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New 7-Eleven stirs worries in W. Islip

More than two dozen West Islip residents decried a proposal for a 7-Eleven in their neighborhood, saying at a recent planning board hearing that the convenience store would bring more traffic and hurt local businesses.

The Islip planning board voted unanimously at its Thursday meeting to reserve a decision on the application to erect a 2,000-square-foot 7-Eleven with 20 parking spaces at Udall and Muncey roads. Eliot F. Bloom, a lawyer for the applicant -- SPJ LLC, which is owned by brothers Jon and Peter Halperin -- said the 24-hour store would "beautify" the corner, which is currently home to a closed gas station.

Bloom's comment elicited eye-rolling and groans from residents who lambasted the project during the hearing that at times grew raucous. One resident submitted a petition in opposition to the 7-Eleven signed by 620 residents.

"Are we not a democracy?" asked Angela Demeo, a West Islip nurse. "These people don't want 7-Eleven. Why don't you just take it off the table? Why not decide it in front of us, right here, right now?"

Islip planning officials recommended that the planning board delay a judgment on the rezoning application in light of the community concern. Planning board chairman John Schettino said the board will review the public testimony and make a recommendation to the Islip Town board, which has final say over the project.

Bloom said his clients have made "significant efforts" to find an alternative tenant but have been unsuccessful because of the parcel's small size.

"We just don't have any other viable businesses to come to this site," said Bloom, who said the owners planned to make a $25,000 donation to the town for street improvements following the completion of the project.

Diane Fontana, president of the West Islip Chamber of Commerce, said she neither supported nor opposed the 7-Eleven, but urged residents to assess all the possibilities -- including the site remaining a blight -- before rising up in opposition.

"People have to understand: When they fight all these issues the end result is nothing gets done," Fontana said. "We go through this every time someone wants to build something. I understand the concern, but what is the alternative?"

But most residents were unconvinced.

"Is it a blight? Sure," said Philip J. Montgomery, a 33-year veteran of the Suffolk Police Department. "But a big business like that. It's going to suck the life out of all the mom-and-pop stores in the area."

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