The Town of Babylon Planning Board held a public hearing Monday on a proposed Bolla gas station at Sunrise Highway and 35th Street in Copiague that has drawn criticism from local residents and businesses.
The proposal calls for the existing Mobil station, and a warehouse on a neighboring lot, to be razed. In their place, Bolla Operating L.I. Corp. would build a roughly 4,000-square-foot convenience store, two canopies covering eight gasoline pumps and two diesel pumps, and a 4,000-square-foot car wash.
David N. Altman, an attorney representing the company, argued that the station would be an improvement over what’s currently there, as greenery would be planted along the surrounding streets and the new buildings would be smaller than those they would replace.
“The subject site itself is fairly well insulated from the nearest residential development,” he added, addressing concerns about the station’s impact on neighbors.
Frank Filiciotto, a traffic engineer Bolla commissioned to assess the project, said the new station would draw on existing traffic in the area and not likely add to it.
He said that the project would make it safer to walk in the area by reducing the number of entry points into the station and by realigning a nearby crosswalk to make it shorter.
Some at the meeting called these safety measures insufficient. Jaime Santiesteban, an Islip Terrace resident, said that the station, which would have more than twice as many pumps as the Mobil, would endanger the students who walk across the site on their way to and from nearby Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School.
Sunrise Highway is one of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the region, according to federal data cited in a 2016 report by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy group.
Santiesteban submitted a petition opposing the plan to the board. It contained around 100 signatures that were “mostly from local residents,” he said.
Roger Rudman, who said he has owned a nearby car wash for more than 40 years, argued that the small businesses in the area would struggle to compete with the new station.
“The only people that want this Bolla project are Bolla,” he said.
The company met similar resistance in Islip in 2014 after it proposed a station for Main Street in Bay Shore. The station ultimately was not built.
Harry Singh, the president and CEO of Bolla, defended the company’s proposal for Copiague at the hearing Monday and said that the company would consider the issues raised by locals.
“I don’t want the board to think that we are not concerned,” he said.
Planning board members asked several questions about the proposal, particularly regarding the routes into and out of the station. Board member Edward Wynn expressed skepticism about whether customers would be able to turn left onto 35th Street from the station, as the plans suggested.
“I don’t see that happening,” he said.
The board is accepting public comments on the proposal until at least Jan. 23.