A proposal to build a new supermarket on a decade-long vacant site in North Bellmore has received a mixed reception from neighbors, some of whom say the store would create safety issues and increase traffic in an already congested area.
The upscale family-owned supermarket chain is seeking a special exception from the Hempstead Town board of appeals because the 18,818-square-foot store would be double the allowed size for a building whose access is to a two-lane road.
The site housed Rite Aid until 2002 and the drugstore chain maintained the lease until 2011.
"People are nervous of the fact that the site has been vacant for a decade, which of course generates no traffic," said William F. Bonesso, a Uniondale attorney representing North Shore Farms. "But being vacant is not helping the community. It is time to put the property back into use."
Oceanside-based lawyer Jeff Toback, who represents 20 families opposed to the project, said a supermarket would worsen traffic.
He said his clients also voiced safety concerns about children attending nearby Saw Mill Road Elementary School and players from the North Bellmore Little League who use the school's field.
"Most of the residents live within a stone's throw of the property," said Toback, whose clients prefer a medical office or residential use on the site. He said he has hired, on their behalf, an expert to prepare a traffic study.
Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) said: "In 2004 a traffic study showed that a supermarket would be unsafe. I don't see what improved in nine years. If anything, traffic has gotten worse."
But residents such as Chris Gifford said they support a supermarket because the property has been vacant for too long.
"This is much ado about nothing," said Gifford, who lives five blocks from the site. "There's nimbyism at play. It's just a few selfish people making it harder for a business to operate."
North Shore Farms' proposal calls for minimal work to the building's exterior. The elimination of the former drive-through would create two more parking spaces, bringing the total to 86. The store would employ 40 to 50 people and open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Bonesso said.
Residents also voiced concerns about the 5-to-6 deliveries per day and garbage that could attract rodents. But North Shore Farms owners are willing to negotiate delivery and refuse pickup times and to place garbage inside the building before it is carted away, Bonesso said.
"Twenty years ago this site was an A&P supermarket and it didn't create significant problems in regards to traffic flow or parking demand," Bonesso said. "I think this supermarket would work just as well."
The application hearing is scheduled for March 13 at 2 p.m. in the Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion next to Hempstead Town Hall.