Speedway hits road bump with 24-hour store plan

Speedway hits road bump with 24-hour store plan

Some oppose East Northport gas station rezoning

Speedway on Fort Salonga Road. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

A Speedway gas station is hoping to get the Huntington Town Board’s green light to change its zoning to add a 24-hour convenience store — but some residents want to hit the brakes on the plan.

Speedway on Fort Salonga Road in East Northport wants to change its zoning from C-7 Minor Commercial Corridor District to C-11 Automotive Service Station District. At a board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 16, residents of Huntington spoke out against the proposal, which was up for a public hearing, saying it poses traffic issues and questioning the need for a 24-hour convenience store. The gas station, which formerly was known as Hess, is located at the intersection of Catherine Street and Fort Salonga Road.

“Growing up in a commercial corridor as busy as we had was tough as a kid,” William Foley Jr., an East Northport resident who lives directly behind Speedway, said at the meeting. “A car once hit my brother when he was riding his bike. Adding more traffic to this commercial corridor would be a disaster.”

Foley Jr. went on to list a number of grocery stores and markets all within a close proximity, including a Stop and Shop, a Rite Aid, a King Kullen, a CVS, two liquor stores, a beer distributor, two delis, a pizzeria, two bagel stores and more.

“What is this convenience store going to bring to our community that we don’t already have?” Foley Jr. said “We have everything, all within a mile span.”

Speedway is hoping to get a C-11 rezoning instead of the current C-7, which allows for retail uses, food shops and convenience markets, but prohibits the sale of prepackaged food, soft drinks, newspapers and other convenience store-type products if the business is not part of a lawfully preexisting nonconforming service station or repair shop.

“Most gas stations operating in the Town of Huntington are preexisting nonconforming ones, as is this one,” Kevin O’Brien said, who spoke on behalf of the applicant. “The correct zone for gasoline and service stations is C-11.”

A C-11 zoning allows for the retail sales the applicant desires, and storage tanks must be on-site and underground.

Aside from building a retail mart, Speedway is seeking to make underground and aboveground improvements. This includes removing or replacing the underground gasoline storage tanks and reconfiguring the pump volume.

O’Brien expressed that Speedway was more than willing to work with neighbors and listen to their concerns. He also said that the company went through a very similar process with the Commack Speedway location, where they were able to change its zoning to C-11.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said he saw many differences in the two cases.

“[In Commack] it was an old, shuttered gas station, that couldn’t sustain itself as just as a gas station,” he said. “This particular station is very, very active. There are a lot of people going in and out of there all day just with gas.”

Kevin Papasian, branch manager of FST Engineers and who was also representing the gas station with O’Brien, said that although the station is popular, several other well-used gas stations in the area have secondary uses besides gas.

“Those all have car repairs,” he said. “This station does not.”

In terms of the repairs and renovations, Papasian said the underground storage tanks are old and need to be upgraded. Speedway also would like to move them closer toward Fort Salonga Road and farther away from the residents.

William Foley Sr., an East Northport resident who also lives directly behind Speedway, said that the site plan for this proposal requires many variances.

“Right from the start they showed gross disregard to the neighbors in the area by submitting a site plan that will need several variances before they can proceed,” Foley Sr. said.

According to Foley Sr., as per town code, no side yard adjacent to a residential property shall be less than 50 feet from the property line and Speedway’s proposing land is only 15 feet from the property line.

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) also questioned the number of variances the plan needs.

“Mr. Foley said that your side setback and rear setback are off, as well as your square footage and height,” Berland said. “Maybe you should start over again and at least try to present something that doesn’t require four or five variances before you present it to the board.”

O’Brien said that the height was off at one point due to a decorative feature that has since been removed from the planning.

When reached Monday, Speedway declined to comment.

The public hearing was closed and the Town Board must vote within 90 days or hold another public hearing before voting.