For a second time, the is seeking a zoning change that would allow for a gas station with a convenience store at the corner of a five-way intersection on Jericho Turnpike, and the idea is being met with opposition amid traffic and safety concerns.
"The location is a high-volume traffic location, with very complicated traffic movements," said Frank DeRubeis, director of Smithtown's Planning Department. He said his department recommended against a similar proposal brought before the town two years ago.
That one was denied, and while the new site plan includes "some adjustments," DeRubeis said the "significant questions" remain.
He said the issue is not whether a new station would generate more traffic, but how it would affect existing traffic patterns at the site, which has vehicles entering the intersection from two directions each on Jericho Turnpike and Harned Road as well as an exit ramp from the northbound lanes of the Sunken Meadow Parkway.
DeRubeis said that while the first proposal was opposed by the town planning board, whose members are appointed by the town board, the current site plan is being endorsed by that group. He said much of the discussion has been about addressing the , which has been a shuttered former Shell station for many years.
The site's current zoning would allow for another gas station, but not one which includes a convenience store. Hess is asking to change that.
"The best use would be an office building," DeRubeis said. "The worst use is a high traffic generator."
Other groups have come out in opposition to the move, including the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association and the Commack Community Association.
Rudy Massa has owned , operated in partnership with Gulf, for 40 years. The proposed Hess site is a few hundred yards west of him on Jericho Turnpike. He said it isn’t the potential competition that has him opposed, but the traffic concerns.
“They opened up down the street here and nobody squawked,” he said, referring to the Hess Express and station which opened less than a mile east on Jericho in October. “They had a right to do it. But they want to change a zone here.”
He said the possible impact worries him as a member of the community whose grandchildren drive in the area.
Massa said he is also worried what another Hess station – which are all corporate-owned and have more locations in Smithtown than any other brand – would mean for the other local gas station owners in the immediate area. Another Hess station sits a bit further west on Jericho. He doesn’t see the need for a third in between, and expressed doubts about approaching the issue as a fix for blight, considering the independently-owned stations nearby who survive without a corporate safety net.
“The Shell has already been hurt. The Pit Stop has been hurt. The Sunoco is already up for sale,” Massa said. “You correct one blight and you could potentially have three more blights, because if they come in and draw more business they’re going to put these other guys out of business.”
He noted the action taken over a similar situation at the intersection of the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Commack Road, where a run-down former gas station across from the was demolished and the property landscaped.
A public hearing will be held on the issue at the town board’s February 16 meeting.