An application under consideration by the Smithtown Town Board to rezone an 18-acre parcel at Middle Country Road and Montclair Avenue could bring the first local branch of a national used-car dealership to St. James.
The parcel, currently used by manufacturer Smithtown Concrete, is zoned for light industrial. Richmond, Virginia-based CarMax is seeking to rezone the site to wholesale and service industry in order to build its dealership.
“CarMax identifies areas that reach customers not currently served by our unique and stress-free shopping experience and has identified the St. James area as being a good fit for our current growth plan,” said spokeswoman Lindsey Duke in an email.
CarMax has about 160 dealerships nationally and has plans to grow at a pace of about 13 to 16 new locations annually, though building a new store may take up to two or three years, Duke said.
The Smithtown Town Planning Department and the town planning board have both recommended approving the CarMax application subject to conditions such as providing vehicular access to the traffic signal at Highway Place, preventing access to residential Browning Street, and filing a covenant limiting the use of the site to a motor vehicle showroom.
The Smithtown Town Board is expected to hold a public hearing on the application at its June 23 meeting.
Smithtown Planning Director David Flynn noted in a memo to the planning board that the site “is in a suitable location for the proposed use” with “good access in that it fronts on a primary arterial highway with potential access to a traffic signal.”
Flynn also said the application seems to fit in the area, where numerous car dealerships line Middle Country Road. “There isn’t a lot of demand for [light industry] use in that part of the town, and CarMax fits in with the other uses in the area,” he said in a phone interview.
In 2014, a developer proposed building a 260-unit, four-story apartment complex at the site, but pulled the plan after public concerns about traffic, the project’s scale and safety.
Resident Joanne Rooney, who lives in the Fifty Acre Glenn section of St. James and who attended the town planning board hearing in March on the application, said she supports the CarMax project.
“I think it’s a good proposal for the site. They were originally going to build apartment complexes and they were going to encroach onto our development,” she said. “CarMax was very good with me and knew the concerns of the community.”
She added, “They’re as good a neighbor as the other dealerships. If I was against car dealerships, I couldn’t live in the area.”