The controversial Sheepshead Bay supermarket that has been operating illegally for nearly six years took a major step towards legalization on May 7 when the local councilman threw his support behind a text amendment that would allow the business to operate for the next 10 years.
After initially opposing an open-ended version of the measure, Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) urged his councilmembers to approve an amendment that will legalize Cherry Hill Gourmet Market for a decade.
“I recommend my colleagues on the Land Use committee vote to approve the text amendment,” said Deutsch at a committee hearing last week. “The Cherry Hill market is an important asset to our neighborhood.”
The time-limited amendment means the business will have to reapply for either another text amendment or a special permit 10 years from the day it is officially approved by the Council — an approval that is likely since Deutsch now supports the measure. If Cherry Hill wishes to stay in business a decade after the approval date, it will once again have to go before the community board and seek the future councilmember’s approval, according to Deutsch.
“It is going to be the same exact process,” he said.
Cherry Hill opened illegally in 2009 in the landmarked Lundy’s building, in violation of the Special Sheepshead Bay District waterfront zoning laws and for years, the community didn’t support the supermarket. But the shop opened swiftly after Hurricane Sandy — much to the relief of neighbors who had few other places to buy food in the superstorm’s aftermath — which earned the store the support of Community Board 15 and some residents who once opposed the market.
Tensions were high on both sides last week at a two-and-a-half hour hearing where supporters — many of them store employees — far outnumbered opponents.
Deutsch said the current plan is a “compromise” he brokered with City Planning.
The attorney for Cherry Hill said the 10-year text amendment allowance is indeed a compromise that should make the entire community happy.
“We are extremely happy that we were able to come to a resolution,” said attorney Richard Lobel. “We met with Councilmember Deutsch many times on this, and we really feel that the compromise reached was one that benefits Cherry Hill, as well as members of the community who had concerns.”
But an opponent of the text amendment said he is still worried that this allowance might inspire other businesses to open illegally, and then retroactively seek authorization.
“I’m just concerned that a can of worms is being opened here,” said Ed Jaworski, the president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association, adding that the ramifications of this ruling could impact the entire city. “This is not just Cherry Hill.”
The final decision will be announced at a Council meeting on May 14.