This article is posted with the permission of the Islip Bulletin.
Story By: JEFFREY BESSEN, Editor
10 July 2008
The proposed plans by Walgreens to construct a pharmacy on the western portion of the landmark LaGrange site at the intersection of Higbie Lane and Montauk Highway is appearing ill.
In addition to at least a few hundred residents opposing the idea, the hard-hitting opposition of County Legislator Tom Barraga (R-West Islip), and the formation of the LaGrange Inn Task Force, the Islip Town Planning Department is now taking its shots at the plans.
Planning department officials informed Walgreens that they do not support this petition and noted such concerns as the plans not meshing with the recommendations of the West Islip Hamlet Study.
This specific parcel is outside the hamlet’s center, located at Higbie Lane and Union Boulevard, and new commercial development outside this existing hamlet center contradicts the hamlet study’s stated goals.
“It is the hope of the Task Force that this decision by the Islip Town Planning Department, coupled with the overwhelming opposition to the construction of a retail pharmacy on the LaGrange Inn site, will create a much better opportunity for the owner,” Task Force Chair Joseph DeCarlo said in a prepared release.
In a letter to West Islip-based attorney, Lisa Pace, who represents Walgreens in this matter, Assistant Town Planning Director Jeanmarie Brennan wrote: “In addition to the fundamental issues of compatibility with the Comprehensive Plan and the existing zoning, there are a number of site design issues as well.”
“The plan, as currently proposed, does not meet the minimum parking requirements or queuing requirements for the drive-though, indicating that even if the property had the correct zoning for the uses requested, the proposed development is too intense for the site,” Brennan noted.
A call for comment was not returned by Pace by press time. Present zoning for the site is Residence B and Business I and Walgreens seeks a rezone to Business 3.
Plans for a Walgreens pharmacy on the LaGrange Inn property were brought to light by the Islip Bulletin (Oct. 18, 2007) and in March, a meeting in the ballroom of LaGrange was attended by a few hundred community members (IB, March 22) who raked over Walgreens representatives for seeking to build a 13,650-square foot store on the 2.47-acre property.
However, Walgreens is seeking to turn back the clock on LaGrange and help restore the place where George Washington supposedly slept before becoming president.
Plans are to chop off the additions made over the year to the Inn and return LaGrange to the size it was, when it served as a stop for travelers between Jamaica, Queens and Patchogue. It has also served as a summer resort by wealthy New Yorkers.
Having received a letter from Barraga and Assemblyman Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), Town Supervisor Phil Nolan met with Task Force members. The Task Force was established to “develop, research and recommend alternative plans” for the Inn.
Nolan told the Task Force that if the change of zone application appears before the town board, he would hold the hearing in West Islip. The supervisor also noted that if the application came before the planning board that he has already discussed with Planning Board Chair Frank Tantone the idea of holding the hearing in the hamlet.
“This is consistent with my neighborhood chats and if we can do it, we should,” Nolan said. “It was something requested by two electeds and it is the most transparent setting possible. The application will rise and fall on its merits.”
Tantone noted that precedent for such an event was set by the planning board previously when applications have come in front of the board that are “significant enough to have a separate night just for that application,” as in the case of Pilgrim State that was also heard at the town annex located at 401 Main Street.
“We have done it before,” Tantone said. “The motivation is to have a public hearing that residents can more easily attend and not inconvenience others who are interested in other [agenda] items.”