Hess has received a long-awaited green light to build a gas station and convenience store on the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Harned Road in Commack.
Smithtown elected officials voted 3-2 Thursday night in favor of approving a zoning change from Whole Service Industry to Neighborhood Business to accommodate Hess Corporation's plans to build a 12-pump Hess Express in Commack, despite residents' outcry of safety and traffic concerns.
"I think it is a good addition to the town. I don't agree with the characterization that it is going to be a terribly accident-prone place," said Councilman Robert Creighton. " Any accident, one accident, is too many but both county police and New York state have indicated it won't be an accident-prone place."
Creighton addressed the main concern among - that a large gas station would bring an influx of traffic to an already high-volume intersection.
The proposed plan calls for the former Shell gas station building to be razed and replaced with a 1,230 square-foot convenience store. Twelve gas pumps would be installed—eight more than Shell's four pumps.
“I estimate 30,000 cars a month will enter and exit this station, said Smithtown resident Paul Richards on Feb. 23, who himself has developed gas stations on Long Island for more than 25 years. "Members of the board are going to tell me that 30,000 cars a month going in and out of this service station is not going to be a recipe for more accidents? [They] are living in a fantasy land."
Smithtown's elected officials had voted down a similar application from Hess in 2009 due to traffic and safety concerns.
Supervisor Patrick Vecchio - true to his word - and Councilman Ed Wehrheim voted against the zoning change that moves Hess's construction forward.
"I opposed the project in '09. Nothing has changed, the circumstances have not changed since then so there's nothing to change my mind on it," Wehrheim said.
The councilman said he was holding out hope that if his colleagues voted down the application again, the town could pursue a less controversial future use of the property. Wehrheim said TD Bank, Walgreen's and some smaller commercial office developers had expressed interest in the land.
A shared desire to see the former Shell gas station redeveloped played a crucial role in gaining Hess the approval it needed.
"It's also been a terrible blight. It's the first thing you see coming into the Town of Smithtown," said Creighton.
The councilman said he's had twice as many residents come to him, asking him to approve the Hess gas station, as those who showed at the Feb. 23 public hearing.