A group of business owners who might be displaced if a controversial proposal to build a Walgreens pharmacy in Elmont is approved made a last-minute plea to the Hempstead Town Board of Appeals to consider their plight and reject the plan.
The group submitted more than 600 petitions opposing Walgreens during a hearing Wednesday, but appeals board members said their jurisdiction prohibits them from considering the business owners' personal situations. The appeals board is considering whether to grant several zoning variances to Walgreens that would move the project forward.
"We can only legally decide what is before us," said appeals board chairman David P. Weiss. The board has 62 days from the hearing to make a decision on the zoning changes.
The plan calls for demolishing a strip mall and displacing seven existing businesses on the southwest corner of Meacham Avenue and Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont. If approved, Walgreens would lease the property for at least 20 years from Carle Place-based owner Clover Associates Llc and build a 13,824-square-foot store with a drive-through pharmacy.
Walgreens has "no intention of going anywhere," company attorney Daniel Baker said at the hearing. "They have plans to improve the property and be successful."
Some of the businesses in the 35-year-old shopping center have years left on their leases, but a clause in some leases allows them to be broken with six months' notice, tenants said.
Weiss said lease disputes should be addressed with the landlord. Property manager Jimmy Dalto has cited confidentiality in declining to discuss the leases and has said he does not know whether tenants would be compensated.
"To put people out of business so they can open a business is disgusting," said Joe Benincasa, owner of nearby Meacham Pharmacy, adding he is concerned his drugstore likely would be put out of business.
Residents expressed concerns about traffic congestion and Walgreens delivery trucks on Meacham Avenue, a narrow two-way street they say is used by senior citizens and elementary school students on their way to and from school.
Wayne Muller, a traffic and parking expert hired by Walgreens, said there would be "no significant impact" on traffic.
The plan provides no parking spaces because the intent is for patrons to use a town-owned parking lot with 101 spaces just south of the property, Walgreens representatives said.
Elmont resident Dorothy Warner said commuters leave their cars in the municipal parking lot because there is no time limit and then take a bus into the city: "It is always crowded, except for the nighttime."