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Commack gas station foes to attend hearing

This is the southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike

This is the southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike and Harned Road in Commack, a five-road intersection where developers want to put a Hess gas station. (Feb. 10, 2012) Credit: Daniel Brennan

After failing in an earlier attempt to block a proposed Hess gas station in Commack, opponents hope Smithtown zoning officials stop other proposed modifications at the site and kill the project.

Neighbors of the proposed Hess on Jericho Turnpike plan to turn out Tuesday night at 7:30 for a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals at the town senior citizen center, 420 Middle Country Rd.

Hess, of Woodbridge, N.J., is seeking about 20 variances for larger signs, additional lighting and other changes for the proposed convenience store and 12-pump gas station. The station would be built on adjacent properties previously occupied by a Shell station and a window blinds store.

Supporters say Hess would improve the site, on the southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike and Harned Road, which has been empty since the Shell station closed eight years ago. The property is one of 20 parcels town officials have identified as eyesores that must be cleaned or replaced.

In a statement emailed to Newsday, a Hess spokeswoman said: "We are continuing to follow the process for developing the proposed Hess Express, and these variances are necessary for the site's layout to be suitable for a gas station-convenience store operation."

The Smithtown Town board in March voted 3-2 to approve a zoning change allowing the station. The site is at a five-corner intersection that includes entrance and exit ramps for Sunken Meadow Parkway.

Some opponents sued the town, seeking to overturn the vote. The lawsuit is pending.

They say Hess would pose a hazard for passing vehicles. "We're in favor of development, but not any kind of development," said Bruce Ettenberg, president of the Commack Community Association. "That's a bad corner to be on, especially a gas station."

Town planning officials have expressed concern about traffic safety and Hess' plans to install large signs at the site.

Hess officials and the properties' owners have said the intersection is safe and the gas station is a safe option.

"People still slow down at the intersection; and it's very well-regulated by the [traffic] signs," said Jacob Fayenson, of Fort Salonga, who owns the former Shell property and said he has made no money from the property since buying it after Shell left in 2004. "It's no more dangerous than any other intersection."

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