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Lawsuit targets would be 7-Eleven in Centerport

A Centerport civic association, three residents and a

A Centerport civic association, three residents and a business owner have sued Huntington Town's Zoning Board of Appeals, after it approved 7-Eleven's application to build a store in place of a longtime auto shop in the hamlet. (June 24, 2013) Credit: Barry Sloan

A Centerport civic association, three residents and a business owner have sued Huntington Town's Zoning Board of Appeals, after it approved 7-Eleven's application to build a store in place of a longtime auto shop in the hamlet.

"The zoning board didn't do a proper environmental review that is required by the law of the state of New York," said Huntington lawyer Darrin Berger, who represents the plaintiffs. Residents Ronald Pickerell, Steven Goldstein and Gerald McCarthy, business owner Saumil Gandhi and the Centerport Civic Association are also suing the Town of Huntington, 7-Eleven, the property owners and the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

The suit, filed July 11 in Riverhead, says the ZBA did not comply with some State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) procedures, so the special permit and variance granted are "void and . . . unauthorized," and should both be annulled.

Officials for 7-Eleven, which wants to build a new free-standing store at Route 25A and Little Neck Road, said the company has no comment about the case.

ZBA attorney James Matthews said the board complied with SEQRA procedures, but the suit "unearthed a few things [that] could have been done differently."

Matthews said 7-Eleven was required to complete an Environmental Assessment Form, which has a short and long form. 7-Eleven filed a short form, but should have filed a long form because of the site's proximity to a historic site, he said. Still, he said, the form filed was "sufficient under the law."

The suit also says the ZBA did not comply with the "substantive requirements of SEQRA," which include traffic and architecture concerns. Matthews said several traffic studies were completed, including one by someone hired by the ZBA.

He said the board addressed these issues by approving the application with several restrictions, such as requiring the use of smaller box trucks and prohibiting certain hours for deliveries.

Brian Rathgaber and Shawn Meaney own the automotive shop, formerly a gas station, and signed a deal with 7-Eleven in May 2010. The corporation submitted its pre-application to the town the following April.

"I am not overly concerned about this challenge," said Woodbury attorney Thomas Abbate, who represents Rathgaber. "I think the ZBA did everything by the book."

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone would not comment because of the pending litigation, town spokesman A.J. Carter said.

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