By Kathryn G. Menu
Legislation aimed at limiting formula-business stores in historic districts throughout East Hampton Town drew dozens of supporters to a public hearing Thursday night, while at the same time a handful of critics urged the board to exercise caution in moving forward.
The law, sponsored by Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, would prohibit retail stores, restaurants, taverns, or take-out food establishments that fall under the definition of “formula business” in historic districts or within a half mile of any historic building. Formula businesses would be allowed in areas zoned as central business districts as a special permit use. In other commercial zones, formula businesses would have to undergo site-plan review by the town’s planning board.
On Tuesday night, town planning director Marguerite Wolffsohn explained that in order to be defined as a formula business, a store or restaurant must be one of 10 or more worldwide, and must be under common ownership or a franchise. In addition to that, the business would have to meet two of the following five characteristics: have standardized merchandise, a trademark or service mark, standardized colors on the interior or exterior of its buildings, standardized interior décor or a standardized uniform for employees other than nametags.
“I would like to propose a new formula store district within the confines of the PSEG Long Island substation” in Amagansett, joked resident Diana Walker, who said she supported the law.
“The brand is here—it’s East Hampton,” she said.
But business and property owner Bonnie Krupinski asked the town board to take some time to think about what the proposal would actually accomplish.
“I feel what we are doing here is not allowing a lot of uses throughout the town,” she said.
“I think what we are trying to do here is ban certain stores we don’t like, but in doing so, we are really banning all the stores,” said Ms. Krupinski, noting that restaurants like the Palm or the East Hampton Grill, often frequented by locals, would not be allowed as new uses under the proposed law.
“If you look at the Village of East Hampton now, if this was the rule, you wouldn’t have anything on Main Street,” she said.
Amagansett resident Elaine Jones disagreed.
“I don’t think this legislation totally puts formula stores out,” she said. “They would all require site-plan review. I think it’s very important.”
“I don’t want to look like Riverhead and Southampton,” said Ms. Jones. “Take a good look before you put this legislation down because I like shopping there, but I don’t want Amagansett and East Hampton to become that.”
J.B. DeSantos said he would actually like to see the law expanded to protect property within one mile, rather than a half mile, of a historic house.
John Broderick also came out in support of the legislation.
“I think we have to look at this before the horse is out of the barn because after the horse is out of the barn it is too late,” he said. “Just look at CR39 in Southampton.”
Theresa Cadispoti, a senior real estate representative from 7-Eleven, attended the meeting representing Ken Barnes, the company’s director of northeast regional development.
The company, which opened a store in Montauk in 2010, was granted a building permit for an Amagansett location earlier this year, but that permit was later rescinded.
She read a statement from Mr. Barnes, in which he said the company supported preserving the distinctive character of East Hampton and pointed out that the Montauk branch is owned and operated by a Long Island native.
“The Town of East Hampton already has some of the most restrictive zoning laws in the nation,” Mr. Barnes stated. He encouraged the board to regulate through the zoning board of appeals rather than through this law.
Michael Cinque, owner of Amagansett Wines and Spirits, asked the board to slow down before enacting this legislation.
“I love the facades—let’s talk about the facades,” he said. “That is where we should do this.”
Mr. Cinque called on the town board to reach out to individual property owners who would be affected by the law before moving forward.
“I am concerned that if we don’t do something like this with formula stores, and we are not saying you cannot come here, we are creating a corporate monopoly,” said Springs resident and former town board member Deb Foster.
“It is already difficult for East Hampton business people to start a business,” she said.