Smithtown board OKs zone change to allow Hess

This is the southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike

This is the southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike and Harned Road in Commack, a five-road intersection where developers want to put a Hess gas station. (Feb. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

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Reversing a decision from four years ago, the Smithtown Town Board has approved a zoning change to allow a controversial gas station and convenience store at a busy intersection in Commack.

The town board voted 3-2 in favor of the zoning petition Thursday night. The change allows Hess Corp. to build a 231-square-foot convenience store and 12 gasoline pumps at the southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike and Harned Road.

The board had denied the zoning change in 2008 by the same margin.

Rudy Massa, owner of Gasoline Heaven, a Jericho Turnpike gas station and convenience store, said Hess supporters on the town board "did not listen to the voice of the community."

"Justice was not served," Massa said. "There's going to be traffic backed up. It's not going to work."

Hess, of Woodbridge, N.J., must seek town board approval of a site plan before construction can begin. It is unclear when the board will vote on the site plan.

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Massa said opponents -- including neighboring residents and business owners and the Commack Community Association -- would fight approval of the site plan.

Supporters of the Hess proposal said it would improve what they say is an eyesore on a corner lot occupied by an abandoned Shell gas station.

Opponents have said a Hess Express proposed for the corner would worsen traffic there and cause accidents.

A Hess spokeswoman, in an email, declined to comment.

Councilmen Thomas McCarthy and Robert Creighton, who had voted for the zone change in 2008, supported it again Thursday and were joined by Councilman Kevin Malloy, who became a member of the board after the earlier vote.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio and Councilman Edward Wehrheim voted against the change, as they did in 2008.

After the meeting, Malloy said the Hess station would improve a "depleted area" and lower gasoline prices through increased competition. "It's taking the community into consideration," he said.

About 100 opponents of the project had attended a public hearing last month. But McCarthy and Creighton said they received twice as many emails in favor of the filling station.

"For 231 square feet, do you let that corner be a disgusting, ugly looking corner?" McCarthy said. "It'll finally clean up the west end of town."

A study commissioned by Hess said traffic and accidents would not increase if the gas station were built.

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