By Mara Certic
Although contractors began clearing the proposed site for a CVS Pharmacy in Bridgehampton last week, Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee members donning anti-CVS pins on Monday seemed encouraged by the possibility an alternate site could be found for the store.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst asked to attend the CAC’s monthly meeting on Monday, September 22, in order to discuss some ideas around with residents of the hamlet, she said.
“There are a couple of facts I wanted to make sure to clarify,” Ms. Throne-Holst began on Monday. “We have gotten all of your emails, petitioning us to hold a public hearing,” she said. “We’ve done our best to explain, there is no legal vehicle for us to do that.”
Members of the CAC and the offshoot organization Save Bridgehampton Main Street have been writing to local officials asking them to hold public hearings about a proposed CVS on Bridgehampton’s busiest intersection.
Ms. Throne-Holst explained there is a “separation between church and state” when it comes to the town and its various appointed boards. “That doesn’t mean we don’t take this very seriously,” she added.
The decision to allow or deny CVS to open a store on a busy intersection in Bridgehampton, she repeated, lies solely in the hands of the planning board. “They have to be able to show by the letter of the law why they made the decision,” she said on Monday.
Former town planning director Jeff Murphree reiterated this and reminded the CAC members “the planning board has to focus its decision on facts.” Ms. Throne-Holst explained the appointed boards operate within certain classifications and parameters set by the state.
But what the town can do, she added, is tighten, add and subtract the parameters within that code. The town board held a hearing on Tuesday, September 23, about adding specific special exception permit standards for uses in excess of 5,000 square feet and less than 15,000 square feet.
Quite conveniently, at 9,030 square feet, the proposed CVS would be subject to the additional standards. “This is one that has been in the works for some time,” she said of the legislation.
Lawyers representing BNB Ventures IV and CVS Caremark spoke at the Tuesday’s public hearing opposing the legislation as written. John Bennett, who represents CVS, said this was “an illegal exercise of your powers as town board.”
He mentioned a court ruling from another, similar case, and said, “this administrative procrastination calculated to deny a property owner his right to use his land is supportable neither by law or by ethical practice.”
“I’ll ask you to have more character, more backbone and obey the law,” he told the board on Tuesday.
Wayne Bruyn, who represents BNB Ventures IV said, ““When I looked at this law I was in shock.”
Ms. Throne-Holst reiterated the amendment is a “part of that string of looking and relooking and improving on some of our land use codes.” The supervisor said the town was going to make amendments to the law and would keep the hearing open until the October 14 meeting.
On Monday Ms. Throne-Holst also discussed another planning opportunity she wanted to float by the most concerned Bridgehamptonites. The Konner Development, a 13-acre piece of land across the street from the Bridgehampton Commons, is currently zoned as a highway business, she explained, which restricts possible land uses.
There has, she said, been a lot of work already to have the property designated a Planned Development District or PDD. Ms. Throne-Holst explained the town board oversees PDDs, unlike other matters of planning. The PDD designation would allow the town to require the lots have certain buffering, vegetation, appropriate aesthetics and so on and added there is “A lot of community input to this process.”
“I’d like to think a little out of the box here,” she said. “What could we do that may serve this community in light of some of the activity that’s going on here at the moment?” she asked the group.
Within moments, one member of the group suggested it could be the new home for CVS. Ms. Throne-Holst, who wanted it to be known that the public had brought up this suggestion, told the CAC members she had spoken to Ms. Konner and referred to her as “a willing developer.”
“Because the decision lies with the town board it gives us opportunity for a lot of give and take,” she said.
If the site became a PDD, she said, it would have to have some sort of public benefit to the town. “We have an opportunity here to look at part of this town, part of this hamlet, that warrants a good hard look,” she said.
Leonard Davenport, member of the CAC, said he would draft a resolution that would throw the CAC’s “qualified support” behind the effort to create a PDD at the site. “This is good planning, this is what planning’s really about,” Peter Wilson told Ms. Throne-Holst.
“The PDD is a big potential development,” Mr. Davenport said after the meeting.
The CVS application will be discussed at the planning board meeting on Thursday, October 9.