11/14/11 6:08pm
11/14/2011 6:08 PM

BETH YOUNG FILE PHOTO | The Southold Town Planning Board voted to allow the Mattituck 7-Eleven to open before the state DOT does required road work at its meeting Monday..

The new Mattituck 7-Eleven could be open by Thanksgiving, after the Southold Planning Board unanimously approved amendments to the project’s site plan Monday night.

The convenience store had initially been scheduled to open earlier this fall, but the property’s owners and the franchisee who will run the store discovered in mid-October that work that had been slated to be done by the state Department of Transportation as a condition of the site plan approval had not been scheduled to be done until next spring.

That work includes the removal of a telephone pole at the corner of Factory Avenue and Route 25, and pushing back the curb at that corner to allow vehicles with wide turning radiuses to make the turn at that intersection.

Franchisee Tony Cocheo, who runs the Southold 7-Eleven and was chosen this summer to run the Mattituck store, had hired eight employees and was training them at his Southold store when he discovered the Mattituck 7-Eleven might not be able to open until spring. He’s spent the past month pleading with the Planning Board to allow him to open sooner. Otherwise, he said, he would need to lay off workers and would have to pay rent on the property through the winter months without being able to open for business.

Southold Planning Director Heather Lanza said Monday night that her office was in touch Monday with DOT officials, who assured her they would do their work by the spring.

“They were very helpful,” she said. “We’re confident the DOT is on the ball and ready to roll.”

“Our staff is willing to go down and do their inspection as soon as they can,” Planning Board member Don Wilcenski told Mr. Cocheo after the meeting.

The Planning Board’s approval Monday requires that 7-Eleven put up a performance bond equal to the cost of the work if the DOT does not begin work before May 1, 2012.

7-Eleven employee Casandre Wilcox, whom Mr. Cocheo hired to work in the Mattituck store, sat patiently with her baby through more than three hours of Planning Board hearings to listen to the decision.

“I’m psyched,” she said afterward.

7-Eleven’s attorney, Patricia Moore, said her clients need to take care of a few small items on their site plan before the final inspection, including removing a broken tree limb behind the store that broke off in a recent storm, repairing some striping in the parking lot that was covered when the Suffolk County Water Authority did some work there, and placing a light in front of the store to illuminate the 7-Eleven sign.

Mr. Cocheo said he hopes the store will be open by Thanksgiving.

byoung@timesreview.com

11/01/11 8:37am
11/01/2011 8:37 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | The Southold Town Planning Board could vote on allowing the Mattituck 7-Eleven to open before the state DOT does required road work at a Nov. 14 meeting.

After some harsh words for the developers of the Mattituck 7-Eleven site, Southold Town Planning Board members seemed poised to allow them to open for business after a work session Monday night.

The board will likely vote on the matter in two weeks.

The convenience store was slated to open in early November, but the state Department of Transportation was to remove a telephone pole and do some road improvement work at the intersection of Factory Avenue and Route 25 before the opening.

7-Eleven representatives found out just recently that the DOT has not scheduled to do the work until spring.

The developers approached the Planning Board two weeks ago asking for help, but were only able to speak briefly because they were not on the agenda.

Chairman Martin Sidor told 7-Eleven attorney Patricia Moore this Monday that he took issue with her insinuation two weeks ago that the board was anti-business.

“As much as I respect you, Pat, for what you do for your clients, this one I’m going to give you some pushback about us being anti-business and all that garbage,” he said. “I do understand the business of it. There are situations on my farm where I need to do my homework. If I need parts, I need to know they’re there. Everyone knew up front what was expected. You came to us at the 11th hour and said ‘We need help.’”

“Sometimes I have to put money up front for something that I don’t need to keep the operation flowing and not have a stop or a hiccup,” he added.

Ms. Moore and 7-Eleven representatives, including property owner George Abi Zeid and franchisee Tony Cocheo, who runs the Southold 7-Eleven and will also run the Mattituck store, told the board that contractors building the store did not receive a work permit from the DOT until September, and could not begin to schedule that road work until they had the permit in hand.

Planning Board members were skeptical.

“George, do you have other commercial properties? Anybody who does any commercial work, one of the first priorities is to get utilities and DOT out of the way because they can hold up the process,” said Planning Board member Don Wilcenski.

Ms. Moore said they had believed until recently that the DOT would do the work this fall.

“Yeah, it would be nice if we had a crystal ball that could have anticipated that,” she said, adding that there’s very little time left this year that the DOT could do the work if it was rescheduled for earlier, because asphalt plants close when the temperature dips below freezing.

Mr. Abi Zeid said he’d recently received a clear letter from the DOT stating there were no issues with going ahead with the work, only to find out it had not been budgeted until the spring.

“None of us anticipated the DOT would delay the project,” he said. “We don’t know, maybe DOT has other priorities.”

Though many residents decried the 7-Eleven when it was originally proposed, citing traffic concerns, the developers said Monday that they believe the store will be safe if it opens now without the road work done.

Mr. Abi Zeid said he gave the small portion of the corner of his property where the telephone pole stands to the state in order to make it easier for trucks to negotiate the turn, not to make the intersection safer for the general public.

Mr. Abi Zeid said that, once the property is ready to open, he will turn it over to Mr. Cocheo, who will pay rent regardless of whether the store can open.

Mr. Cocheo, who is the president of the Southold Business Alliance, said he paid $100,000 up front to become the franchisee at the Mattituck store, and he has been training eight employees in his Southold store until they can begin work in Mattituck. He said he will likely now have to lay off those workers.

“From the standpoint of a local businessman who lives in the community … what I’m asking for is help from all of you, not for me to have the hardship of waiting months,” he said. “7-Eleven tells me I run the cleanest store with the highest standards in Suffolk County. I’m gonna have to lay off employees. This is a tremendous financial problem for us. None of us seem to have any control over the DOT.”

Mr. Sidor said his board has been made out to be the bad guys by community members who oppose the convenience store, and he believes the Planning Board will be demonized if they allow the store to open without the road work being done.

“We’re in a dilemma right now and I don’t feel like it’s our fault,” he said. “I’ve done all due diligence here but we still have the dilemma of how do we enforce our site plan?”

Planners asked the developers to provide information from the DOT and from their traffic study proving that the lack of work on the road won’t pose a safety hazard, and agreed to schedule the final site inspection of the property before they vote on allowing the store to open at their Nov. 14 meeting.

byoung@timesreview.com