More than a dozen West Islip residents spoke before the Islip Town Planning Board Wednesday evening, voicing concerns on a proposal to construct a CVS where the storied La Grange Inn currently sits.
The application calls for the demolition of most of the inn to make way for a 16,000-square-foot pharmacy and drive-through on the 2.5-acre site along Montauk Highway. The proposed store would operate 24 hours a day.
The inn, built in the mid-1700's, is revered by locals as a West Islip landmark. After operating as a catering hall for the past several decades, it has remained vacant since 2010.
Anthony Guardino, an attorney representing CVS developer First Hartford Realty Corp., said a 2,100-square-foot portion of the original structure would be restored and relocated to the norteast corner of the property and used for office space as part of the plan.
A similar application for a Walgreen's pharmacy at the site was introduced and quickly withdrawn in 2008.
Amid pushback from residents, Guardino said developers are "more than happy" to meet with neighbors and community groups to discuss the proposal.
"I hope the residents don't view this as a battle, because we don't. We see an opportunity here to maybe deliver something to the community that they have been looking for," he said. "We are happy to speak to anyone."
Guardino also said developers plan to reach out to local civic groups in an attempt to "hammer out something that works for all of us."
Elizabeth Ann Lafayette, who celebrated her wedding reception at the inn almost 50 years ago, spoke through tears at the podium.
"I was hoping to have my 50th wedding anniversary there," she said, adding she would like to see the inn restored to a bed and breakfast.
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Not all speakers, however, were opposed to the new construction.
Jamie Winkler said if the CVS is built on the property, the pharmacy should be visually attractive.
"You could make a beautiful CVS...it should be something that we would see in the Hamptons. It would be more palatable for the community if it were a very pretty building," said Jamie Winkler.
Winkler, owner of Winkler Real Estate in West Islip, estimated a restoration of the building as it currently stands would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million, in addition to its reduced asking price of $5 million.
Elaine Kaleta, echoing Winkler, said she hopes developers stay true to La Grange's aesthetic if the project is approved.
"There is no reason [the developer] can't use that property historically to look the way it did with the original property," she said.
William Green, whose Wilherm Lane home borders the property, expressed concerns about increased traffic, as well as noise and light pollution near his home.
"We know something's gotta be done, it's a mess. But with the drive-thru behind my house, you might as well put my house in the middle of Higbie Lane and Montauk Highway," he said. "I'm gonna be sitting in my yard with traffic on three sides of my house."
Green, like several other speakers, also feared the 250-year-old structure might collapse if it is moved.
"What if it falls down? What happens then?" he asked.
Following the public testimony, Board Chairman John Schettino asked if developers had alternative plans in the case that the original portion of the building is deemed too fragile to be relocated.
"If it can't be moved, the answer is that we would re-create it," said Guardino.
Schettino responded, "I'll try again. Are you gonna rip it down?"
"Yes," said Guardino.
Planning Board officials did not rule Wednesday on the application or zoning change from residential to business. A decision will be made at a later unspecified date.
- The History of the La Grange Inn
- La Grange Inn Closed...Again
- Community Needs To Give CVS Proposal A Fair Hearing
- Pharmacy Proposed to Replace Former La Grange Inn