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Locals Protest Commack Hess Before Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals

Hess Corporation seeks 17 variances for its plans to build a 12-pump Hess Express on the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Harned Road.

Commack residents came out in force against Hess's efforts to build a new station in what many called the most dangerous intersection of their community.

More than 20 local residents, business owners, community leaders and elected officials spoke out Tuesday night against Hess's request for 17 zoning variances from Town of Smithtown's Board of Zoning Appeals to build a 12-pump Hess Express on the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Harned Road. 

"This is one of the most complex and dangerous intersections in town. That's why this application is so ill-conceived," said Commack resident Matt Pachman. 

Hess seeks the variances to construct a 12-pump filling station with a 1,230-square-foot Hess Express on the former site of the Shell Gas Station, which closed in March 2004, and the adjacent shade shop. The variances seek to increase in its convenience store size, reduce its distance from roadway intersection to increasing the number of permitted signs, and more. 

A change of property's zoning from Whole Sale Industry to Neighborhood Business was , but is under contention of a lawsuit filed by businesses and local residents.  

"The proposed use will serve the needs of the community and general public for gasoline and convenience items," said Eugene DiNicola, a Sayville-based attorney representing Hess. 

Locals pointed out that re-opening a large gas station will result in increased traffic, difficulty of fuel tankers getting on site, safety concerns due to the proximity to a nearby five-way intersection during the four-hour public hearing.

Paul Richards, a Smithtown resident and real estate developer, said Hess's attempts to compare this site to its existing gas stations was unfair as the five-way intersection makes it a "unique corner." He said the annual rate of 25 accidents a year, cited by Hess, was likely to increase if Hess is allowed to build. 

"We don't want fatalities, more than one accident is too many," Richards said. 

Christopher Robinson, a engineer for RMS engineering, testified for Hess that a traffic study conducted in October 2011 showed more than 70 percent of customers at nearby Hess stations' are passers-by drivers. 

"The majority of traffic is already on the roadway network," Robinson said concluding the result is a "imperceptible difference." 

Commack homeowners Jonathan and Kathy Bacchi, Edward and Janice Fiorvanti, said Hess's plans to build a two-lane access road to allow customers to reach the station, The Spare Rib, M.J. Kim State Farm Insurance and the podiatrist office from Harned Road is an issue. The access road will bring cars roughly 50 feet from their homes. 

"All of the lights, noice from cars going back and forth, will have a direct impact on my clients. Light pollution, noise pollution and quality of air with additional cars idling on the site," said Andrea Tsoukalas, a Uniondale-based attorney representing the residents. 

Hess plans to have gas tankers and other delivery trucks come up Harned Road  – a road residents argue has little truck traffic right now – and make a right turn in, before exiting on Jericho Turnpike. 

Neighboring business owners M.J. Kim and Rudy Massa are also taking issue with Hess's proposed plans and requested variances. 

"All of these variances coming at my personal expense," Kim said. 

The insurance agency owner, located on the intersection for 20 years, said Hess's proposed driveways would reduce his business's driveway, reducing accessibility and creating a hazard for customers coming off Jericho. In addition, Hess's canopy over its gas pumps and large signs would reduce its business's visibility. 

"It's about signs and visibility on Jericho Turnpike. If you let them put signs there, I'm going to put signs out there too. Let's keep it fair," Kim said. 

Others warned the BZA to think twice before granting 17 variances to Hess, warning it might set a dangerous precedent. 

"It will set a precedent every other applicant will ask for. They will try to go to the limit as well. You will begin the process of turning Jericho Turnpike into the next Hempstead Turnpike," said Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, R-St. James. 

Many suggested that there would be less intense use of the property that would be better suited for the area. 

"The sheer number of gas stations and convenience stores on Jericho Turnpike are of no benefit to community residents. Within a half mile, there are three gas stations with convenience stores," said Bruce Ettenberg, president of Commack Civic Association. "The added intensity of traffic is to the detriment of residents." 

However Hess refuted this idea, as traffic engineer Robinson said a bank with a drive-thru window or retail store would generate double the amount of traffic as a gasoline station like Hess. 

MM October 11, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Mike, I'm not Mitch. And to be clear, I definitely am not with the Spare Rib. I wouldnt go there if the meal was free because of the way a manager treated my kid who had a food allergy several years back. And I agree, the paint job is terrible. Anyway, thats another story. We have a difference of opinion regarding Hess. Lets leave it at that.
jamie October 12, 2012 at 12:13 AM
I dont know as much as you "experts" spending your days here on the Patch. I go to any station I'm near.Today I found myself at Gas Heaven. Those guys are Cute! All seemed to be speaking english. Which is rare in my travels around the area. Cute man waved me in. Chubby older man pumped my gas and washed my window.We talked about his son. All wear same sweatshirts. I will return!
smitty11754 October 12, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Neither Hess or our own Town Board cares about residents of Commack, nor will any of the BS being typed here influence the boards decision... Also no more gas will be sold on that strip, and Hess only brings minimum wage jobs; it's the independent business people like Bob's Tire and Rudy Massa (whether you like him or not) that help make up the foundation of a great town like Commack. They and many other independent business owners support the town and give back to the community. We should support these folks and hope they prosper... Companies like Hess have no stake in the community...
Alex October 12, 2012 at 03:35 AM
While I am not someone who particularly cares for Hess and the way that they have monopolized so many areas and are trying to further do so, I must say that if Gasoline Heaven wants to make a valid argument against the new station, they need to first stop rooking their credit customers. Everyone knows that such dishonest practices DESTROY customer loyalty. I have no idea how any knowledgeable credit customer could purchase gas there week after week. Mr. Massa, sorry, but you (and obviously many others) have disgustingly taken advantage of a loophole in the wording of the agreement between the card issuers and the merchants. It is sickening that you could display signage that you accept MasterCard, Discover, AMEX, Visa, etc. and then tack YOUR COST of processing onto the customer despite it being meant for the merchant. I know this will not get through to any of the owners until the Attourney General or Governer cracks down and mandates the posting of the higher credit price on your road signage, but it is just my suggestion. Customers value honesty, not this garbage that we have to put up with when patronizing your stations. And once again, I am not in any way in favor of Hess. Local ownership is a good thing, just get it right please; for your own good.
Paul October 12, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Its interesting how we all agree the site is an an eyesore. Yet, this week as this whole debate is going on the Spare Rib is painting their restaurant building, Yet they do nothing to maintain the building on the corner in any way , shape or form. Its not that far away from the Spare Rib is it ?? A few gallons of paint, sweep the dirt and debris , kill the weeds even put a few evergreen planters. Are the owners of the corner deliberately leaving the place the an unmaintained condition to get the town approval or do they just not care about the community they claim to be a part of ?
Pat October 12, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Sounds like you will be busy this weekend - see if you can get Rudy to give you a hand since he is prolonging reconstruction of the blighted property
Mike October 12, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Hey Paul, I'm sure those dirtbags from the Spare rib would probably make the empty lot look worse after seeing the debacle they just made with their own place. Maybe they should focus more on the filthy interior and the disgusting cooking conditions in the back. Hey Pat, maybe you could give them a hand, you obviously have a hand in the pot with them
Paul October 13, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Alex K, First, the gas retailer pays an average of 3% for each credit card transaction, about 12 cents a gallon for the credit card fee at 4.00 per gallon. The other way to go is to have one price for cash/ credit and raise the fuel price to absorb the credit card fee the oil company charges the retailer and have everyone pay the higher price whether cash or credit. Back in 2007 when we had 1.79 gasoline before the current " energy prices will necessarily skyrocket " socialist mentality occuppied the White House . Back then the credit card fee to the dealer was less than half of what it is now and they absorded it, plus more people paid cash. The Attorney General based on NYS pricing law requires the price to be posted " on the pump " statewide. Lastly, as far as signage posting both prices as a part of road signage goes , thats a fine idea. But, each city, county, town and incorporated villages their own different ordinances and jurisdiction regarding signage for all types of business . Each city, county , town ,village would have to change their ordinances to post cash and credit prices at the curb. To solve the problem you raise two things need to happen, First you need to change the town signage ordiances to reflect the cash/credit pricing curbside. Second and most importantly, vote out Obama so more domestic production will increase supply and cause the Wall Street speculators to get out of bidding up oil futures and ALL consumers benefit with lower gas prices.
Pat October 14, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Watched the meeting on TV. The Hess plan seems well thought out and any traffic issues have been addressed with right turn in and right turn out. Hess seems to have spent a ton of money on study after study just trying to open a business, who else is going to go through such torture to open a business on that corner? People complaining about signs and landscaping.
Maria October 14, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Rudy absolutely DID protest, loudly and for YEARS when the plans for Hess were originated at Kings Park Road. He never relented until he was defeated.
Maria October 14, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Pat - I also watched this morning but came in late. Lets get to the real issues here. Most people protesting are puppets. So ridiculous.
Sonny October 15, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Hey Mike, for the record, what is your last name? You are throwing people's full names out here. You think you are a tough guy, huh? I, ALL MY NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS WANT HESS!!! OR ANY OTHER BUSINESS THAT WILL FIX UP THE NASTY CORNER!!
MMIGDOL October 16, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Just look at all the cars lined up at the Hess on RT 25 and Kings Pk rd . That station in rocking and doing a ton of business since it opened . These are the 1000's of Commack residents supporting Hess there and the new location on RT 25 and Harned Rd . If you want to pay more for gas with your credit card go ahead .
MMIGDOL October 16, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Hess has done a great job on RT 25 and Kings Park Rd . The Commack residents will greatly appreciate the taxes , jobs , lower gas prices , thoughtful traffic design and development of a town eyesore . I hope they build Hess asap ................
MMIGDOL October 16, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Hess is the answer , let them build . You know they will also put in new tanks that will be safer than the old ones already there . They will invest a large sum of money and create construction jobs too . Tell that to someone looking for work and they will want to build it .
MMIGDOL October 16, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Mike , MM and I are not the same people . As far as the educated lawyers , engineers and traffic safety experts go they were excellent . They put a great deal of work into this . If you do not want to go to the Spare Rib then do not go . If you do not want to go to the new Hess when it is built then do not go . If the intersection will be to dangerous for you avoid it and go a different way .
MMIGDOL October 16, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Hess has invested more money in our community then any of the mom and pop businesses you just mentioned . Btw Hess will provide jobs and clean up this site for the community to benefit from . Why is it that only the 2 gas stations and the small insurance store is complaining and no other business in the area or in the Mayfair SC complained . It is so obvious what is at stake here . It is all about money and nothing to do with safety be honest . Hess comes the other gas stations lose plain and simple . Competition is good for the consumer . Same price cash/credit . Why don't the other stations do the same ??? Ask yourself that question .
Edy October 16, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I agree a Hess station should be allowed.
Edy October 16, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Rudy's gas station can be just as dangerous when the entire right lane is blocked on Jericho Turnpike with cars waiting to get gas from him
Mike October 17, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Hey Mitchell Migdol, Oh I mean Sonny. Ok pal. You want my last name and you wont even put your real first name? Have a good one Sonny.
MMIGDOL October 17, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Mike , you are wrong I am not Sonny . You are not seeing the fact that you are in the minority about this issue . You also thought I was MM but I am not . It is possible that your wish of stopping the Hess from being built is possible and we will see . It is up to the people on the Board who know more about this than you or I so lets wait and see what they decide . Btw you full name is in one of the e mails so I know it but it does not matter because a individual you entitled to your opinion for sure but keep it respectful . Thanks
WD October 17, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Mikes last name is Tulebag.
commack resident November 06, 2012 at 03:12 PM
hess is build a station with 1/2 mile of an existing hess gas station? Reminds me of how blockbuster put all the independently owned video places out of business so that they could have a neighborhood monopoly and raise their prices, and leaving us with a large abandoned eyesore than we have. Gasoline Heaven has been a better provided of gas during this crisis than Hess which can't seem to keep thier stations supplied and are running a really inefficient fueling operation during the crisis. all things being equal, I vote for the independent operator. And by the way, when the hell is our local government going to do something about all the abandoned businesses on Jericho. If the current property owner can't maintain the property then the town should step in. if the owner won't reimburse the town, a lien should be filed. If the lien is not satisfied, the land should be condemed and siezed.
Maria November 06, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Brian - Hess has been a godsend during this crises. They have maintained price cash or credit, same price. They have been organized and they have been efficient. They have had fuel daily. Why knock a place that you obviously haven't frequented since you are boasting another? You lack credibility when you do that.
MMIGDOL November 06, 2012 at 04:13 PM
During these trying times we can see that more gas stations is exactly what we need on RT 25 . The so called independants are ripping us off during this crisis by gouging us on the prices . It is clear to see that Hess Corporate does not play the games the mom and pop gas stations do . I say BUILD 5 MORE HESS STATIONS ON RT 25 . If the mom pops close so be it nothing lasts forever , and while we are at bring in Luke Oil too .
MMIGDOL November 06, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Well said Maria . Hess has been a godsend to our community , well organized and maintaining the same low price . The BP gas east of them on RT 25 covered his pricing on pumps and street signs so you did not know what you pay until it is too late and btw it was $ 5 for premium , Hess $ 4 .19 . We need Hess to be at Harned rd and whereever else they want to invest in our community .
commack resident November 06, 2012 at 05:10 PM
I am not knocking HESS just making an observation. I have been at HESS, but never scored gas during the crisis. Plus in the times that I have driven down Jericho in the last week, GH has been pumping gas way more frequently than HESS and doing it more frequently because they have attendants at the pump moving things along. They have been better than most but not quite as good as GH. BTW, when we moved into commack there were lots of trees and small business along Jericho tpk. How many gas stations, banks and chain drugstores do we need? So far in the last few years I see the town obsessing over a Wendys, Southside restaurant and Spareribs paint color while Jericho is turning into a DUMP. How come other areas are able to maintain neat and attactive appearance. What are we doing wrong?
commack resident November 06, 2012 at 08:04 PM
this is a good resource from Hess - A list of thier stations, how much fuel at each and a timestamp for each to tell you how old the information is. http://hessexpress.com/fuelinformation/
Frank November 06, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Thank god for the 4 Hess stations in and near Commack. This crisis only proves that we need more of them. They have maintained their prices unlike some other ripoff artists and also provide front of the line to Emergency Service persons in their private cars so they can get on the job. Not to mention their up to date website that provides detailed info on each station's gas supply. Build the new Hess and include a generator in the plan!!!!
Frank November 06, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Also, the recent long lines clogging the Harned rd. Jericho Tpke intersection caused by Gas Heaven and how traffic safety issues are not even deserving of mention at the moment should now remove that argument from all consideration.

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