More than a dozen residents turned to the Hempstead Town board for help in their fight against a proposed 7-Eleven store in Merrick, but town officials indicated they could not legally prevent the convenience store from opening.
Residents at Tuesday night's town board meeting complained that the convenience store, on the site of a vacant gas station at Merrick Road and Babylon Turnpike, could be a target for robberies. They also said they were concerned it could put small merchants out of business, cause more car accidents in an already congested area and pose a safety risk to children attending the Norman J. Levy Lakeside Elementary School, less than a block away.
"While the board certainly understands the frustration from local residents . . . the town does not have the legal authority at this point to stop them from opening the business," Senior Councilman Anthony Santino said at the meeting. "The zoning is currently in place for 7-Eleven to operate on that property as is. They don't have to come to the town for either a change of zoning or a variance of any kind."
Great Neck-based AJM Re Holding V LLC filed a building permit application with the Town of Hempstead in March to make interior renovations and add 420 square feet to the existing one-story building. The property would be leased for up to 30 years to 7-Eleven and a franchisee would operate the 2,400-square-foot store 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"What you're telling us basically is that we have no rights," Merrick Chamber of Commerce president Randy Shotland said to Santino. "I have no problem with businesses opening up, but 24 hours a day is not acceptable."
The building permit has not yet been approved and the Nassau County Department of Public Works is still reviewing the site plan, officials said.
"We think that the town has listened to all sides," William F. Bonesso, a Uniondale attorney for AJM partner Adam Mann, said Wednesday. "They are bound, for good or bad, by their own zoning ordinance."
Supervisor Kate Murray, who didn't attend the meeting, along with council members Angie Cullin and Gary Hudes, wrote earlier this month to the state Liquor Authority to object to granting a license to sell beer and other alcoholic beverages in anticipation of an application being submitted.
As of Wednesday, an application had not been submitted, Liquor Authority spokesman William Crowley said.
Applications generally are reviewed by the licensing staff, but in some cases involving community opposition, applications are referred to the authority's board for a final decision. The review process can take about 35 days, Crowley said.