Parents, educators and residents in Merrick are rallying against a planned 7-Eleven on a busy road near an elementary school despite the proposal meeting local zoning regulations.
The plan calls for the convenience store on the site of a vacant gas station at Merrick Road and Babylon Turnpike. But community members are complaining that the store, which could operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, would exacerbate traffic in an already congested area and could pose a safety risk to children in the nearby Norman J. Levy Lakeside School, which is less than a block away.
"7-Eleven would have deliveries all the time and there have been many accidents there already," said Jennifer Schlesinger, chairwoman of the South Merrick Community Civic Association's Merrick Road Improvement Committee, who has two children attending the school. "Having [school] buses, people dropping their children and trucks making deliveries would be a nightmare."
The Great Neck-based developer AJM Re Holding V LLC filed a building permit application with the Town of Hempstead on March 17 to make interior renovations and add 420 square feet to the existing one-story building. The property would be leased to 7-Eleven, which would run the store.
A 7-Eleven Inc. spokeswoman referred questions to the property owner.
"We have designed a beautiful building with red bricks and a ton of landscaping," said owner Adam Mann, who bought the site a year and half ago. "The building itself would be an enhancement and welcome addition to the stretch of that road."
After reviewing the plans for compliance with zoning laws, the town's building department determined that AJM did not require town board or appeals board approvals, Hempstead spokesman Michael Deery said. The building permit application has not yet been approved, he said.
Deery said Councilwoman Angie Cullin shared the neighbors' concerns, but, "We don't have the ability to discriminate against individual businesses if they comply with the zone."
Even though the application is likely to be approved by the town, Merrick school district Superintendent Dominick Palma said he has written to elected officials voicing his concerns. He also wrote to the state liquor authority, which has the power to grant a license to sell alcoholic beverages.
"We're not too happy with a convenience store that would be selling alcohol and tobacco so close to a school" that has 550 students from kindergarten to sixth grade, Palma said. "We're hoping that someone hears our concerns that has the power to halt this and they take action."
The 7-Eleven proposal will be the focus of a civic association meeting Tuesday night at 7 in the Merrick Park Golf Course Clubhouse, 2550A Clubhouse Rd. Representatives for the property owner and 7-Eleven are expected to present their plan.
"The question is if there is a need for it -- and there is really no need for it," said civic president Joe Baker, adding there are two other 7-Eleven stores within 2 miles of the proposed location. "I understand that these stores need to be built, but there has to be a limit at some point, when you just have to say, 'No. It doesn't belong here.' "