East Hampton mulls restricting retail chains
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The East Hampton Town board is considering a law to restrict 7-Eleven stores, McDonald's restaurants and other chain outlets that officials said could clash with the area's historic and rural character.
The proposal, introduced by Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, would severely restrict where so-called formula stores -- defined as a retail store, restaurant, tavern or bar with 10 or more locations worldwide -- could open and what they could look like. It could result in banning such establishments from large swathes of town.
The proposal would limit such stores to six business districts, where they could open with a special permit from the planning board, and would also ban them within a mile of a historic district or a half-mile of a historic building.
Overby said the legislation is a response to a 7-Eleven store that opened in Montauk in 2010, surprising residents not used to seeing franchise logos that far east. "This is not to say that 7-Eleven doesn't have a place," she said. "It was the surprise factor."
The proposal also comes after the town gave, then rescinded, a building permit allowing a 7-Eleven to open this year on Montauk Highway in Amagansett.
Several residents praised the law at a public hearing on April 17, saying it would help preserve East Hampton Town's historic look. "I don't want to look like Riverhead or Southampton," said Elaine Jones of Amagansett.
Bonnie Krupinski, who owns several businesses in town, called the law "draconian."
"I think it's much too broad," she said at the public hearing. "I think you can regulate what you're trying to achieve there through a planning board" and the architectural review board.
Theresa Codispoti, a 7-Eleven representative, said, "The Town of East Hampton already has some of the most restrictive zoning laws in the entire nation" and 7-Elevens try to fit in with their communities.
Overby said she has since been working to make the law "less restrictive" after business owners raised concerns.
To receive a special permit under the law, a formula store would need a "unique visual appearance that is consistent with the character of the town" and would have to operate in a "non-obtrusive manner."
There is a question as to whether local laws restricting chain stores are legal in New York State. Assemb. Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and state Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) introduced legislation last year that would explicitly make such laws legal, but the bills stalled in committees.
Thiele said the bills face opposition from business lobbyists.