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Canon works with Melville community to iron out traffic concerns

The Canon USA headquarters looms above nearby homes

The Canon USA headquarters looms above nearby homes in Melville, where traffic has been one of the concerns for neighbors. (July 31, 2013) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Canon, the camera and imaging giant that last summer made Melville its new North and South American home, is settling in nicely after a bumpy start with neighbors.

Residents who were dismayed over the project and the responses to their concerns about traffic, noise and light pollution, now say Canon is working to be a good neighbor.

"It was built before infrastructure issues were addressed, when it should have been built after or not at all," said Alissa Sue Taff, president of the Sweet Hollow Civic Association. "But since they arrived, they have been working with us. The relationship is much better."

Seymour Liebman, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel for Canon U.S.A. Inc., said the company wants to work with the community.

He said Canon has held several meetings with the civic association to discuss "how we can work together on issues that impact our community," Liebman said.

But traffic concerns linger. To address that, the Town of Huntington has greenlighted a $59,980 study to evaluate traffic near Canon, which opened in July at Walt Whitman Road and the Long Island Expressway's south service road. The study is being funded through a $1.3 million development impact fee Canon gave to the town before construction.

All sides hope the study puts into place a solution. Town Supervisor Frank Petrone and Taff say widening the Walt Whitman Bridge over the LIE would help. Liebman said Canon would join in lobbying for funds needed to broaden the bridge.

Liebman outlined other changes Canon has implemented in response to community concerns, including directional lane signage in front of Canon to help make traffic flow more safely; donated land at the South Service Road and Walt Whitman Road for the extra lane onto Walt Whitman Road to alleviate congestion; and prohibiting a left turn onto Walt Whitman Road during all hours from Canon.

Canon has also established limits on the hours that its buildings are lit during the business week. Every night, shades on the south side of the building are lowered to prevent light from disturbing neighboring homes.

Town board member Mark Cuthbertson said Canon has had a tremendous economic impact in the town and said the town will continue to look at the other impacts, such as traffic in that area, using the funds Canon has provided. It's important to stay on the "cutting edge" of the evolving workplace, he said.

"The vision for Melville is to keep it the number one employment center for Long Island and keep it as viable as possible," Cuthbertson said. "We want to make sure we are looking at all of the challenges a business area like that will face."

David Calone, Suffolk County planning commissioner, said cooperation among municipalities, communities, and companies and developers is ultimately for the greater good.

"Upfront dialogue is critical in order to find common ground between what is desirable to the community which has to live next to a project and what is feasible for a developer which has to take the financial risk to build the project," Calone said.

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