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Nov 10, 2014 10:13 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

CVS Caremark Files Lawsuit Against Southampton Town Planning Board

Nov 13, 2014 5:08 PM

CVS Caremark, which is seeking to open a pharmacy and convenience store on Bridgehampton’s Main Street, filed a lawsuit against the Southampton Town Planning Board on Friday, asking the court to overturn the board’s decision to require an environmental review of the property before granting approval.

John Bennett, the Southampton attorney representing CVS, said legal action was taken because his client believes the Planning Board’s decision mandating an environmental review is “improper … and unnecessary.”

The Planning Board made the ruling as part of a determination related to the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA. As part of the same process, the Planning Board issued a positive declaration, which concludes that the project has the potential for significant environmental impact, and so an extensive Environmental Impact Study must outline the way the new pharmacy and convenience store could affect traffic and the overall character of the hamlet. An EIS usually takes several months to complete.

“We think it was illegal and inappropriate,” Mr. Bennett said on Monday of the board’s decision.

BNB Ventures IV, the owner of 2510 Montauk Highway, the site targeted by CVS, is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit. The property is located at the intersection of Montauk Highway, the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, Ocean Road, and Lumber Lane.

CVS is seeking a special exception permit that would make the retailer the sole tenant of a two-story, 9,030-square-foot building currently being built at one of the corners in Bridgehampton’s main intersection. The special exception permit is needed because town code allows a tenant only a maximum of 5,000 square feet of retail space.

In the lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court, the plaintiffs say the Planning Board did not properly characterize the CVS proposal under SEQRA. The state review considers various aspects of a project, including the amount of acreage it covers, or whether a change of zone is required. The Planning Board labeled the CVS application an “unlisted action,” meaning that it could be subject to SEQRA review.

But CVS argues that because the Suffolk County Health Department has already issued a permit for the project, and a building permit also has been issued for the building CVS would occupy, the application should be classified as a Type II action, which would require no review.

The lawsuit also points out that when the building was originally proposed in 2011, an environmental review had been deemed unnecessary. Construction of the building began in September.

Ultimately, CVS and BNB Ventures IV say in the lawsuit that they believe the Planning Board is “bending to political pressure” and ignoring their “clear right to be granted permits to occupy this already-approved 9,030-square-foot building,” with both the SEQRA ruling and requiring the EIS. Because the CVS has not been well-received by members of the Bridgehampton community, who have argued that the store will bring traffic and parking problems to an area where those issues are already prevalent, the plaintiffs claim the Planning Board is simply stalling a decision on the special exception application.

Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty said this week that he could not comment on the lawsuit, but he has denied those claims in the past, explaining that the board simply wants to approach the application carefully. Last month, Planning Board members expressed concerns about traffic, community character and building aesthetics after reviewing the findings of an environmental assessment statement, a checklist that evaluates environmental factors that have to be considered with an application.

“We’re not allowed to really respond to what they call ‘general community opposition,’” Mr. Finnerty said last month. “We’re aware there’s public interest. But we really only function in a procedural manner, based on the state-mandated guidelines. The applicants are alleging that we’re buckling under political pressure, community pressure. And nothing could be further from the truth. We’re not going to be cutting any corners on this one.”

On Thursday, Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said that the town will stand by the Planning Board and its decision.

“We intend to defend that determination by the Planning Board,” she said.

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The Town will lose as they always do. Even money that the people opposing the project will be the first ones using the pharmacy.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Nov 10, 14 10:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
nope - i for one will never set foot in the place. lawsuit shows how much cvs caremark really wants to be a part of this community, doesn't it...
By bh nematode (10), bridgehampton on Nov 10, 14 12:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
should be dual pharmacy-convenience store rather rather than duel.

By thediner (11), east hampton on Nov 10, 14 1:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By maysfan, Bridgehampton on Nov 10, 14 6:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'm happy to report that I've never set foot inside of the CVS in Southampton, I miss the IGA.

If CVS bullies itself into Bridgehampton, the community has the ability to not patronize the business and to force it out. Stowe VT did this to McDonalds.

Please patronize locally owned businesses!
By Fish Eater (2), Southampton on Nov 10, 14 10:19 PM
Town lost against Stop and Shop they will lose Against CVS and people will gladly patronize the New Store
By kpjc (161), east quogue on Nov 10, 14 10:36 PM
Not all in BH oppose the CVS. CVS can afford to take on the fight because it has a successful business model offering services and merchandise people want. That is why they are in business..you know, a business model that America once embraced. If not you won't succeed and will not stay in business.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Nov 11, 14 12:36 PM
The real issue is that the corner cannot provide the parking for any high volume business. The original "proposed" mix of office/apartment and two small retail stores would have been feasible. CVS and like businesses belong in the proposed Bridgehampton Gateway. The aesthetic/historic aspect is not insignificant. Note that the building will be the tallest in hamlet and fill most of the historic footprint. It would take cooperation and imagination from multiple parties, including property owners ...more
By Leonard (1), Bridgehampton on Nov 14, 14 9:25 AM
The Bridgehampton CAC should sue the Southampton Planning Board for their complete stupidity in ever issuing a permit for this monstrosity. It is not only going to create a traffic nightmare and forever change the character of the village, it is also defaming an historical site which should have been preserved as public land. It is all very well to think that not patronizing this miserable company's store but at that point the place is there whether it is boycotted or not. A disgrace perpetrated ...more
By RSMMathews (2), BRIDGEHAMPTON on Nov 14, 14 11:00 AM
Any store popping up on that corner is going to rile the community. At least it's not another restaurant or antique shop.

Hopefully it will be covered in shingles and harmonize with the historical look and feel of the hamlet. Thats not very likely though.

The one is East Hampton is at least somewhat discreet in its presence. Ideally this thing should have been placed at the Bridgehampton commons. Wishful thinking.
By Harbor Master (114), Sag Harbor on Nov 16, 14 8:56 PM
That's a d*** shame. Everybody has to lose sometime... keeps us human.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Nov 17, 14 12:17 PM