By Danny Schrafel
Huntington residents continued to voice their concerns Tuesday over a proposed Chick-Fil-A restaurant.
At Smithtown’s July 28 board of zoning appeals meeting, dozens of residents argued that a Chick-Fil-A proposed for Commack Road on the Smithtown side of the town line in Commack would cause traffic headaches, especially when it comes to entering and exiting the New Imperial Gardens residential development.
Dix Hills resident Amanda Roth stressed that she does not oppose developing the parcel, which she described as vacant and “blighted,” but said the current proposal is wrong for the area.
“It can’t support the volume that would be generated by a Chick-Fil-A,” Roth said. “It’s a question of safety.”
Before the meeting, Suffolk County’s Department of Public Works urged Smithtown to take a closer look at traffic and public safety concerns.
In a July 23 letter to Smithtown’s planning department, Suffolk County Department of Public Works commissioner Gil Anderson urged Smithtown to “look into existing and future traffic challenges that will be faced” due to Chick-Fil-A’s popularity, and to develop a public safety and law enforcement plan before shovels go in the ground.
Anderson said this area of Commack Road already has significant traffic capacity issues and the project may exacerbate current conditions.
Huntington Town officials echoed residents’ concerns in a June 8 letter to Adrienne Giannadeo, chair of the Smithtown board of zoning appeals, and also objected to the location of the Chick-Fil-A’s menu boards and outdoor dining, which they argued woul cause noise and light pollution across Commack Road.
The Chick-Fil-A would be built on the northern wooded portion of the property, Smithtown planning officials have said. In addition to the standalone Chick-Fil-A, an existing strip mall would be torn down and be rebuilt to contain 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 on the southern part of the land.
Close scrutiny of the project is especially important, Anderson stated, because of Chick-Fil-A’s cult following.
“Their popularity has lasted well beyond normal local interest to such a point that other communities have been strained providing sufficient traffic control due to overspill of traffic from the site to the adjacent road,” he stated to the board.
The commissioner specifically suggested reaching out the state Department of Transportation to learn from their experience in dealing with traffic from a Sonic restaurant in North Babylon. There, Anderson said the restaurant had employees directing traffic within their parcel, queued up traffic on the shoulder and used an adjacent parking lot.
“This lasted for about six months until the thrill of a new establishment wore out,” Anderson stated.