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Huntington Town's inconvenient truth

Cuthbertson proposes amendments to close loophole

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson aims to prevent convenience stores from getting around new town zoning regulations by locating in shopping centers. File photo
June 26, 2013 | 07:16 PM
Two years after amending zoning law to more stringently regulate freestanding convenience stores, the Huntington Town Board is considering legislation regarding such stores located in shopping centers.

The resolution, introduced by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, would amend town zoning code to restrict convenience markets in shopping centers with less than 10,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Under the proposal, the stores would no longer be an allowed usage in those smaller shopping centers in the Neighborhood Business District, Planned Shopping Center District, General Business District, Huntington Station Overlay District or Minor Commercial Corridor District. There are no other zones that allow convenience stores, according to planning director Anthony Aloisio.

However, in the Planned Shopping Center District, General Business District and Huntington Station Overlay District, convenience stores in the smaller shopping centers would be permitted with the issuance of a special use permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, if the lot is at least 25,000 square feet.

Also in General Business District, where there are no current off-street loading area requirements, shopping centers with more than 10,000 square feet of building area that contain a convenience store would be subject to such requirements.

Aloisio said in an email that under zoning code, for example, locations with between 10,000 to 20,000 square feet of building area must have a loading zone at least 12 feet by 35 feet in size.

Cuthbertson said he introduced the legislation "because there was a concern that if a convenience store were a part of a strip center, it would be able to evade the new regulations that we have" on freestanding stores, which are similar to those in his proposal.

The previous ordinance regarding the freestanding convenience stores, enacted in June 2011, requires them to have a special use permit and calls for them to be located on lot sizes of at least 25,000 square feet and at least 25 feet from any residential property. A store must also have landscaped buffers and one parking space for every 150 square feet of floor space. The Town Board approved the measures in response to the abundance of applications for freestanding convenience stores.

Convenience store corporation 7-Eleven answered by suing the Town Board, contesting the legality of the legislation. That lawsuit is still pending.

According to Cuthbertson's current proposal, the 2011 ordinance did not address convenience stores located in shopping centers because "they were generally located within larger sites that offered appropriate areas for setbacks" and the code already required shopping centers with at least 10,000 square feet of building area to have loading areas.

The proposed amendment on shopping center convenience stores comes after discussion on an application for a 7-Eleven on the northeast corner of Little Neck Road and Route 25A in Centerport. The property owner, looking to have a freestanding convenience store, had requested a variance on the size of the lot, which is a few thousand square feet shy of the minimum under the town's new regulations. The applicant's attorney had argued to the Zoning Board of Appeals that given the specifications of the property, his client could instead build a three-store shopping center, which could include a convenience market, without the need for a variance.

The ZBA granted the variance last week.

"Going forward we didn't want to see that be a possible loophole," Cuthbertson said.

Amato Law Group, PLLC, which is representing 7-Eleven in its lawsuit against the Town Board and is counsel to the corporation on land use and zoning matters on Long Island, said 7-Eleven is aware of the proposal, according to a statement: "7-Eleven will continue to monitor the proposed legislation as the Aug. 13 public hearing date approaches."

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