Fearing a zoning change that could pave the way for a fast food joint like McDonald’s or Taco Bell to take up residence in downtown West Sayville, a group of area residents is taking action.
The West Sayville/Sayville Petition Against Fast Food Business Re-Zoning Facebook group has developed a petition that seeks to block the Town of Islip from approving a zoning change that would let Starbucks — which is shutting down its downtown Sayville location — open a drive-thru coffee shop inside the former Chase Bank at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Montauk Highway in West Sayville.
The group is concerned over the influx of traffic and garbage in the area, but what worries members most is that the zoning change from Business 1 to Business 3 would make it possible for a more traditional fast food business to move into the location in the future.
“Do not let this happen to our downtown small business district! Our businesses and restaurants have suffered enough!” Keith Frawley, an administrator of the Facebook group opposing the zoning change, wrote on Facebook.
The property’s owner, J. Nazzaro Partnership, signed a 10-year lease with Starbucks. In its application to the town, the company explicitly asks for a zoning change that would accommodate a fast food restaurant.
But during a June 24 Islip Planning Board meeting, an attorney representing J. Nazzaro promised that his client would never rent to a traditional fast food restaurant.
“If you grant the application, we will covenant that we will not put a fast food Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, McDonald’s,” the attorney, Steve Bertolino, told planing board members, “indeed if the change of occupancy on this parcel goes from a Starbucks to any other business restaurant type that is not a similar coffee shop.”
Still, many community members have voiced concern over how a busy drive-thru Starbucks would negatively impact the area around the former Chase Bank location, which is adjacent to the West Sayville Fire Department, across the street from a CVS and just up the road from Kingston’s restaurant and the Long Island Maritime Museum.
“That corner is extremely busy. Traffic is a huge issue. I cannot imagine having a drive-thru that enters into or exits onto Montauk Highway,” said Bay Rose, who owns nearby Nettle & Rose herbal apothecary.
Eileen Tyznar, president of the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce, told the planning board that she will vehemently fight the zoning change.
“It opens us up to security, garbage, environmental and traffic concerns,” she said.
George Vaydak, another administrator of the Facebook group fighting the proposed zoning change, said a drive-thru coffee house may even bring more volume than a typical fast food eatery.
“Go look at other Starbucks drive-thru(s) on Sunrise Highway in East Islip and Bohemia as there are many times throughout the day that they overflow,” he posted on Facebook. “This location is just not situated for such volume. Although we may think a coffee house/fast food would be a great convenience, the impact to our neighborhood and town will be detrimental.”
But Bertolino insisted that Starbucks is a perfect fit for the location, in that it will only serve to amplify the neighborhood’s quaintness. He also noted that Chase Bank operated a drive-thru window and a 24-hour ATM machine at the location, while Starbucks would only be open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.
Bertolino said further that Starbucks plans to transfer 25 employees from its closing downtown Sayville location to the West Sayville spot.