Smithtown Town Board members have approved a zone change request to construct a 24-hour gas station and convenience store in Commack.
Board members voted 4-0 at last Tuesday's meeting, with Supervisor Patrick Vecchio abstaining, to approve an application by Garden City-based Bolla L.I. Operating Corp., with conditions, for a zone change from wholesale service industry to neighborhood business.
The zone change will now permit the operation of a 1,231-square-foot convenience store in conjunction with the filling station, located on the north side of Jericho Turnpike, west of Ruth Boulevard.
Vecchio said he abstained because he didn't approve of the business operators removing trees in a rear buffer zone without permission -- a point of contention last year among planning board members who narrowly approved the zone change in a 3-2 vote.
Eugene DeNicola, a Sayville attorney representing Bolla, said in an interview Friday that his client was "only clearing out trees that were blown down or cracked as a result of superstorm Sandy."
Conditions of the zone-change approval include limiting access to the site via right turns in and out, maintaining a 50-foot buffer and constructing a berm at least 6 feet high at the rear of the property that will be planted with rows of trees.
Councilman Edward Wehrheim took issue with one "onerous" condition -- the construction of a 4-foot-high, unpainted decorative masonry wall along the centerline of the berm -- saying the 50-foot buffer and planting of an estimated 200 trees was enough to protect residents north of the site.
Councilman Thomas McCarthy said he was a proponent of the wall to shield residents who expressed concerns about the application.
DeNicola estimated the cost of the wall at $100,000 and said he thought it would be better to install a wood-paneled, sound-attenuation fence. Still, he said, "Whatever we'll have to do, we'll do."
The next step is for the board of zoning appeals to hear the application and vote on the special exception for the filling station and any requested variances, DeNicola said.