Supporters of the proposed Stop & Shop on the corner of Main Street and Motor Avenue show off promotional items handed out by the company's public relations firm.
They came in droves. Supporters. Opponents. Even those who hadn't yet devised an opinion on the proposed Stop & Shop on the corner of Main Street and Motor Avenue in Farmingdale.
At the Nov. 16 hearing held by the Town of Oyster Bay, Supervisor John Venditto rang the opening bell, so to speak, by laying down some ground rules for a standing room only crowd to follow throughout the hearing.
"Nobody knows what the outcome of tonight's hearing is going to be, but one thing is for certain; everyone will get a full and fair opportunity to be heard, no matter what your position is," Venditto explained from a table set up on the stage of Howitt's auditorium.
The first person to address the board was Howard Avrutine, a lawyer for one of the applicants, Cubbies Properties, Inc., who wishes to build a Stop & Shop Supermarket and fueling facility on the northwest corner of the Liberty Site.
"I am happy to say that the folks of the Farmingdale community have come out tonight in huge numbers for the support of this application for this Stop & Shop," Avrutine said.
Avrutine then asked the audience members in favor of the proposal to voice their support to the board. Hundreds of individuals wearing green and gold "Say Yes to Stop & Shop" hats began applauding and waving similarly outfitted flags, distributed by the company's public relations firm.
"I wanted to let you know right off the bat what the community's feeling was on this," Avrutine continued.
Venditto responded by noting the audience's approval and quipped that the audience "appears to be well fed." Apparently, Stop & Shop set up free spaghetti dinners at a few Farmingdale locations and offered attendees gift certificates prior to the meeting.
Venditto, a North Massapequa resident whose children attend the Farmingdale school district, said that "one thing I will tell you about Farmingdale is that it speaks for itself."
"They know exactly what's going on in their community and initial round of applause was impressive," Venditto said.
Avrutine went on to introduce the proposers, saying that his client was applying for a special use permit in order to develop on the subject premises a Stop & Shop Supermarket with a pharmacy drive-through-window as well as a retail fueling facility. He acknowledged that the proposed building would occur on the Liberty Site, a United States Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site, which has been under public scrutiny for years.
Venditto then interjected on a personal note about the progress of the Liberty Site, stating that when he became town supervisor in 1998, he, along with others, were afraid to drink the water.
"We even kind of made a detour when we walked near the park for fear that we might start glowing," Venditto reflected. "In six years we've come a long way. I'd have to say that without the actions of this board, but more importantly the residents of the Farmingdale community, let's not kid ourselves, none of this would have happened."
Avrutine responded by saying the addition of the supermarket could eliminate the existing eyesore and become a wonderful addition to the community.
According to Avrutine, in November of 2000 a special use permit was filed with the Town of Oyster Bay. The town stated that an exhaustive and extensive environmental review be conducted at the applicant's sole cost of expense in connection with the proposal. Subsequently, a final document was prepared in regard to the potential environmental impacts. A draft environmental impact statement was filed in February of 2002.
"At that time the application was modified from the original application in 2000," Avrutine explained. "The applicant reduced the size of that portion of the property in the application from 8.83 acres to 8.7 acres."
Other modifications were made to the application and it was then resubmitted in November 2002. On Jan. 22, 2003 the town held a public hearing in order to obtain public comment. Thereafter, a final environmental impact statement was then filed in September of 2003 to address the comments received by the public. A revised final environmental impact statement, reflecting changes made by the panel's technical staff was resubmitted in April of 2004. This last submission brings the issue to current status, the night of the hearing. Avrutine said this hearing has two purposes.
"To consider the application for the special use permit and site plan approval and to receive further comment in connection with the final environmental impact statement," Avrutine said.
The plans include the addition of a fueling facility at the eastern section of the property. Avrutine said there would be six fuel positions and would be manned at all times, well lighted and operate under the same hours as the Stop & Shop store.
"The structures on the subject parcel will be demolished and after the demolition, the new store, fueling facility and parking field would be built," Avrutine said. "Over 23 percent of the site will be dedicated to landscaped areas. The plan meets and exceeds all requirements of the town's zoning laws except for vehicle queing at the drive-through-window."
The revised site plan addressed concerns and recommendations and other modifications were made. The town code requires 409 parking spaces, however, the site plan provides for 424, with 26 land bank stalls. There would be no vending or ATM machines outside of the store, Stop & Shop would be responsible for the policing of litter, PeaPod trucks would not be stored on the site and delivery trucks would not be left idling on the site and Stop & Shop would bear the cost of "Children at Play" signs in the area. Construction would last approximately 10 months and would be completed between the hours of 7 a.m.-8 p.m., six days a week. The store itself would operate from 6 a.m.-midnight, seven days a week. The building portion of this project would create approximately 500 union construction jobs and the store itself would provide 150-175 full and part-time permanent jobs.
Wayne Muller, a traffic engineer for RMS Engineering, began by addressing traffic concerns. He described studies that were performed in the roadways surrounding the proposed Stop & Shop.
Muller said four separate observations were made of the area and the analysis said it would be impacted, however, they would hope to mitigate problems to the best of their ability. He specifically mentioned the intersections of Route 109 and Main Street, Motor Avenue and Main Street and Merritts Road and Motor Avenue.
"We scored the measures in which we could improve the operation of those intersections," Muller said. "At the intersection of Motor Avenue and Main Street what we propose is to install northbound turning arrows to improve the traffic flow in the road. In order to get that traffic off Motor Avenue, we propose eastbound left turn arrows onto Main Street. We believe that this will improve the traffic situation."
In addition, Muller suggested adjusting the traffic signal timings onto Motor Avenue to accommodate a heavier flow of traffic. Councilman Macagnone broached the issue of truck deliveries down Motor Avenue, in front of Allen Park. Muller said that a specific route would be set that would involve taking Hempstead Turnpike to Route 109 to Main Street to Motor Avenue.
"We would also install continuous two-way left turn lanes along that stretch of Motor Avenue," Muller said.
Venditto thanked Muller for a "very intelligent presentation" and mentioned to the board that everything being said was on the record and that "if the board decided to grant the proposal, each idea and suggestion would be a part of the grant."
Nancy Stenger, a member of the organization Citizens for a New Liberty (CFNL), testified on behalf of Stop & Shop. A Farmingdale resident for 13 years, Stenger said "this isn't just about alleviating an eyesore. We believe Stop & Shop will create a first-rate shopping store for our community.
According to Stenger, 1,045 households in Farmingdale are members of CFNL as of Nov. 1.
"Those are staunch supporters of this project," Stenger said.
Before breaking for a brief intermission, Venditto commented that "you have to be impressed by the effort that is being made on both sides."
Mike Grello, president of Concerned Citizens of Farmingdale (CCAF) began an in-depth presentation that included various documents, research and charts. Grello, who lives on Motor Avenue, said the project has "substantial negative impacts."
After rhetorically asking the board, "do we really need another supermarket in Farmingdale", Grello went on to list the existing supermarkets within 1.5 miles of the proposed Stop & Shop area. He also stated there are 24 gas stations within a 1.3-mile radius. He said that the jobs it will bring in aren't significant.
"A supermarket does not bring in any jobs in the community," Grello said. "We're creating jobs that get us nowhere."
As far as the traffic issue was concerned Grello said that the problem wouldn't be relieved by traffic signal alterations.
"Every time you change the timing of a light, you change the flow of traffic," Grello said.
In response to Stop & Shop holding a free rally dinner prior to the hearing, Grello said, "I'm glad I'm not bought and paid for. I do all of my community service for free."
Virginia McDonald addressed the board by stating she was not bought and paid for.
"I believe in shopping in my area and improving my community," McDonald said.
Frank Bondietti, a Farmingdale resident for 50 years, said he 'believes it will be a tremendous asset to the community." Another member of the building trades union said "'Stop & Shop has always been a friend to building and labor and will bring jobs."
Diane Blanchard has been involved with the Liberty Site clean up for the past few years.
"I don't think our efforts deserve a super Stop & Shop," Blanchard said.
While Irene Mandra, a 45-year Farmingdale resident said she thinks the community is in need of a comprehensive supermarket.
"It would clean that section of Motor Avenue that looks like a war zone," Mandra said.
Staying true to his word, Venditto allowed both the parties involved with the applicants and each resident who wished to convey their message, have their chance at the podium. By the time all was said and done it was 2 a.m. and meeting-goers were growing drowsy in their seats. A Town of Oyster Bay representative estimated about 1,000 people were in attendance.
The hearing came to a close when Town Consultants Hal Mayer and John Ellsworth said the Town of Oyster Bay is still completing environmental studies and that a decision cannot be made for another three to four months. Venditto chimed in that realistically it would probably be closer to six months.
"The length of time that it takes us to make a decision depends on the decision we make," Venditto said.