Renewed construction activity at a catering facility near the Centerport peninsula's main artery has raised concerns that the small road will become too clogged if a long-planned 7-Eleven store is built there as well.
The proposed site for the 7-Eleven, a former gas station, occupies the northeast corner of Little Neck Road and Route 25A. The Centerport Fire Department is about 100 feet away, across Little Neck Road. Next door to the firehouse is the Water's Edge, formerly the Thatched Cottage restaurant that is undergoing extensive renovations to become an upscale catering facility for weddings and other events.
The combination of a convenience store open 24/7 on Little Neck Road and the anticipated number of drivers attending events at the Water's Edge worries Tom Knight, co-president of the Centerport Harbor Civic Association. He said the two-lane Little Neck Road, the only street serving the peninsula where nearly 600 homes are located, doesn't even have shoulders where cars could pull over to yield to emergency vehicles.
"Probably the biggest issue of all in terms of safety is the fire department and their ability to respond to emergencies," Knight said. "It's just a bad, bad, bad, bad spot."
Gregory Alvarez, a lawyer for the applicant, 7-Eleven, said he referred questions to 7-Eleven, which did not respond to requests for comment.
A representative for the Water's Edge said there has long been commercial traffic in the area.
"There was always a gas station there, and the Thatched Cottage was there for 30 years," said Christina Whitehurst, chief marketing officer for the Water's Edge. "I don’t think there was an issue for all the years the Thatched Cottage was there. "I'm really not sure why there's a concern now when it’s the same thing."
The application for the 2,940-square-foot store has been stopped before. Lawyers for 7-Eleven first filed an application for a variance in 2010 because under town code the parcel is too small for a free-standing convenience store, but a legal challenge mounted by the Centerport Harbor Civic Association successfully halted the application.
A second application was filed in 2015 with a traffic study and has been on hold pending an environmental review, according to the Town of Huntington Planning Board. "The [Zoning Board of Appeals] has the application on hold waiting for an environmental report from the Town consultant in order to complete SEQRA [State Environmental Quality Review Act ]," according to the town. "There has not been any further consideration of this matter by the ZBA since the August 11, 2017 Public Hearing."
The planning board declined to comment on the traffic concerns that Knight raised, some of which are shared by another community group.
"The problem is that the roadways were built a long time ago and they can't handle the amount of traffic a convenience store would be bringing, running 24 hours a day," said Robert Schwartz, founder of the Bald Eagles of Centerport community group. "Our concern is that God forbid a box truck is pulling into 7-Eleven to unload . . . and the fire department is delayed by 10 seconds. You're looking to have a disaster happen."
The Centerport Fire Department did not respond to requests for comment.