By Mara Certic
The Southampton Town Board is expected to add new standards, safeguards and conditions for retail businesses over 5,000 square feet that apply for special exception permits from the town Planning Board.
The news comes following highly controversial plans to build a 9,030-square-foot CVS pharmacy on the busy corner of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton. On July 28 of this year, BNB Ventures IV and CVS Caremark applied for a special exception permit from the planning board to open the two-story pharmacy on the lot previously occupied by a small beer distributor.
The proposal has caused distress for members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee and other residents, who have created an offshoot organization Save Bridgehampton Main Street, hired lawyers, done a traffic study and even held three protests and counting.
Those opposed not only fear that a CVS would negatively affect traffic on an already dangerous intersection, but worry that the pharmacy giant would detract from the rural charm of Bridgehampton’s village business district.
“We all know that one of our key assets is the character of our downtowns,” said Town Planning and Development Administrator Kyle Collins at a town board work session on Thursday, September 4.
He explained the prior town board adopted a special permit exception for uses in the village business district between 5,000 and 15,000 square feet but added, “the code does not provide for safeguards or conditions with that kind of special exception law.”
He explained special permit exceptions exist in the town code for certain land uses such as horse farms and marinas. “A lot of them are things that would be looked at through SEQRA,” or the State Environmental Quality Review Act, he said.
Although the general standards refer to things like traffic impacts, he said, the proposed new standards would require a traffic impact analysis as well. “Traffic is a key issue within all our business districts,” he said. Certain parking characteristics will be taken into account too, he added. The proposed 9,030-square-foot building, complete with basement and elevator, will have 10 parking spots for employees and clients, according to plans.
Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Scalera said the special standards also include taking a deeper look at the surrounding local retail community and also will require a local market analysis. These safeguards would be put in place in order to protect existing businesses in the village business districts.
The town board scheduled a public hearing about the proposed new standards for Tuesday, September 23, at 6:30 p.m. Ms. Scalera said on Tuesday if the public hearing does not attract a huge crowd, “we’d put it on for the next meeting for adoption.” After that point she said it typically would take two or three weeks for the law to be formally adopted and put on the books.
CVS opponents have said the pharmacy’s attorneys seem to be looking for a swift and speedy approval process, but if adopted by the board soon, the new standards could realistically slow them down.