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Lowe's trims size of proposed Commack store

Hoping to reduce a hefty fee imposed by Suffolk County, the Lowe's home-improvement chain plans to downsize its proposed store at the site of the closed Commack movie theater complex, Smithtown Town officials said Thursday.

The company submitted revised plans Thursday for a 166,000-square-foot store -- down from 188,000 square feet in its previous proposal, said town planning director Frank DeRubeis.

The move to reduce floor space by more than 11 percent was made to cut a $680,000 impact fee that was to be levied by the Suffolk Department of Public Works, Smithtown officials said. After reducing the floor plan, Lowe's would owe about half that amount, the officials said.

The fee covers the costs of improvements to two county highways -- Crooked Hill and Commack roads -- near the Lowe's site, a county spokeswoman said. County Public Works Commissioner Gil Anderson did not return calls seeking comment.

In an email, a Lowe's spokeswoman said: "Lowe's is still within the approval process for this particular location. As you may know, the real estate process can be long and sometimes complicated, and anything can happen with this process. For that reason, it is our policy not to comment on sites until all matters have been closed."

The 20-acre site, just west of Sagtikos Parkway and visible from the Long Island Expressway, has been vacant for 13 months, since the Commack Multiplex closed after almost 30 years in business. Plans for Lowe's to purchase the site for a reported $13 million were announced in May 2010.

"Right now, there's a terrible old abandoned theater there," Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said. "I think it's a wonderful proposal for that site."

The town planning board could vote on the proposed store at its Nov. 7 meeting, and the town board might approve it by the end of the year, Vecchio said.

Lowe's paid the town a $50,000 site-plan fee in February.

In addition to town board approval, the project must be OKd by the town building and engineering departments and the county health department, Vecchio said. Lowe's hopes to begin construction next spring, DeRubeis said.

Lowe's has agreed to buy and maintain Henry Street, an access road to the theater property between Crooked Hill and Commack roads that has fallen into disrepair since the theater closed, DeRubeis said.

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