By: Progress for Westhampton Beach
Lou Cassara is the owner of the Barth’s Pharmacies in East Moriches, Westhampton Beach and East Quogue (The Riverhead Barth’s Drug Store was purchased from Barry Barth by Bhaskar Gunjupali of Manorville this past December of 2015)
Mr. Cassara opposes the application before the trustees to permit the owner of the old Sunset Avenue bowling alley to have one store of 10,000 square feet in the 20,000 square foot building. There has been no secret, the proposed tenant for this space is CVS. The owner of the bowling alley has the right to do this, and that is probably why the identity of the tenant has been plainly disclosed to all.
In what amounts to a little bit of a turf war Mr. Cassara said:
“If anyone hasn’t read that a big-box store in a community [with a] population [of] less than 5,000 will not have an impact on the community, then excuse me and so be it—welcome to CVS,”
The Board of Trustees that adopted the zoning law providing for up to 10,000 square feet of commercial space in the B-1 Zone was protecting against big-box stores. This store is not even close to being a big-box store. Walmart in Riverhead is more than 169,000 square ft.; and Home Depot in Riverhead is over 125,000 square feet. One definition of a big-box retailer is a store with more than 50,000 square feet.
So “No, there is no big-box store coming to the village.” Mr. Cassara’s reference to big-box retailers was just part of a business turf war.
As Aeschylus, the Greek playwright, said “In war the first casualty is truth.” This is not a criticism of Mr. Cassara, or any of the competing merchants — all is fair.
But the second casualty of that little turf battle should not be the respect due to the 2007 Board of Trustees for our village. That Board did a good job and placed the upper limit at 10,000 square feet. That is a legally defensible limitation for businesses in the B-1 district. The special exception process the 2007 Board provided allows the current Board to put reasonable conditions as a requirement of approval. But once the applicant satisfies the legally permitted elements for the special exception — the applicant has a right to approval from the Board.
We will still shop at Barth’s on Sunset Avenue, but we respect the work of the Board of Trustees past and present, and understand there are legal restrictions that prevent government from stifling competition.