Wendy’s is approved
ISLIP—At last Thursday’s Islip Change of Zone meeting, the town board approved another application from J. Nazzaro Partnership LP for a change of zone from Business 1 District to Business 3 District for a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant and drive-through. The site is on the south side of Montauk Highway across the street from Islip Middle School and high school and between Overton Funeral Home and a mobile home park.
The decision was heavily contested by many residents in attendance, who largely feared for the safety of students looking to cross the street to enter the establishment as well as quality-of-life issues for nearby neighbors.
The proposal to construct the 3700-square-foot restaurant with a drive-through was originally denied by the town board in March 2014. However, the applicant subsequently reapplied with a new plan that featured more buffer space, a lower decibel level for order speakers, fencing around the perimeter, a drive-through that could accommodate up to 17 vehicles, and two nearby crosswalks.
“We believe that traffic isn’t designated to change in any way,” said Steve Bertolino, the applicant’s East Islip-based attorney. “The state DOT reviewed this application twice, and said that they had no problems with traffic.”
Bertolino said that overall, the Wendy’s would be a welcome addition to the surrounding area.
“This particular area has a lot of different businesses that are either vacant buildings or are up for sale, and it’s been like that for some time,” said Bertolino, who noted that it would be located 68 feet from the closest mobile homes in the park. “This application is better than what’s there, and it’s better than having tenants that wouldn’t be able to control or have the resources to clean the lot, keep the sound down, and respond to the requests of the community as well as the boards that control and govern the community.
“We believe this is an improvement in this area of Islip that is somewhat undeveloped, and as it is developed, may not be in the best sense,” he continued, and also noted that Eric Buehler, managing director of Overton Funeral Home, had changed his prior opinion and is now in support of the project. “As a national tenant, Wendy’s is certainly in a position to maintain this property in a good, clean condition, free of debris, trash, smell and odors to the largest extent possible.”
According to Planning Commissioner Rich Zapolski, the restaurant would have 74 seats in addition to the drive-through. On behalf of the planning board, he recommended that the town board approve the application and suggested adding flashing school zone signs to alert passing vehicles of crossing pedestrians.
“We’d want to have more of a visual impact that allows people to know that people will be crossing the street at these locations,” said Zapolski.
The following public hearing featured a series of impassioned speeches against the application by nearby residents. The speakers cited a wide variety of concerns, including traffic, pedestrian safety (particularly students), noise and smell pollution, environmental impacts, insufficient buffer space, undesirable crowds, and negative effects on the character of the surrounding area.
“I’m very concerned about the safety of the Islip children,” said lifelong Islip resident Kay Erwood. “Children are unpredictable, and they’re not just in that area during school hours. I don’t care where Wendy’s goes. They can go anywhere, but this is not the place.”
Islip High School teacher Barbara Vouris also spoke out against the application.
“This is really putting everyone in harm’s way,” said Vouris. “I’ve heard all the statistics about traffic studies… and they don’t reflect what’s going on in the neighborhood.”
Kevin McEvoy spoke on behalf of those living in the nearby mobile park.
“I’m very upset that we’re here for a second time,” said McEvoy. “The homes that are along that property, they’ve been there for more than 75 years, and they have a right to stay where they are. This is wrong, it’s not fair to anybody, and if you vote in favor of this tonight, you are violating everyone here.”
Resident Barbara Ross questioned the factors influencing the board and urged the board to side with the community on this issue.
“We absolutely don’t need another burger place right here,” said Ross. “Our town board must vote in accordance with what the people represented here want—not what one or two well-to-do people want. You are all paid through our taxes and are obligated to do as we the majority request… It has been stopped already… please stop beating this issue and we the people to death and put it in a different location.”
In the end, the board approved the application by a vote of 4-0, with Supervisor Angie Carpenter abstaining.
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