Another push for 24-hour Mattituck convenience store

TIM KELLY PHOTO | The Hess Corporation is seeking to drum up support within the business community for its plans to redevelop its Mattituck gas station to include a 24-hour convenience store.

Seven years after the Town Board said no, the Hess Corporation is seeking to drum up support within the business community for its plans to redevelop its Mattituck gas station to include a 24-hour convenience store.

The corporation, which sued the Town Board after it voted in 2003 against a change of zone to allow for the store, took its case to a seemingly skeptical Mattituck Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night. The lawsuit, meanwhile, never went to trial and remains inactive.

A Hess representative told chamber members the property’s zoning must be changed from marine business to general business so Hess can replace the small concrete building, which the company admits is an eyesore. The new building would be a larger structure to accommodate a walk-in retail store. The project would include a canopy over the gas pumps.

During the dinner meeting at the Bayview Inn in South Jamesport, more than one chamber member asked why Hess, one of the world’s largest corporations, couldn’t make property improvements without adding a convenience store.

Hess attorney Eugene DeNicola of Sayville said the company had scaled down the proposed building from 2,480 square feet to 1,660 square feet.

He pointed out that the zone change would be the first of two planning hurdles the project must clear. Within the past few years, the town has lowered the maximum size of gas station convenience stores to 800 square feet, which the attorney said is too small to be profitable, so a variance would be required.

Mr. DeNicola said the company’s lawsuit against the town is currently “on hold. We want to work it out and have something that’s more attractive than what’s there.”

The Hess property was once connected to the boat business behind it but retained the marine zoning after the lot was subdivided. Mr. DeNicola said it made no sense for a gas stationed to be zoned for marine use. The request to the Town Board sought a change to the general business category.

Although the site is about 100 feet from James Creek, the attorney maintained the project “is not an environmental issue, really.” The company also claims that the addition of a convenience store would not increase traffic in the area.

Mr. DeNicola suggested that although Mattituck has several delis and may soon add a 7-Eleven — the Planning Board recently approved the conversion of the old Citgo gas station into one ­— there is business enough for all.
In 2003, the Town Board heard a different message during the public hearings preceding its vote. Many residents then objected to the increased competition and said a 24-hour store would change the nature of the community. The more recent opposition to a 7-Eleven centered on traffic safety, with little mention of the hours of operation. The 7-Elevens in Cutchogue, Southold and Greenport are open 24 hours a day.

Mr. DeNicola, who was accompanied by a Hess engineer and a permit manager, faced criticism because Hess has never been a chamber member or supported the organization.

When asked what Hess had done to support the community, Mr. DeNicola said, “We sell gasoline.”

On Hess’s lack of involvement in the chamber, the attorney said, “We’re a little backward about getting into it.”
The Hess representatives said they could not commit to improving the site’s appearance without the town’s okay for the new convenience store.

“You want to spend money, but you want a return on your investment,” said Mr. DeNicola. “It’s a two-way street.”

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