By Danny Schrafel
Why couldn’t the chicken cross the road? Because of the traffic from Chick-Fil-A.
That’s the fear of some Dix Hills residents who say the proposal to build a fast-food restaurant and a new strip center across the street from their residential neighborhood will give Smithtown all the tax revenue – and Huntington residents all of the headaches.
In addition to the standalone Chick-Fil-A, a new Mexican restaurant, pizzeria and Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins are proposed to built on property at the intersection of Commack Road and Henry Street.
The Chick-Fil-A would be built on the northern, wooded portion of the property, Flynn said. On the southern part of the land, an existing strip mall would be torn down and be rebuilt.
A public hearing held June 9 has been adjourned until July 14, David Flynn, of the Smithtown Planning Department, said. During that time, residents and the applicant, Cosentino Realty, can continue to weigh in on the proposal.
Neighbors across the town line are alarmed by the proposal, Dix Hills resident Thomas Sondi said.
Sondi said in an interview Friday that, already, traffic during rush hours moves at a snail’s pace. Neighbors are “up in arms” over the plans for a road already dotted with big-box stores and shopping centers.
“Have you ever tried to enter or exit the New Imperial Gardens development during the morning, afternoon and evening rush hours? It’s at times almost impossible to get in and out of the development safely, and this is before the proposed additional expansion in the area,” Sondi wrote in a June 9 letter to Huntington Town Hall.
And since it would be one of Chick Fil-A’s first restaurants on Long Island, Sondi also expected the initial impact to be intensified.
“It’s going to be like an amusement park, an attraction – at least for the first couple of months,” Sondi said.
Huntington town officials echoed his and other neighbors’ concerns in a June 8 letter to Adrienne Giannadeo, chair of the Smithtown Board of Zoning Appeals.
“Due to high levels of traffic on Commack Road, this signalized intersection is the only safe route of travel for exiting northbound residents during peak travel hours,” Craig Turner, writing on behalf of Huntington’s Deputy Director of Planning and Environment Robert Riekert, said. “The numerous food uses within the proposed development will generate their highest levels of traffic during the peak hours on Commack Road, increasing use of the signalized intersection and exacerbating existing traffic conditions.”
In that letter, Huntington planning officials highlighted “serious concerns” with the proposal, and urged Smithtown officials to order a traffic study to analyze the project’s impacts. However, Flynn said that, based on correspondence with Suffolk County, “no traffic study would be required.”
Huntington officials also specifically objected to the location of the Chick-Fil-A’s menu boards and outdoor dining, which they argued would impact Huntington residents with noise and light pollution across Commack Road.
“There are no residential neighbors to the north, east or south, and there are significant buffers that will remain in place to the north and east,” Turner wrote. “We ask that any site plans on this property be designed to minimize impacts on the residents to the west.”
Representatives of Cosentino Realty and Chick-Fil-A did not return requests for comment by press time Monday.
Flynn said the hearing will be reopened during the July 14 meeting and likely closed that day. Thereafter, the BZA has 62 days to render a decision.