Village of Great Neck residents will soon not have to go far to get their Slurpee fix as the village’s board of zoning appeals approved the construction of a 7-Eleven convenience store on Middle Neck Road at a meeting Thursday night.
But some residents are less than thrilled with the decision.
The board’s 4-1 vote in favor of Kings Point-based developer Kouros Torkan’s application for zoning variances to build a 7-Eleven on the site of a former gas station came months after an initial hearing that featured heated criticism by residents concerned about potential traffic, crime and safety impacts to the village.
Village Attorney Stephen Limmer said the decision, which grants the store the right to operate 24 hours per day, among other variances, was driven by the board’s legal requirement to weigh the interests of the applicant and the community – not by the opinions of residents.
“There are members of the board who are very concerned about the community and the feelings of the members of the community,” Limmer said. “Neither of those standards is appropriate.”
Board member Victor Habib was the sole dissenting vote. The board needed a four-vote supermajority because of the Nassau County Planning Commission’s recommendation that the project be rejected.
Torkan had pledged to fund the construction of a police booth for Nassau County officers on the site of the store in an effort to allay residents’ safety concerns, and the board’s decision requires the store to hire a security guard for overnight operation.
“Either the store can close from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m., as many have requested, or if they choose to stay open they have to provide a uniformed guard,” said zoning board Chair Dennis Grossman.
The board declined a request to reopen the hearing by Rebecca Rosenblatt-Gilliar, a resident and vocal opponent of the project who said she and other opponents had concerns about the deed showing the transfer of the property from the site’s former owners, Exxon Mobil, to Torkan.
The project lies on the site of chemical contamination being investigated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and the deed specifies that while Exxon Mobil will pick up the tab for cleaning up contamination that occurred while it owned the site any future pollution is Torkan’s responsibility.
Grossman also said the board’s decision was motivated by legal concerns. Grossman cited the possibility of an Article 78 challenge, the section of state law under which applicants to agencies – including village boards – can appeal decisions in the courts.
“We don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we lose an article 78 and we lose everything, and the applicant does what he chooses,” Grossman said. “At least this way, we’ve covered all the bases for the concerns we’ve heard during the hearing.”
Some residents disagreed with Grossman’s characterization of the board’s decision.
Resident Ofra Panzer said that rather than properly weighing the interests of residents and the applicant, the board had placed its thumb on the scale in favor of Torkan.
“They said they’re trying to balance – it’s tipped unfairly,” Panzer said.
Resident Ebrahim Shaer said residents had collected nearly 200 signatures opposing the project before the board’s vote.