Local officials will have to go back to the drawing board after Islip Town Planning Board members reserved its decision on an application to construct a new drive-through Starbucks in West Sayville, citing traffic and other concerns.
At the Jan. 6 planning board meeting, board members reviewed the application from J. Nazzaro Partnership LP, which requested a rezoning at 90 Montauk Highway from a Business 1 district to a Business 3 district. The potential cafe would be located on the southeast corner of Montauk Highway and Atlantic Avenue.
The application, first proposed at a June 24, 2020 board meeting, includes a special permit for a fast-food restaurant, a special permit for outside seating, and a buffer relaxation.
Andrew Villari, project manager with Stonefield Engineering & Design, said a traffic impact study was prepared in summer 2020 and submitted to Islip Town. It was then reviewed by the town’s traffic consultant, L.K. McLean Associates, which issued a review letter dated Dec. 30. By Jan. 5, Villari said his group prepared a follow-up letter to address outstanding items.
Senior planner Sean Colgan said the review indicated that there would be “significantly more vehicles” entering and exiting the site during peak hours. In addition, he said, a bus shelter is recommended for the existing Suffolk County transit stop, located near the site.
The review also noted that Suffolk County Department of Public Works would need to issue permits for the proposed use and would evaluate the traffic in and out of the restaurant, Colgan said.
According to the traffic study, the proposed project would generate 227 trips during the weekday a.m. peak hour, 250 during the weekday midday peak hour, and 224 trips during the p.m. peak hour. A “trip” is defined as the total vehicles entering and exiting the site, Villari said.
Planning board vice president Kevin Brown said he reviewed the traffic study and was “not thrilled” with the increased traffic coming in and out of the lot during peak hours.
The site’s possible impact on pedestrian traffic on sidewalks was a concern expressed by both board member Brian Ferruggiari and chairman Edward Friedland.
In response, Villari said that one driveway on the property has direct access onto Montauk Highway. The site offers “sufficient” opportunity to motorists to see pedestrians, and vice versa.
Attorney Steve Bertolino, representing property owner James Nazzaro, noted that pedestrian foot traffic is infrequent in the area compared to downtown Sayville.
But Brown said he disagreed. With the combination of young families and students near Cherry Avenue, there are many pedestrians.
Board member Michael Moriarty reiterated Brown and said he was “surprised” by the aggregate number of trips. He noted that a lengthy drive-through queue could also cause additional traffic issues.
“It seems to me it’s a more intensive use than I was certainly expecting when I initially looked at the application,” Moriarty said. “I recognize Starbucks would be a good neighbor, but I think it has to be the right site.”
Overall, board member Tim Mattimore said he sees the project as an improvement to the prior structure. The architecture of the building is appropriate for the area, he said, and land on the property could be used for plantings. The West Sayville Fire Department firehouse, located just east, does not have a lot of activity generated by the department.
However, the West Sayville Fire Department hosts popular drill team exercises – which brings in a high quantity of traffic to Atlantic Avenue and Montauk Highway, Brown said. In summer months, the marina also contributes to traffic buildup.
Bertolino said that volume of traffic does not occur on a regular basis. He’d be willing to work with the town and DPW so traffic in the area flows more smoothly.
The attorney previously stated that Starbucks has committed to a 10-year lease and would bring 25 employees to the site.
Though he initially detested the site, Brown said he knows and trusts Nazzaro for his numerous projects in Islip Town. He was the first to make the motion to reserve a decision, and other board members followed.
The proposed drive-through coffee shop was previously met with backlash from West Sayville homeowners, who expressed concern similar to that of the planning board members. Some residents were perturbed by the proposed entrance and exit on Atlantic Avenue. Others said that the queue spilling out onto Montauk Highway would cause safety issues.