A vote on a law that would subject chain stores to additional scrutiny by the East Hampton Town Planning Board is to take place in the coming weeks.
The law would require that “formula stores” that have 15 or more shops or restaurants in the United States obtain a special permit from the planning board.
The East Hampton Town Board held a hearing on the formula store proposal on July 17, and a number of people made comments about the proposal during the open portion of a board work session on Tuesday.
Many asserted that the law would have a negative impact on business owners and commercial landlords, while others said that protection against homogenous development is key to protecting East Hampton’s unique community character.
In response to comments at the hearing, a change was made to the proposed legislation to allow more than one formula business at a commercial complex designated a “multi-business complex” under the zoning code. Under the amended proposal, up to half of the businesses in a commercial complex could be chain stores.
With that change, Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said that he supports the law, as does Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, its proponent. Councilman Fred Overton said he could not support it. “Quite frankly, I don’t think there was overwhelming public support,” he said. Instead, there were many concerns voiced by business owners.
“I just don’t know if this strikes the right balance,” said Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez. She supports a law to address the concerns raised by the possible influx of chain stores, but said “I’m not looking to put additional burdens on the business community.” She asked if the goals could be achieved “more with a scalpel, with more specificity.”
Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said that the “uniqueness that we all love about East Hampton” is an “asset . . . it’s one of the basic reasons why this community is popular. I think the additional review to prevent cookie-cutter development is necessary, and I support it.”