleven.
Like an echo from 2010, when 7-Eleven arrived in Montauk, there are fears that Amagansett may also gain a 24-hour, glowing formula store.
Talk about what could be done to stop the invasion of chain stores in East Hampton Town has once again surfaced, since no site plan review was necessary for the convenience store. This week, Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said she is revisiting legislation she pitched in 2012 that would prohibit such stores from popping up in or around historic districts.
Some Amagansett residents say they were shocked to find out the building permit had slipped through. Others said they are convinced the convenience store will cause hardship for local shops like Cirillo’s IGA or Brent’s General Store.
According to Tom Preiato, the town’s building inspector, a building permit was issued on January 30 to permit Mr. Principi to alter the inside to create retail space.
Although Mr. Principi didn’t return several phone calls seeking information, the site plan mentions a 7-Eleven construction manager and 7-Eleven lighting fixtures.
Mr. Preiato said it sure looks like a 7-Eleven, and that no site plan review was needed before issuing the permit.
“The building is basically going from a 116-seat restaurant … business, to a store that probably has an occupancy of 30—that’s a decrease,” he said. “No further site plan review is needed unless something else like subdivision issues come up that I’m not aware of. Right now we’re working on making sure everything is fine.”
He added that the town does not have any anti-franchise laws or a code that restricts hours of operation.
Ms. Overby said that while the idea is not to get rid of 7-Eleven, she hopes to advance her legislation to make it harder for stores like this one to move into a historic area.
When she pushed for the new code back in 2012, two years after Montauk gained its own 7-Eleven, she said that board was not enthusiastic about it. She said she hopes to present the legislation again in March.
“I’m anxious to have public comment on this,” she said. “For me, it’s about local businesses being able to stay within the community. When national chains come in, the risk of freezing out local business starts to escalate.”
She said the legislation, to be constitutional, has to be about the character of the community and upholding the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. had been working on similar legislation. In 2012, he introduced a law that would give the go-ahead for municipalities to adopt formula store legislation.
He said on Thursday that municipalities are often uncertain about whether they have the power to regulate formula stores in their towns, since some courts have upheld such regulations and some have struck them down. That uncertainty has resulted in towns being unwilling to enact such regulations, he added.
The bill is currently in the Local Governments Committee of each house in the State Legislature.
Until something is done, Amagansett residents like Rona Klopman will continue to champion for her hamlet.
“I’m just livid nothing was done,” she said this week, adding that a traffic study, at least, should have been done. “You have events that happen at 555 Montauk Highway, like the Wounded Warrior event that brings thousands of people. The traffic from Montauk is one road in and one road out.”
She added that the 7-Eleven will hurt small businesses like Cirillo’s IGA and Brent’s General Store.
“All of these people are going to be affected by a franchise business that you can’t compete with, and the money from this community will go out of the area,” she continued. “I’m pro-business. If the money stays here, there’s no problem.”
But Art Seekamp, who owns Brent’s General Store on the western edge of Amagansett’s downtown, said 7-Eleven’s business can’t compare to Brent’s.
“We’ve been here 26 years and we’re not going anywhere. Personally, I don’t see [7-Eleven] belonging in town,” he said. “We’ve got a different operation here—we’ve got a deli and cooked food.”
Brent’s store manager, Dave Winthrop, said the staff isn’t happy about the news, but that it’s not the end of the world.
“They might take our coffee and cigarette business, but it’s not where people go to eat,” he said.
Mr. Seekamp later attributed the store’s commitment to the community to its success and longevity.
“Brent’s has helped the Fire Department, Little Leagues, lacrosse and girls’ softball teams … all those things come under the roof at Brent’s,” he said. “I’m not sure the people at 7-Eleven can measure up. Let the chips fall where they may—we’re pretty confident in what we do here.”