By Andrew Wroblewski
Heavy traffic at the intersection of Imperial Gate and Commack Road is already an issue for Dix Hills residents like Amanda Roth, who usually uses the intersection to access her neighborhood.
“We saw a huge increase in traffic again over the holidays – gridlock and continued accidents – and we’re still concerned for public safety,” Roth, 35, said Monday.
And now she’s concerned it’s going to get worse after the Smithtown Town Board unanimously approved a plan Jan. 5 to build a 4,876-square-foot Chick-fil-A restaurant and a 10,870-square-foot shopping center adjacent to Imperial Gate on Commack Road in Commack. The development will replace two existing vacant buildings.
While the property falls on the Smithtown side of the town line, it could have significant traffic and quality-of-life impacts on Town of Huntington residents, such as Roth, who was one of many Huntington residents to voice concerns at a Smithtown zoning board meeting last June.
Through the approval process, Smithtown and county officials have addressed some community concerns, particularly by eliminating plans for outdoor dining at Chick-fil-A; increasing the restaurant’s drive-thru queuing capacity; and pushing the plan 25 feet to the east to create a bigger buffer between the restaurant and the Commack Road sidewalk.
The larger queuing lane was cited as a perk by Gilbert Anderson, Suffolk’s commissioner of public works, who had written to Smithtown officials last year with concerns. He said the area is of “big concern” to the county in terms of traffic.
“We’re comfortable – the amount of spacing that they have on their site should be enough to handle” traffic, Anderson said Monday. “Is there a possibility that it could spill out [onto Commack Road]? There’s always a possibility, but we’ve got significant amount of ability to get cars off the road, and store them within the site.”
Anderson said there are plans to use local law enforcement to ease traffic, should it spill out onto Commack Road.
A traffic assessment was conducted by Huntington-based RMS Engineering, and stated “the traffic generated by the proposed project will not have a significant impact on the surrounding roadway network.”
However, Roth said she and her neighbors remain unsatisfied. The assessment was a “trip generation study” and not an in-depth “traffic study,” she said.
“As a neighborhood, we were optimistic that the town board of Smithtown would take our concerns seriously and really examine traffic conditions of the area, and they didn’t,” Roth said. “We’re very disappointed.”
Town of Huntington officials also are not completely satisfied.
Speaking specifically about the proposed Chick-fil-A, town spokesman A.J. Carter said in an emailed statement Monday that the town “appreciates that the Smithtown board did not allow outdoor dining and made an attempt to reduce one of the potential traffic impacts on Commack Road,” but Huntington officials “are disappointed that Smithtown did not accede to Huntington’s request to move the order board to reduce the noise effect on residents who live on the west side of Commack Road.”
The concern was originally raised last June in a letter sent the town to both the property owner, Cosentino Realty Commack, and Smithtown’s zoning board.
Meanwhile, Brenda Morrow, a spokeswoman for Chick-fil-A, said Monday that the Georgia-based chain is moving forward with its plans to build what would be its third Long Island location. A Chick-fil-A opened in Port Jefferson Station late last year, and plans for a Hicksville location were recently approved.
“We very much look forward to serving the Huntington communities,” Morrow said.
The Commack location is projected to open this fall.