Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee are up in arms over a proposal to build a CVS pharmacy at the busy intersection of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike. Stephen J. Kotz photo
By Stephen J. Kotz
The recent disclosure that the pharmacy giant CVS wants to open a store at a busy corner in Bridgehampton had members of the hamlet’s Citizens Advisory Committee reaching for their heartburn medication on Monday and threatening to hire their own lawyer to fight the proposal.
“It’s a shocking development,” said the CAC’s chairwoman, Nancy Walter-Yvertes, after explaining how she and other committee members had stumbled upon the knowledge that CVS, as has been rumored for several months, does indeed want to open a store at the bustling intersection of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.
The committee chairwoman said CAC should take the unprecedented step of hiring its own attorney “to do something artful and legally slow down” the process.
Committee members have opposed the prospect of a CVS because, they say, it would snarl traffic at an already clogged intersection, there is insufficient parking at the site, and its operations, including deliveries and lighting, would have a negative effect on the community.
Ms. Walter-Yvertes said CVS had faced fierce opposition in Wainscott and Sag Harbor.
While CVS confirmed interest and the potential for a lease of the Long Island Avenue building that houses 7-Eleven and Sing City in 2007, no formal plans were ever filed with the Village of Sag Harbor. The village board did enact a new zoning code in 2009 that restricted the size of stores, effectively preventing any business from combining several spaces into one large store without significant review by the village’s planning board.
According to Ms. Walter-Yvertes, CAC members had recently inquired of Southampton Town officials about the possibility of CVS trying to build on that site and had been told the town had no specific knowledge of any such plans.
But when CAC members called the phone numbers listed on a sign at the property, which identifies the owner as BNB Ventures IV, they eventually received a return phone call from David J. Berman, CVS’s Director of Real Estate for Metro New York, who said the company would like to meet with CAC members to discuss the company’s plans. Mr. Berman could not be reached for comment this week.
“For close to two months we’ve been doing a lot of work on this,” said Norman Lowe, the CAC’s vice chairman. “I think we were stonewalled at Town Hall very effectively. For someone to say there was no identifiable action at Town Hall is poppycock in my mind.”
That accusation was news to Janice Scherer, a town planner who attended the meeting with Councilwoman Christine Scalera to answer the committee’s questions about the project.
“I can assure you nobody knew anything about CVS,” Ms. Scherer said, adding, “maybe someone knew somewhere, but it certainly wasn’t in the planning division. They are very quiet about these things.”
According to committee member Dick Bruce, who was one of those who sat in on the meeting with Mr. Berman, the company wants to develop a two-story building planned for the site into an 8,340-square-foot store that would have a pharmacy on the second floor and use the 4,400-square-foot basement for storage.
Mr. Bruce said the CAC had been originally told the building would house three 1,500-square foot businesses or offices on each of its two floors.
CAC members said the town has already issued a building permit for the exterior shell of a 9,000-square-foot, two-story building at the site. An additional permit would be required for interior work.
The property is zoned for village business, which limits individual uses to 5,000 square feet. A property owner can have a larger business, but must first obtain a special exception permit from the planning board.
Ms. Scherer said the special exception permit requirement was the town’s way of regulating what can be developed at the site. Residents, she added, could argue before the planning board that they wanted to restrict a “formula business” that would have negative impacts on the community, but “you can’t say we want this or that, or we want mom and pops to succeed.”
“The only place that we have a legal footing, any chance of stopping this thing is if we kill it in the planning board,” said Mr. Lowe.
Ms. Scalera said she did not want to weigh in on the application, but she agreed the CAC had legitimate reasons to voice its objections.
“The nature of what is being proposed there has been changed” since the building was approved, she said. “It is legitimate question for someone to say what is stop someone from taking over three places on Main Street and trying to do the same thing.”
There has been talk that CVS might try to set up two different corporate entities to try to get around the size limit, and Ms. Scalera said that determination would be in the hands of the town’s chief building inspector, Michael Benincasa, although she said she thought the building inspector “would be able to see through” any attempt to skirt the law.
Of Ms. Walter-Yvertes’ vow to hire an attorney, Ms. Scalera, who is an attorney herself, expressed doubts. “My cut is if a group of residents want to get together and hire an attorney, they would be well within their purview,” she said. “But I’ve never heard of a CAC hiring one. That would be unprecedented.”
A handful of residents who turned out for the meeting said they were totally opposed to a CVS at that corner. “I’m seeing an ‘Occupy Wall Street,’” said Theresa Quinn.
After offering a litany of concerns about the site, Tony Lambert said he was tired of the town not listening to the concerns of the CAC. “They have been doing this for years. They have been approving things for years without coming down to the CAC,” he said. “And when we try to intervene, we get nothing.”