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Proposed Hess gas station in Commack crosses another hurdle

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

A proposed 12-pump Hess gas station and convenience store in Commack has moved closer to reality, with the Smithtown Town board approving the project's site plan.

In a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, Smithtown officials approved plans for a 1,231-square-foot filling station on the southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike and Harned Road, as well as the demolition of an existing gas station and retail building there.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio and Councilman Edward Wehrheim opposed the plans.

"I thought the project was wrong from the very beginning, and I would not want to rubber-stamp . . . a site plan for its erection," said Vecchio in an interview. "I think it's a terribly dangerous corner, and I don't think it belongs there."

Wehrheim said he believed "there is a much better less intensive use that can be applied to that location."

Wehrheim said there are four other gas stations with convenience stores within 3,000 feet of Jericho Turnpike, and "although the state has declared that that's a well-designed intersection, I travel it quite a bit; and it's extremely busy."

The site is at a five-corner intersection that includes entrance and exit ramps for Sunken Meadow Parkway.

Town board members voted 3-2 in 2008 to reject Hess' proposal at the same location, but voted 3-2 in March 2012 to approve a zoning change, which allowed the convenience store to be built along with the gas station.

Smithtown Town Attorney John Zollo said Thursday that two lawsuits are pending in Suffolk County Supreme Court related to the Hess station. One action challenges the town board's decision to rezone the property, and a second challenges the town zoning board's granting of several variances for the project.

Councilman Robert Creighton said the gas station was "a very good project" and statistics of the site show it is "not a terribly dangerous intersection. It is like every other intersection -- when people violate the law it becomes a dangerous intersection."

Councilman Thomas McCarthy said the site plan process alleviated safety concerns about traffic crossing Jericho Turnpike and making a left turn. "I think the safety concerns were mitigated by the westbound traffic exiting to a traffic control signal," he said.

Hess can now apply for a town building permit, as well as county and state permits to begin construction since the site is on county and state roads, said town planning director Frank DeRubeis. An attorney for Hess did not immediately return a call for comment.

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