Despite outcry from angry residents, a local builder confirmed his plans are moving forward to open a 7-Eleven in Amagansett on property that’s been in his family for over 30 years.
Southold resident Richard Principi said he is in “final negotiations” with the Southland Corp., the parent company of 7-Eleven, to open a store on his property at 521 Montauk Hwy.
“The site was approved by corporate,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s a needed use for the new world economy. 7-Eleven is America’s convenience store.”
But not everyone agrees that opening the convenience store in the sleepy hamlet is a good idea.
“These 24-hour stores add noise, traffic and lights – and, more important, represent a threat to local small businesses in the community,” said Betty Mazur, a member of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee. “Unfortunately, once you open the door, it’s going to change the quality of the town.”
Mazur said the East End attracts visitors “because it’s different, because it’s not suburban. … It isn’t the most terrible thing in the world to be deprived of a cup of coffee at 2 a.m. The minuses far outweigh the pluses.”
ACAC member and realtor James Macmillan agreed East Hampton Town has been long known for its high level quality of life.
"We've had lawsuits fighting things we thought would be so outrageously wrong for the community. This 7-Eleven is one of those things,” Macmillan said. “It is so out of character for this hamlet, because of its looks, its lighting — and its bad track record in other communities. It's another nail in the coffin in the death of the Hamptons."
Similar controversies have erupted in Montauk and Mattituck over proposed 7-Eleven stores. But East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione said it’s important to weigh both sides.
“New York State law controls what municipalities can and cannot do in regard to zoning categories,” Stanzione said. “It is a slippery slope. Today you stop a particular retail use, tomorrow you stop a particular kind of person. That slippery slope is not lost on those who have responsibility to legislate.”
Stanzione said it’s critical to take community character into consideration, particularly on Eastern Long Island, where tourism is a vital industry.
“I want to be sensitive to both sides,” he said.
Principi said he has gone through East Hampton Town’s permitting process and “gotten all the approvals” regarding building and zoning. He said with the site transforming from a restaurant to retail, “it’s a permitted use. We’re building it out and improving it as per our approvals.”
Principi has worked with the town’s architectural review board to garner approval for new building elevations; the building permit was issued per those approved designs, he said.
“The site fits,” he said. “The building is there; we have parking.”
Calls to the East Hampton Architectural Review Board were not returned this week. But Bob Fischer, a town building inspector, said the ARB had granted approvals for a new facade and 250 square feet of interior alteration.
Margaret Chabris, director of corporate communication for 7-Eleven, said she has received a flurry of calls for comment about a new Amagansett site.
“We really don’t comment on rumors or speculation and that’s all it is right now,” she said. “I don’t believe we have any deal for any location in Amagansett.”
She said no publicity for a new site is generated until a deal is struck and a lease is signed. Chabris did acknowledge that “the greater New York area is one of our top growth markets,” with a number of new sites “underway on Long Island.”