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Aug 8, 2012 11:03 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Developer Wants Public Input On Plans To Build Supermarket

Aug 8, 2012 12:53 PM

Westhampton developer Andrew Mendelson went before the Westhampton Beach Village Board, once again, last Thursday, August 2, to ask the board to hold a public hearing on his idea to construct a supermarket on property he owns on Old Riverhead Road.

Mr. Mendelson’s request came days after he submitted a petition proposing that the board add the words “grocery store” to a section of the village zoning code to allow him to move forward with his plans.

“Every time I come to the town here and speak to them, there’s then a lot of backlashes in the newspaper about what this is going to open things up to,” Mr. Mendelson said. “I don’t believe it requires a huge amount of study, but the planners might think differently.” He added that he wants the public to have a chance to weigh in on the issue.

Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Conrad Teller said earlier this week that public hearings are scheduled on matters that are before either the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Appeals, and Mr. Mendelson had not submitted a formal application before either of those boards. He added that changing the code would require that the village’s master plan be altered, as well.

“The plan is usually put into effect and after eight years it is revisited and a new committee is appointed to study any changes,” Mayor Teller said. “We don’t just arbitrarily jump up and change our master plan. That costs a considerable sum of money to put into effect. It’s not something you change like you change your shoes or your underwear.”

Mr. Mendelson owns two parcels of land totalling 4.2 acres on the west side of Old Riverhead Road in the village, one zoned as B-3 business and the other as I-1 industrial. Currently, supermarkets are allowed only in a small area surrounding Main Street and Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach. Altering the code to allow for the construction of a supermarket on Mr. Mendelson’s property would be what Mayor Teller called “spot zoning,” which is illegal, he said.

Richer Haefeli, the village attorney, said Tuesday that any alterations to the code would also require an environmental review.

“It’s a decision totally at the discretion of the board,” Mr. Haefeli said. “The village is not under any obligation to take any action.”

Mr. Mendelson was denied two previous requests that the board hold a public hearing on the matter prior to last week’s meeting. He said the Waldbaum’s on Sunset Avenue does not meet the needs of the village, and he wanted the public to know just how small the zone is where the construction of a new supermarket would be permitted.

“On a weekend in there, you can’t go through that store without crashing into people—it’s one shopping cart wide,” Mr. Mendelson said. “And I try never to be the one bashing other businesses, but we have a substandard monopoly here that doesn’t work and that is why all the shoppers have gone to Hampton Bays and Riverhead to do their shopping.”

Trustee Patricia DiBenedetto said she would love to see another supermarket in the village. “However, for Mr. Mendelson to build a supermarket on his lots is a lot more involved than just simply changing the wording of the zoning code,” she added.

Both Deputy Mayor Hank Tucker and Trustee Charles Palmer said they wanted to discuss the matter further with the other trustees and with Mayor Teller before commenting on whether it would be feasible to change the code to allow for the construction of an additional supermarket.

“I’m still considering it, personally, and we are discussing it and looking into it and trying to consider all the ramifications and to do what is best for the village in the future,” Trustee Ralph Urban said.

Also at last week’s meeting, the trustees approved the appointment of Special District Attorney Anthony Rattoballi to replace Bo Bishop. The annual appointment is affective August 1, and Mr. Rattoballi will be paid $130 per hour to prosecute civil ordinance violations and substitute for the village attorney in the case that there is a conflict of interest, according to Village Clerk Rebecca Molinaro.

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