This week, CVS filed for a special exemption permit for a 9,500 square-foot store at a busy intersection on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.
By Mara Certic
After months of grumbling, hand-wringing and even a pair of protest marches, Bridgehampton residents’ fears that CVS Pharmacy would try to shoehorn a store into the busiest corner in the hamlet took a step closer to being realized this week.
According to Kyle Collins, Southampton Town’s planning and development administrator, Bridgehampton BNB IV Ventures, the company that owns the property at the northwest corner of Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, has applied for a special exception permit from the Southampton Town Planning Board to open a 9,500-square-foot store at the site.
“At 3:30 this afternoon I got an e-mail from Kyle Collins telling me that BNB IV Ventures has applied for the special exception before the planning board,” Nancy Walter Yvertes solemnly announced to members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday, July 28. Mr. Collins is the town’s planning and development administrator.
For months, the CAC, and a spin off group, Save Bridgehampton Main Street, has been fighting the proposed CVS through letter-writing campaigns, distributing petitions and even protesting.
Site plan approval has already been granted for a two-story building with 9,500 square feet of space at the site, but in the Village Business zoning district, businesses are limited to 5,000 square feet. Larger businesses are allowed only if a special exception permit is granted.
Members of the CAC and Save Bridgehampton Main Street have been writing letters to CVS executives for months but have not received any satisfactory response, they said.
“Now that the planning board has the file, we have the right to correspond with Dennis Finnerty and all of the people on the planning board,” Ms. Walter Yvertes told the other members of the CAC. Mr. Finnerty is the board’s chairman.
Ms. Walter Yvertes also announced that Steven Schneider, an engineer conducting a traffic study for Save Bridgehampton Main Street, had agreed to analyze the turning movements at both driveways to the site. There is a driveway on Montauk Highway and one at the end of Lumber Lane at the turnpike. The analysis would add $1,800 to the cost of the traffic study, she said.
“Originally, I did not think it was necessary, but rethinking it, it very well could be. It may lead us, for example, to recommending restrictions on vehicles entering and exiting the driveways because of the traffic flow and the geometrics of the closeness of those driveways to the major intersection,” Mr. Schneider wrote in an e-mail to Ms. Walter Yvertes on Friday, July 25.
Ms. Walter Yvertes commented that it should really be the town conducting the study and that town officials should be “encouraged to do their jobs.”
CAC member Julie Burmeister also announced that a videographer had been chosen to film the busy intersection as part of the study. She explained that for some reason, the traffic is at its heaviest at that spot at around 10:30 a.m., and so they will be filming the flow of cars, trucks and bicycles at that hectic time of day in an effort to prove that the already dangerous corner will likely become unbearable if the CVS plan is approved.
Many of the members of the CAC also sit on Save Bridgehampton Main Street, which has hired attorney Vince Messina to fight the CVS application. The Islip-based lawyer was recommended to the organization by Southampton Town Justice Deborah Kooperstein, a resident of Bridgehampton.
When members asked why a local lawyer had not been chosen, CAC-member Peter Wilson responded, “I think she picked him because she’s had experience with him and feels that he’s a top performing litigator and he also has a pretty formidable reputation in Suffolk County.”
Ms. Water Yvertes added that when she told Jeff Murphree, the town’s former planning and development administrator, who has been helping his in-laws fight the CVS application, of their choice of lawyer “his eyes started twinkling and he said ‘Oh, he’s very strong.’”
CAC members s found several parts of the special exception use standards that they believe the proposed CVS would not be able to comply with. One provision states that there must be sufficient off-street parking and truck loading spaces for the anticipated number of employees, patrons and visitors and that “the layout of the spaces and driveways is convenient and conducive to safe operation.”
Jim Olson asked the assembled members of the CAC if they thought that their efforts would prevail; they replied that it would probably come down to the other lawyer, Wayne Bruyn.
They anticipated that he would try to time the hearing for the wintertime, when fewer Bridgehampton homeowners are in town to voice their opinions.
According to an email from Mr. Collins, of the town’s Department of Land Management, the absolute earliest date that a public hearing would take place would be on November 13.
Ms. Walter Yvertes said that she thought it was unlikely that it would qualify for a special exception permit “unless Wayne Bruyn’s a magician.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Bruyn said that he was not involved with the application. He said it was not BNB IV Ventures, but CVS itself, which had filed the permit application. He said he does not represent the pharmacy company and has not prepared an application for it nor reviewed it at this time.
Mr. Messina was not available for comment by the time of this paper’s publication.