The latest application to build a CVS store in St. James -- a project heatedly opposed by residents -- met more resistance from the town planning director's recommendation to deny the chain's special-exception request.
CVS wants to build a 13,551-square-foot building on 1.6 acres at Woodlawn and Lake avenues. In November, the company withdrew its application requesting a zone change from residential to central business.
At a June 9 zoning board hearing with an overflow crowd, CVS attorney Vincent J. Trimarco Sr. presented the company's latest application, which requested several variances from town code, including waivers of a dozen requirements governing the lot itself and surrounding residential district, and the minimum number of parking spaces -- a contentious issue that Trimarco called "the most important part of our application." CVS is seeking 57 parking spaces; the town requires 136 for a store of that size.
"I think everybody knows that CVS has been in local communities for many, many years now," Trimarco said. "We want to be a good neighbor."
But Smithtown Town Planning Director David M. Flynn said that the variances would effectively change the character of the area and that CVS created the problems for itself.
"This zoning has been in existence," Flynn said. "For CVS to pick properties that are not suitably zoned, they've created their own practical difficulty."
Residents cheered when Flynn recommended the zoning board deny CVS' application.
Denise McMahon, who has lived in town for 45 years, agreed that the variances are excessive. At the hearing, she detailed her concerns about property values, quality-of-life issues and traffic, and also presented a packet of more than 1,000 signatures from neighbors who oppose the project. The surrounding area would be ill-prepared to handle the strain of increased activity, with nowhere for traffic overflow to go, McMahon said.
Mary Dwyer, a lifelong resident of St. James, added that the intersection of Woodlawn and Lake avenues can barely handle current traffic.
"Asking us to increase that traffic is not acceptable; it's extremely dangerous," she said.
McMahon also warned the board against establishing a precedent for big businesses to seek out variances.
"The location is all wrong; it's too small," McMahon said. "We are saying this building doesn't go at this location, and if the building doesn't go, the board must say no."
The hearing is now officially closed and the Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals has until early fall to decide. Should the board approve the CVS application, the town's environmental department must also make a formal determination.
With Lauren R. Harrison