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Mar 6, 2012 2:32 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town Takes A Look At Chain Store Legislation

Mar 6, 2012 3:39 PM

When 7-Eleven crept into Montauk two years ago, residents were surprised and upset over what the arrival of the national chain of convenience stores could mean for the local economy and the community’s character. Now, one East Hampton Town Board member is taking steps to ensure similar chain stores do not find it so easy to gain a foothold in town.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby is working on legislation that would establish extra hurdles for “formula businesses”—or businesses that have 10 or more locations. The legislation, which is still in the draft phase, would prohibit formula retail and restaurant businesses from popping up in all historic districts, or within one mile of a historic district or a half a mile from any historic structures.

The proposed law would also require special use permits before such stores could be approved. Those permits would be granted under five conditions—that the business would not contain the features or attributes of a formula business, except for the service or product; the business would add diversity to the area in terms of its product, price range and service; the business would help promote and foster the local economy; that the business would not be located next to another formula business to avoid destroying a mix of businesses; and the business would possess a unique aesthetic that would be consistent with the town and not project one that is homogenous with its elements in other communities.

The primary goal of the law is to preserve East Hampton Town’s unique community character, said Ms. Overby. “What happens is we get homogenized,” she said. “When we get homogenized, we get suburbanized. When we get suburbanized, then we’ve lost our soul.”

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele is working on similar legislation. He recently introduced a law in the legislature that would give the go-ahead for municipalities to adopt formula store legislation. Mr. Thiele said the law is in the very early stages and he is trying to get legislators to co-sponsor the bill with him.

“There is a lack of certainty in New York over whether such regulations would be legal zoning regulations or an impermissible regulation of economic competition,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement. “My legislation would make it clear that such legislation is permissible so long as it is enacted pursuant to a comprehensive plan and for a legitimate purpose such as protecting historic character or community identity.”

Formula stores aren’t an issue only in Montauk, Mr. Thiele said. Sag Harbor Village officials have recently become concerned with protecting their community’s historic character. Mr. Thiele is also Sag Harbor Village’s attorney.

“It was a concern there, to be honest, that Sag Harbor could be invaded by formula stores like East Hampton Village has and Southampton Village has, to some degree,” he said last week.

Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride said he supports Mr. Thiele’s legislation. About a year ago, there was concern in the village that CVS Pharmacy was going to set up shop in the entire building on Long Island Avenue, which is currently occupied by a 7-Eleven and other businesses, Mr. Gilbride said. Local businesses tend to suffer when formula stores sell products like greeting cards, clothing, perfume and other items for cheaper prices, he said.

“Listen, I’m not downgrading them,” Mr. Gilbride said. “I’m just saying that there are small mom-and-pop stores in Sag Harbor that sell that and really rely on that for their survival in the winter.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson raised a number of questions about Ms. Overby’s proposed law, adding that he had not yet been given a copy of her proposal.

“I’m just wondering what this does on the playing field of competition, what this does to the environment of free enterprise, what this does to something as simple as an IGA, which under this definition, probably would require a special use permit,” he said.

Mr. Wilkinson also brought up a number of other stores that could fall into the definition of a formula business. He mentioned a list of places—Ben & Jerry’s, Hess, Ace Hardware, RadioShack and others. He also questioned whether a chain store employing local people and run by a local resident would be more acceptable than one run by a nonresident.

“I think it’s worthy of a lot of examination whether or not a new facility— forgetting the fact that it may have a name that is offensive to some such as 7-Eleven— whether a new facility that brings jobs along with it would be banned because it’s formula. Imitation’s the greatest form of flattery. There are a lot of formulas out there that people try to replicate.”

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Ronnie's has good food,but all to often-during summertime- they are closed way before the sun goes down.
By Duckbornandraised (184), Eastport on Mar 8, 12 2:47 PM
the last thing we need out here is a 7-11 .
By ranger (54), springs on Mar 8, 12 11:23 PM
I remember when a plan was afoot to "invade" Sag Harbor with a (shudder) 7-11. Well, that happened about 25 years ago. Yawn.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Mar 8, 12 11:36 PM
yeah how's it look down there . the place is a dump and a dirty store what a waste of a water front spot
By ranger (54), springs on Mar 9, 12 5:25 AM
7eleven in sag harbor is not a dump and it always has hot coffee and a parking spot if your lucky.They employ many and they do a great service to all that go there 24hrs a day.
By taxpayer1 (72), Southampton on Mar 9, 12 7:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
The success of the Montauk 7-11 illustrates that there is a real need for 24/7 convenience out here.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Mar 9, 12 3:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
Yes i can see you would like to keep these historic towns, such as Sag Harbor and Montauk for example. But remember times are changing and people and geography will have to change with it. Im not sayiing build a strip mall in montauk but dont throw every single idea, that could possibly make an area a litlle more modern and convenient.
By Unkown Local (18), southampton on Mar 11, 12 2:26 PM
example to be kept historic*
By Unkown Local (18), southampton on Mar 11, 12 2:27 PM