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Zoning board OKs 7-Eleven for Centerport

Brian Rathgaber at his auto repair shop in

Brian Rathgaber at his auto repair shop in Centerport. (May 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals has approved an application from 7-Eleven to build a stand-alone store in Centerport, after the proposal divided residents in the small North Shore hamlet.

At a meeting Thursday, the zoning board members voted unanimously to OK the application, but with conditions. Zoning board chairman Christopher Modelewski said he wanted to make it "abundantly clear" that this special permit is being issued for a limited time.

The plan to build a 7-Eleven in place of a longtime auto shop in Centerport has brought dozens to past zoning board meetings, with some raising concerns about increased traffic at the busy intersection and others favoring the convenience store.

Modelewski said 7-Eleven will be required to reappear in front of the board 12 to 15 months after its certificate of occupancy is issued to make sure the corporation is complying with the conditions.

"We reserve the right to continue or revoke the permit," he said.

Deliveries will be prohibited from 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. and the company must use smaller box trucks, rather than tractor trailers, for deliveries. Drivers on Route 25A will be able to enter and exit via right-hand turns only. The installation of a traffic island will be required to enforce this.

The conditions were termed "reasonable" by Woodbury attorney Thomas Abbate, who represents Brian Rathgaber, one of the auto shop's owners and a co-owner of the proposed 7-Eleven store.

"I feel good about it," Rathgaber said. "I hope the community will be happy with it in the long run . . . I think it is an improvement on the corner."

7-Eleven said in a statement it is "pleased" with the decision, "which allows us to proceed to the next step in the permitting process."

The company said it could not comment further until it receives the written ZBA decision with the final conditions of approval. 7-Eleven is suing Huntington Town over new rules for stand-alone convenience stores, saying they will "greatly impact 7-Eleven's ability to construct new free-standing stores," according to court documents.

Rathgaber and co-owner Shawn Meaney signed a deal with 7-Eleven in May 2010. The corporation submitted its pre-application to the town the following April; about two months later, the town board approved a code change that imposed new regulations on applications for free-standing convenience stores.

The new regulations include several requirements, such as a special-use permit from the zoning board and a minimum lot size of 25,000 square feet, according to town documents.

Before the changes, 7-Eleven would have been permitted to build a store there without appearing in front of the zoning board, according to a company statement.

7-Eleven's application goes next to the town planning board.

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