Written by Rich Forestano: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 30 March 2012 00:00
The last time the board of trustees denied 7-Eleven Inc. the chance to plant its flag in the village, court proceedings ensued en route to the store finally opening on the corner of Mineola Boulevard and Jericho Turnpike.
The board, on March 14, unanimously rejected another proposal that would see a second 7-Eleven storefront grace Mineola’s doorstep, this time at 400 East Jericho Turnpike. The store would have been built just one mile away from the already existing 7-Eleven.
Nine years ago, Mineola was locked in legal debates with 7-Eleven over the current store, which now sits a hop, skip and jump away from Village Hall. Harlen Associates (HA) planned to build that store, but the board denied that application.
HA contended that the board arbitrarily denied its permit based solely on community opposition. In turn, HA filed an Article 78, which serves as a device to challenge the activities of an administrative agency in court, and they succeeded.
“The building department has issued all the required permits so that [HA] could begin construction on the site,” trustee Larry Werther said at the March 14 meeting, reading from a June 13, 2003 issue of the Mineola American. “The board turned down the application, but the decision was overturned in court.”
Alfred Amato of Garden City-based Amato Law Group represents 7-Eleven. He could not be reached for comment.
In a surprising statement, Werther said, “If I was a betting person, I would believe Mr. Amato, who represents 7-Eleven, would be filing an Article 78 to take us to court on this. 7-Eleven has exceptionally deep pockets.”
Village Attorney John Spellman cited numerous findings of the board, including but not limited to traffic hazards, insufficient delivery space and village residents on Jay Court, who would be heavily impacted by the proposed store. Jay Court homeowners were out in full force in November to oppose the project.
“We’ve involved in the past 27 years, at least since I’ve been village attorney, numerous Article 78 proceedings,” Spellman interjected. “Generally speaking, if a court sets aside the decision of a board, particularly with the respect to land use, it will remand the matter to the board for a decision conforming to the court’s ruling.”
The scope of the project and the impact that it would have on the residents and traffic on one of Nassau County’s busiest and dangerous roads is still ever prevalent. Village officials could not find reason to grant the convenience store powerhouse its second landing spot in Mineola.
“The decision I made was based on what was before us, not what a previous board did and I certainly understand trustee Werther’s concerns, but I’m basing my decision on living in this community for 35 years and the testimonies at these hearings and not in the [past] hearings of the store on Mineola Boulevard and Jericho [Turnpike],” trustee Paul Pereira said.
According to documents obtained by the Mineola American, building inspectors determined that the proposed application is contrary to village zoning regulations. The Nassau County Planning Commission weighed in and backed whatever decision Mineola makes.
Jay Court stands to suffer the most if a store is built. The report stated vehicles entering the site from the residential street faces a potential gauntlet of oncoming cars and parked vehicles backing out of spaces, blocking paths.
“I don’t care if it’s a 7-Eleven or a sole proprietor,” Pereira protested. “I’m not going to be bullied by deep pockets. I’m going to do what’s right for the residents of this village.”
The report read that residents abutting the property have only one entrance/exit along the entire stretch of Jericho Turnpike and as well as north to Hillside Avenue. Furthermore, the street is sandwiched between major roadways that have approximately “30-to-40,000 vehicles on a daily basis.”
Spellman concluded that this time around, the case is “more defensible” since the findings indicate that the placement of the store is dangerous. The property is tucked away behind office buildings.
“The 7-Eleven on the corner of Mineola Boulevard and Jericho Turnpike was already a convenience store and a gas station,” Spellman said. “They sought to establish a 7-Eleven there with the position of the board at the time that a gas station was the principle use of the site…the board had the right to determine the appropriate use of the site.”