Proposed 7-Eleven draws criticism, support
There will soon be a place for hamlet residents and passersby to grab a coffee after 5 p.m. The Brookhaven Centre on Montauk Highway, currently home to Molly’s Irish Pub, Ragtime Pizza and an All-State Insurance office, will be joined by a 7-Eleven convenience store, according to town planning officials.
At a planning board meeting on June 19, the board approved the proposal for a special-use permit allowing the convenience store to take over the existing shopping center. At the meeting, deputy planner Brenda Prusinowski noted that the 4,038-square-foot building is zoned J-2 business and ZBA variances had already been granted. The new 7-Eleven will be 3,037 square feet, she said.
The approval came with several conditions from the planning board that include obtaining a wetlands permit and prohibiting tractor trailer deliveries from the site, in turn for van or box truck deliveries only.
The property, owned by Michael Verni, would change from four units to two, for the new 7-Eleven and existing insurance office. Verni, who runs Ragtime Pizza, declined to comment about the project but said that he would be relocating the beloved pizza shop. His lawyer, Timothy Shea of Certilman Balin, said that last fall they obtained necessary variances and have been making changes to the landscaping and parking to ensure the site flows more seamlessly. Vincent Pascale, chairman of the planning board, asked Shea how the parking was changed, specifically in the rear of the property. “The previous parking pattern had head-in parking on a diagonal, which we agreed led to a little bit of a problem with traffic circulation,” Shea explained. “We reduced the number of stalls overall but kept five in the back as parallel parking spots. We still meet all of the code provisions with regard to the number of parking stalls to be constructed,” he said, of the 37 parking spaces on-site.
Pascale wondered about potential traffic impacts, along with several residents who spoke at the meeting. According to Shea, a traffic study was conducted by RMS Civil Engineers. According to engineer Wayne Muller, that number of parking spaces will be “more than sufficient” to accommodate the activity generated by both the 7-Eleven and insurance agency next door. Muller’s firm also prepared a detailed traffic analysis study and found that there would be no significant impact on traffic in the area due to the 7-Eleven. “A large percentage of traffic generated by convenience stores is pass-by in nature,” Muller said of an estimated 61 percent increase in area traffic. “The bulk of traffic generated by these uses is already in the traffic stream, merely passing by the facility on their way to or from work, or to or from other places, for a cup of coffee or other convenience items,” he said.
Muller also concluded that looking west to the Y-intersection of South Country Road and Montauk Highway and east, there is “more than sufficient sight-distance for a vehicle exiting the property to perform a left turn and get onto the Montauk Highway traffic stream.”
Several residents opposed the project, citing both traffic concerns and the disruption a 24-hour convenience store may bring to their quiet hamlet. Roberta Crater, who lives near the center on Seeley Street, said she is concerned about the increased traffic and nighttime activity. “[The proposed 7-Eleven] will attract a significant number of transient customers to the area at all hours and our property values will most likely decline,” she said. “We despair for the quality of life on our historic little street.”
In a letter to this newspaper last month, Brookhaven resident Joe Collins wrote about his disappointment with the approval. “This will surely result in more deaths on this corridor of highway, which locals have dubbed for many decades as ‘dead man’s curve,’” Collins wrote in his letter, also arguing that the big-box convenience store would hurt local delis. “The quality of life for the hamlet residents will surely diminish as the opening of Pandora’s box has begun. The stewards of the Post Morrow vision have let the flame dimmer by not opposing the encroachment of commercialization into one of the last seaside communities in Brookhaven Town,” Collins added.
But not all oppose the project. Robert Deshler of Yaphank spoke in support of Verni’s venture. “[Verni] takes a lot of pride in his building. He is not an absentee landlord, but a very hands-on owner, who can be seen sweeping and cleaning his parking lot to make sure it’s appealing,” he said.
Greg Miglino also spoke at the meeting, not as the South Country Ambulance chief but as a citizen and friend. “Although I understand the negative connotations that a 7-Eleven might bring to a community, I would say that getting rid of the bar and bringing us from four institutions down to two is an enhancement rather than a degradation,” he said. “[Verni] has been in the community for years and is someone who maintained his property, unlike some of the other blighted structures along Montauk Highway. Repurposing the building so we don’t lose an economic base is a good use of space, especially since we’re not creating an additional footprint.”
Shea noted that the pizza place and bar currently get multiple tractor-trailer deliveries per week, and the 7-Eleven would opt for box truck or van deliveries only. To those concerned about 7-Eleven’s 24-hour operation, he pointed out that the pub currently operates until 4 a.m. “I would submit to the board that a bar is far more offensive than a 7-Eleven,” Shea said. “I have nothing against bars — I want the record to reflect that,” he said, laughing. “But I think it’s far more dangerous than people coming to 7-Eleven for their coffee and food and yes, their beer, which they will take to another site and not be imbibing on-site.”
Verni said the project was progressing, but declined to comment on specific dates, citing negotiations with the franchise.
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