A revised proposal for a new law in East Hampton would no longer ban chain establishments like 7-Eleven, Home Depot and McDonald's from much of the town but would still add new regulations intended to protect the area's aesthetics.
Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said she loosened restrictions to address complaints from businesspeople, who called the proposal heavy-handed when the town board unveiled it last month.
"I think we wanted to be responsive to the business community and we didn't want to make it more restrictive than what's necessary to retain the community character," she said.
A new draft of the so-called "formula store" law expands the zones where chain stores and restaurants can open with a special permit from the planning board.
It also removes a rule stating that such establishments cannot open within a mile of a historic district or a half-mile from a historic building. That restriction, combined with other rules, would have effectively banned the businesses from all but a few small corners of town.
Overby said the proposed law still protects the town's rural and historic character by requiring all chain establishments to obtain a special permit, which involves a detailed review by the planning board.
Businesspeople are still skeptical despite the changes. Margaret Turner, executive director of the East Hampton Business Alliance, said that obtaining a special permit is burdensome and that the current reviews by the planning board and architectural review board are enough.
She said the business community cares about how the town looks, but, "We feel there are enough review processes already." Turner also called on the town board to conduct a study of commercial needs in town before passing new regulations.
The town board will hold a public hearing on the new draft at a future date, Overby said.
East Hampton Town has only one 7-Eleven, in Montauk -- which is the highest-grossing 7-Eleven in the country -- and no big-name fast-food restaurants.
Overby proposed new regulations after the town granted, then rescinded a building permit for a 7-Eleven to open in Amagansett earlier this year.
Turner said the law would not only restrict convenience stores and drive-thrus, but also businesses like Whole Foods, King Kullen and the Apple Store that she said could meet consumer demands in town.