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Proposed Bolla gas station in Commack clears environmental hurdle

After nearly two years, a proposal seeking a zoning change for a 24-hour gas station at a busy Commack intersection is inching through the legislative process, with Smithtown Town officials agreeing it doesn't appear to pose a significant environmental threat.

At a June 2 town board meeting, council members unanimously voted 5-0 to adopt an environmental review for Garden City-based Bolla Operating L.I. Corp.'s proposal at Jericho Turnpike and Veterans Memorial Highway.

The proposal's small size and nature would safeguard against adversely affecting the environment, according to an analysis issued by Russell Barnett, Smithtown's environmental protection director.

Development of the 1.36-acre site, which houses a Sunoco gas station and a car wash, calls for a zone change from wholesale service industry to neighborhood business. According to the preliminary site plan, the Sunoco will be demolished and replaced with a 16-pump filling station and 1,231-square-foot convenience store. The car wash will remain.

The new convenience store sales area exceeds what is permitted in the current zoning and is the main factor for the zoning change request, said Peter Hans, principal planner for Smithtown's planning department.

The location is bordered by homes, which requires Bolla to restore and maintain a 50-foot buffer for the adjoining residential area. At a public hearing in March, Eugene DeNicola, a Sayville attorney representing Bolla, promised a "substantial amount of landscaping installed for the protection of the homeowners to the north." He could not be reached for comment Monday.

Neighbors are concerned about the gas station's impact on traffic, property values and quality of life.

"Being that I've been here since 1958, I'm not very happy with it," said Rose King, 80. "That corner has enough traffic. I don't think we need any more."

Another resident, Diane Hanley, 50, lives directly behind the gas station with her husband and three daughters. She said the early morning soundtrack is one of constant car radios, gas truck deliveries and beeping noises from vehicles in reverse.

"In summertime, you sleep with the windows open and it's loud," Hanley said. "Who wants to have a gas station operating 24 hours a day with noise and congestion in their backyard?"

She was one of more than 60 residents who signed a petition last year opposing the rezoning, which must achieve a supermajority vote of the town board -- or the support of at least four of the five council members -- to proceed.

The town board has yet to decide on the zone change, but a vote may happen in September, Hans said. If a zone change is granted, the application will move on to the Board of Zoning Appeals and the site plan review board.

Another of Bolla's zone change petitions has progressed more swiftly, moving to a town board public hearing within six months of the initial request. That property, at Vanderbilt Motor Parkway and Wicks Road, is surrounded on three sides by the Hauppauge Industrial Park.

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