A proposal to put a 7-Eleven convenience store at Vinland Commons in Aquebogue was met with opposition from residents at Tuesday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting.
A petition signed by 32 residents opposing the plan was presented to the Town Board, the Town Clerk’s office received seven letters in opposition to it, and there were five people speaking against at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We oppose the proposed 7-Eleven store at Vinland Commons because of the threat to a highly valued community-oriented lifestyle,” said Aquebogue resident Marie Denise LeBrun, who lives near the proposed store.
The quality of life issues she cited include the “unsuitable location” next to a preschool and a martial arts center attended by children, the threat of “increased crime and transiency,” the “drain on public infrastructure,” such as roads, police, and lower emergency response time, gridlocked traffic, diminished property values and an over-saturation of the market.
She added that 7-Elevens depend on the sale of alcohol and junk food and can become magnets for loitering disturbances and crime.
“Convenience stores generally bring people into the area that really shouldn’t be in a residential area,” neighbor Patrick Foley said Tuesday.
“This happened because the town lost a court case,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said, adding that the Town Board already has authorized an appeal of that ruling.
Vinland Commons sued Riverhead Town in 2014 after the town denied a building permit for a convenience store on the property.
The town nixed the proposal because retail wasn’t allowed under the site’s zoning, which had been changed as part of the town’s 2004 master plan update. Vinland then sued the town in an attempt to overturn that ruling.
It claimed that retail uses have existed on the property before and after the 2004 rezoning, and that the town in 2005 even issued a permit to allow a new retail use there.
A state supreme court judge agreed with Vinland, and in October, ruled in their favor, giving the town 45 days to process a new building permit for the convenience story.
Mr. Walter says the town also will propose a ban on 24-hour operations in the hamlets like Aquebogue. The 24-hour ban is already in effect in Wading River, a law that was adopted at a time when a 7-Eleven was being proposed there in 1980s.
No one from Vinland Commons was present at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, but Vinland principal Clete Galasso said by email Saturday, “My brothers, myself and our business partner John White currently own and operate various local businesses. All our properties are kept in above-average condition and we will make certain 7-Eleven will not be an exception to our standards.”
He said “small business is the back bone of our great nation,” and that
“Town Hall should be using its resources and efforts to close down drug dealers and slum lords, not the hard working honest business owners who create jobs and are an asset to the community.”
Photo: Clete Galasso has applied for a use permit to put a 7 Eleven into the former Arlines shop in the Vinland Commons shoppping center on the Main Road in Aquebogue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch Photo)