The Hempstead Town Board of Appeals has approved a proposal for a Walgreens pharmacy in Elmont despite resident concerns about traffic, parking issues and the resulting displacement of seven small businesses -- several of whose owners expressed despair when told by Newsday of the decision.
The board voted 6-0 last week to grant Walgreens' requests for several zoning variances and to allow the demolition of a strip mall on the southwest corner of Meacham Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike. The board also approved a site plan, but placed two conditions on the decision.
The conditions involve the board accepting an offer by land owner Clover Associates Llc of Carle Place to "dedicate" a vacant auto repair facility on the property for additional town parking spaces. The board also required that the building be demolished and site graded, with the parcel delivered to the town clear of debris, documents show.
The plan calls for displacing a convenience store, spa, nail salon, hair salon, insurance office, restaurant and gold-seller located in the 35-year-old shopping center. Walgreens is expected to lease the property for at least 20 years and build a 13,824-square-foot store with a drive-through pharmacy.
"Oh my God! You're kidding!" said Olga Diaz, owner of the restaurant, Bonao Cafe, which opened in 2009 after she borrowed more than $150,000 for renovations. "I just sent a $4,000 check to the landlord. I should call the bank and ask them to stop it," said Diaz, who has eight years on her lease.
Faheem Khan, 46, who has owned the strip mall's convenience store, Top Food Mart, for 14 years, submitted more than 600 petitions opposing Walgreens at a Feb. 29 hearing. Board members said then they could not consider the business owners' personal situations.
"If there is nothing left in my pocket, who will pay the bills?" Kahn said.
Some tenants have not paid rent for February and March in protest, he said, and are concerned because a clause in some leases allows them to be broken with six months' notice.
"We will go get a lawyer and see what we can do," said Khan, adding they want to be compensated for leases being broken and improvements they've made to their shops. "We won't give up."
Property manager Jimmy Dalto has said he does not know if tenants will be compensated.