By Charles Scott and Allie Jorge
A franchisee petitioned Suffolk County Supreme Court this Monday to push ahead with his plan to build a Dunkin’ Donuts in Nesconset, after the proposal was rejected by 84 residents in the area earlier this year.
Jaspreet Walia, a franchisee with Dunkin’ Donuts, first filed for construction in May of 2019, requesting a zoning change from a residential zone to an industrial zone. The proposal estimated about 3 acres of land would be needed for the drive-thru Dunkin’ Donuts location to be built. Smithtown’s Town Council voted 3-2 to approve the zoning change, but a neighborhood petition required a 4-1 or 5-0 vote.
“I think that there’s no need for any additional fast food or Dunkin’ Donuts in this area. We have enough,” Michelle Stefanov said. Stefanov has been a resident of the area for two years, and visits Sprofera Park in Nesconset with her young daughter. She also voiced concerns about an increase in traffic the development might cause. “The people in the community should also have a say on what goes in the area.”
Walia and his lawyer, Vincent Trimarco Sr., claim that the neighborhood petition was collected without dates and with names unverified. Trimarco petitioned Suffolk County to reverse the decision on Monday, and is suing the town of Smithtown for the way they handled the situation. The secretary of Trimarco, Kristi Bellissimo, said that his office cannot comment on the case until the town submits an answer to their petition.
“The petition was signed by 84 residents in the surrounding areas,” Maureen O’Connor, who put together the neighborhood petition, said. “They were gotten door to door, this wasn’t an online petition.” While the individual signatures weren’t dated, the receipt of the petition by the Smithtown Town Council was dated, according to O’Connor. “When they’re saying, ‘validity,’ I don’t know why they would think that’s invalid.”
The Dunkin’ Donuts, along with an accompanying office building, is intended to be built on the corner of Browns Road and Route 347, near Sprofera Park in Nesconset, NY. The Nesconset Dunkin’ Donuts would be less than a mile away from another Dunkin’ at the intersection of Jericho Turnpike and Browns Road.
“Part of the problem with this town is that […] we need more businesses,” Mike Robinson, a manager at the bakery Florie’s Finales in Smithtown, said. “I think, for tax purposes, it’s a good thing.”
Resistance to industrial development is pretty unusual for a town government, Eric Oliver, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, said. Part of Oliver’s work focuses on suburban politics. Small towns usually like industrial zones because buildings that occupy industrial zone pay taxes, but don’t require many government services, he said.
“A Dunkin Donuts doesn’t have any kids that need to be educated, it doesn’t require ambulance services, it’s not going to demand a lot,” Oliver said.
The petition is in litigation, so information on its outcome is not yet available. The court date for Walia’s lawsuit against the town of Smithtown is set for October 31st.