Update: Town of Hempstead Councilman Anthony D'Esposito told the Herald that the Board of Zoning Appeals has voted to remove the curbcut at the 7-Eleven.
Nearly a dozen residents appeared at the Town of Hempstead Board of Zoning appeals meeting on Jan. 30 to voice their concerns about the impact that the driveway of a new 7-Eleven, being built at 4535 Austin Blvd., would have on traffic and safety.
The board listened to several residents’ comments about the driveway, which would direct cars onto California Place South, a road that is already burdened by heavy traffic. In addition, the curb cut would cause an increase in traffic coming from California Place South onto Austin Boulevard, because one of the driveways of Starbucks, at 4507 Austin Blvd., would be directly across from the 7-Eleven driveway.
“We all pretty much have the same concerns,” Oceanside resident Patti Munro Ambrosia told the Herald after the meeting. “It’s all about traffic and safety. It’s unsafe not only for California Place South, but for everybody that’s leaving the area.”
Munro Ambrosia was one of many residents who opposed the construction of the driveway. She said the community was not against the 7-Eleven, even though there are many others in the area, but wanted developers to re-consider the curb cut. She noted that there is a second driveway, which leads to Austin Boulevard, that would notcause as many problems.
Officials and attorneys representing Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead attended the meeting. Though California Road South is a town road, the county approved plans for the 7-Eleven because Austin Boulevard is a county road.
County spokeswoman Mary Studdert said that County Executive Laura Curran was working on a solution. “The county executive’s top priority is always the health and safety of our residents,” Studdert said. “We are currently in communication with our government partners regarding this location.”
Town spokesman Mi-hael Fricchione said that a stop work order was issued on the site on Dec. 17 amid backlash from residents about the driveway. The board did not reach a decision about the curb cut at its meeting, but officials assured residents that they would investigate the matter further.
County Legislator Denise Ford said the county’s traffic and engineering department deemed that the driveway should not be installed, but reached that conclusion after building permits were issued. Ford said she attended the meeting to show her support for having the driveway removed, adding that California Place South is a narrow road, and that the existing driveway at Starbucks could cause traffic tie-ups that would impact both South California Place and Austin Boulevard.
“My concern is, somebody could get stuck on Austin Boulevard and possibly get hit by northbound cars because of traffic being backed up from the driveway,” Ford said. “I don’t think that this is a good plan, and I agree with my traffic engineers who indicated that the curb cut should be removed.”
There are many 7-Elevens in the area. There are four stores within a three-mile stretch of road from Oceanside to Long Beach, and there is a fifth nearby on Lawson Boulevard. The Austin Boulevard site in Island Park will be the sixth, and while Munro Ambrosia said that many residents have said they would rather see another business at the location, she noted that their concerns mostly pertain to the driveway. The five current 7-Elevens include one on Atlantic Avenue, another on Lawson, one on Long Beach Road, another on Austin Boulevard and yet another on Long Beach Boulevard in Long Beach.
“I try to remain positive, and I hope that 7-Eleven is going to be a good neighbor and remove the driveway from California Place South,” Munro Ambrosia said, adding that the store on Long Beach Road uses one driveway as both an entrance and exit, which she said she hoped would inspire the Austin Boulevard operators to do the same.
The 7-Eleven is being built on an area that has been vacant for more than 15 years. The county, and representatives of 7-Eleven, completed traffic studies about three years ago and determined that there would be no issues with the driveway. Resident Kelly Ann Foster said that those traffic studies were not enough.
“7-Eleven feels that their one-day traffic study in early April 2016 should suffice, since their plans were not challenged in a more timely manner by the county and town,” Foster said. “They spent a million dollars building thus far and are determined to have their profit.”
Munro Ambrosia said it was good to see development at the Austin Boulevard site after it was vacant for so many years, but reiterated her concerns about the driveway. “We want a business there,” she said. “We would rather a business than an empty store. It’s 7-Eleven, OK, that’s fine, but they have to be a good neighbor.”