Tensions ran high at Thursday night's Smithtown Town Board Meeting, as more than 20 residents spoke publicly in opposition of the gas station and convenience store, citing safety and traffic concerns.
For a second time, the Hess company is seeking a zoning change that would allow for a gas station with a convenience store at the corner of the five-way intersection on Jericho Turnpike and Harned Road. Currently, an abandoned Shell station sits on the property.
“Commack needs another convenience store like it needs a hole in the head.” said Jeanette Salvito, Vice President of the Commack Community Association, who has lived in Commack for more than 50 years.
Other speakers echoed Salvito's point.
“There are four gas station within a half mile of the site. Four gas stations. How many do we need? How much coffee do people need to drink?” said Daniel O’Brien, a 52-year resident of Commack, whose son’s car was totaled in the intersection back when the Shell station was in operation.
The proposed plan calls for the existing 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.
Residents are concerned the increase in pumps as well as the increased retail space will bring an influx of traffic to an already high-volume intersection.
“Hess oil will not erect a four-pump station to replace the old four-pump station that Shell operated years ago," said Kathleen Albrecht, on behalf of Seventh Assembly District Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, R–Smithtown. "The application for a 12-pump filling station with a convenience store where a much smaller operation once existed today maybe not be the best use of the property where the safety of motorists and pedestrians is considered."
Albrecht, a resident of Smithown, then offered her own testimony.
“I have over 30 years of driving experience. I have never had a car accident or a ticket, and I myself have gotten confused at that intersection especially at night coming off Sunken Meadow parkway. I would ask you take into consideration the safety of the residents of Smithtown and deny this application.”
Commack Fire District volunteer, Ed Monahan, attested to the amount of accidents that occur on Jericho and Harned, saying, "I've cut many people out of cars at that intersection."
Patrick Fazio, Commissioner for Commack Fire District addressed the Board as well. “If its approved, a year from now, you’ll regret it," he said.
“I estimate 30,000 cars a month will enter and exit this station, said Smithtown resident Paul Richards, 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."
"Twenty five accidents a year is too much, Richards said. "Is anyone going to take credit or stand up and be responsible if there are 30 or 40? No one is going to."
Rudy Massa, who has owned on Jericho Turnpike for more than 40 years, presented a petition with more than 1,800 signatures from the community opposing the Hess Express.
Vecchio then gave his statement.
"I did not vote for this application two years ago," Vecchio said. "These folks here will not impress me to change my vote or support my effort. I have heard nothing hear to change my mind. I will still hold that I will not support this application."
The zoning change must still go before the town board to determine the future of the property.
Additional reporting by Hauppauge Patch Editor Sara Walsh.