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.