An old, derelict repair garage that has remained vacant in Commack for more than 15 years will become a restaurant specializing in hamburgers.
Smithtown Town Board members acting as the board of site plan review unanimously approved the site plan Tuesday.
Town board members voted 5-0 to approve a plan by Burger Station LLC for a change of use from filling station to a restaurant at the southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike (Route 25) and Veterans Highway (Route 454).
“It’s a beautiful site on a derelict piece of property .?.?. and it’s right at the entrance of Smithtown,” said Councilman Thomas McCarthy. “It’s going to improve the characteristic of the surrounding area.”
Mark Mancini, a Smithtown architect working on the new structure, said it will encompass 2,600 square feet and offer 35 seats of indoor dining. “I see this as becoming a landmark in Commack,” he said.
Mancini tried unsuccessfully last spring to persuade the town board to amend its code to allow outdoor dining in areas zoned wholesale and service industry in which restaurants are permitted.
“To me, if you are going to allow restaurants in this zoning, you should allow outdoor dining,” Mancini said at the time. “If the restaurant was in the central business zone in Smithtown, there would be no issue for having outdoor dining at all.”
In October 2012, outdoor dining was permitted as a matter of right, not as a special exception, in the central business zone, said Assistant Town Planning director David Flynn. He said the town's approval three years ago of a special exception for outdoor dining in a WSI zone on the south side of Jericho Turnpike was a mistake.
Flynn said last year that since 1984 the department has allowed outdoor dining through a special exception in specific zones, and only for sit-down restaurants. At that time, “nobody was calling for outdoor dining in a Jericho Turnpike situation, with cars whizzing by at 40 mph,” Flynn said. “People envisioned outdoor dining in pedestrian-oriented downtown areas.”
Mancini, who is also president of the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce, said he would press forward with the project without the outdoor seating. “Hopefully, someday, they’ll allow businesses to grow in Smithtown,” he said, adding that the restaurant is slated to open this summer.