Tony Cocheo, owner of the yet-to-open on the corner of Route 25 and Factory Avenue, told Southold Town Planning Board members at a work session Monday night that if there is even another two weeks' delay of the opening he will have to lay off the nine employees he’s already hired and trained.
“I’ve already put up $400,000.” he said. “This is a tremendous financial problem. In another two weeks we’ll be going into December — the slowest time of year. And I can’t pay these people — I just can’t now.”
Construction on the site is complete except for the removal of a utility pole on the northeast corner of the intersection used by Verizon and Cablevision. But Cocheo’s attorney Patricia Moore said she only recently found out that the state Department of Transportation did not schedule that work to be done until spring. And until that work is done, a curb cut at that corner required in the project’s site plan cannot be built. Therefore, the Planning Board cannot issue a certificate of occupancy and the store cannot open for business.
Property owner George Abi Zeid of GAZ Realty said that he too could not have foreseen the delay by DOT, and that even if the work is delayed there is no safety issue concerning routine traffic at the site. He and Cocheo have two bonds with DOT in order to pay for the work and cannot afford the $100,000 to complete the work themselves without those bonds.
“We don’t have enough money to move the pole,” Abi Zeid said. “You know, we could take this property back and start from scratch, but we don’t want to do that, we want to move forward. We have two bonds in place and the work will be done — but as it stands right now it does not affect traffic coming in and out of the property.”
Assistant Town Attorney Jennifer Andaloro said that if it can be proved that the site is safe to the public without removal of the pole, the resolution to approve a certificate of occupancy would have to be amended for it to be effective, and that resolution would have to be voted on during the Planning Board’s regular meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 — in two weeks.
Cocheo reiterated to board members that two weeks was too long to keep paying employees. The plan for this 7-Eleven was bitterly contested for years by several members of the community.
“The concern in the community had more to do with the added traffic the store would bring to Factory Avenue, not technicalities in the parking lot,” he said. “All I’m asking you for is a decision, because you are jeopardizing a business person and employees financially.”
Planning Board Chair Martin Sidor said that he, as a , sympathized completely with Cocheo but said that it’s the board’s obligation to think about liability issues the town might face and to protect the people of Southold Town.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone here — I don’t want to be in this situation either,” Sidor said. “I wish the thing was open. But we have to make sure that it’s a safe place.”
The Planning Board has changed their monthly regular public meeting time from 6 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. from November through March at