7-Eleven currently has four locations in Riverhead, and is proposing a fifth in an Aquebogue shopping center. File photo.

A 7-Eleven may be coming to Aquebogue, and the neighbors are not happy about it.

Protesters at Town Hall yesterday said that the national convenience store could create a “nightmare” for both police and neighbors, drawing drunks and criminals to an area of town that is largely residential.

“This is a threat to public safety,” said Marie Denise LeBrun, an Aquebogue resident whose home would neighbor the proposed 7-Eleven. “We’re in an isolated position. There’s no other stores around and there’s nothing going on at night. It would bring people into the area who really shouldn’t be there.”

“Convenience stores tend to bring people into the area that really should not be in a residential area,” added Patrick Foley, who also owns a home adjacent to the shopping center. “It could become something of a nightmare for the police department.”

Vinland Commons, a Main Road shopping center at the corner of Tuthills Lane, has been trying to move a 7-Eleven into a vacant storefront since September 2014.

Riverhead Town has been fighting the proposal for the past year, rejecting the 7-Eleven’s application to the town building department and then defending that decision in court when Vinland Commons sued the town shortly thereafter.

But a New York State Supreme Court justice ruled in favor of Vinland Commons in October, paving the way for the national convenience store chain to open its fifth location in Riverhead Town – and its first in the hamlet of Aquebogue. It wouldn’t be the first 7-Eleven on the North Fork, however; the convenience store already has franchise locations in Mattituck, Cutchogue, Southold and Greenport.

Riverhead Town Board plans to appeal the state’s decision, and board members yesterday expressed their firm opposition to a 7-Eleven in Aquebogue.

Still, the group of Aquebogue residents at yesterday’s town board meeting urged board members to do everything in their power to prevent the convenience store from coming.

Many see the arrival of a 7-Eleven in Aquebogue as the beginning of the area’s commercialization.

“This is the beginning of a slippery slope,” said Matthew Pendleton, who lives in Aquebogue with his family. “When my wife and I purchased this house, we looked at the master plan in Riverhead and we looked at the area. This is not what we moved here for.”

Several residents argued that convenience stores in the area could negatively impact local tourism as well.

“People come out this way because it’s countrified,” said Dorothy Muller, an Aquebogue resident. “They don’t come out here to see a Dunkin Donuts and 7-Eleven on every corner.”

Lou Evers, co-owner of Meetinghouse Deli, agreed. “Business owners are very dependent on tourists,” he said, “and tourists come out here for the farm fields.”

Riverhead Town has been fighting the 7-Eleven’s building permit application on the grounds that it does not comply with the property’s zoning, which was changed in 2004 to disallow retail use. But Vinland Commons argued in court that retail use has been allowed on the property, even after the property’s zoning changed in 2004.

While the town fights the court’s decision, the 7-Eleven will not be allowed on the property until a final decision has been made. But Town Supervisor Sean Walter says that, even if a judge rules in favor of Vinland Commons a second time, he plans to ask the town board to pass legislation preventing 24-hour operation of a store in the area.

“Even if we lose the appeal, this will not be a 24-hour operation,” Walter told the group of concerned residents at yesterday’s board meeting.

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Katie Blasl
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a reporter, editor and web developer for the LOCAL news websites. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie