Beyond The A&P

Editorial | October 17, 1996

Tomorrow's the big day at East Hampton Town Hall: The Town Board is expected to take a first step toward controlling the steady spread of strip commercial development by adopting what is being called the "superstore" law. The law would limit supermarkets to 25,000 square feet, allow them only in central business districts, and set a limit of 15,000 square feet on other retail shops.

Listening to the politically divided members of the Town Board debate the proposed law - and the future of all retail zoning in town - has been gratifying. This is an issue that has aroused bipartisan concern, and that so far promises to find bipartisan solutions.

Although one or two Republican board members are poised to vote against the superstore law, we don't expect them to fight it too hard. They have not disputed the points made by persons as diverse as Russell Stein, who wrote much of our zoning as Democratic town attorney, or Republican Councilman Len Bernard. These include concern about the impact of a larger A&P, with a lot more than food for sale, on smaller local businesses and the flaw in the zoning code that allows supermarkets of any size in neighborhood business districts, which are prevalent.

Councilwoman Nancy McCaffrey has suggested that instead of allowing the existing moratorium on superstores to expire, the board extend it for another six months. We think that's a good idea - but only if, at the same time, the board establishes the bipartisan commission we've been talking about to come up with alternate sites for retail development, with innovative methods for phasing such development only as needed, and for controlling land speculation.