Smithtown planning board members debated, but ultimately decided to approve zone change plans to construct a 24-hour gas station and convenience store at a busy intersection in Commack.
Planning board members voted 3-2 at last week's meeting to approve an application by Garden City-based Bolla L.I. Operating Corp. with restrictions, including limits for access to the site and buffer zone plantings, for a zone change from wholesale service industry to neighborhood business.
The zone change was needed to demolish structures at the site of a former gas station at the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Highway and Jericho Turnpike, and replace it with a filling station and 1,231-square-foot convenience store.
Board member Conrad A. Chayes said that Bolla had received a violation notice from the town building department for cutting down several trees without a permit in its rear buffer zone, which no longer protected residents. Chayes said the removal of the trees, which caused dust and dirt to enter people's homes, showed that Bolla would not be a good neighbor, adding, "I don't think it's good for Commack and the residents involved."
Planning board chairman James Ehrhardt said he also voted against the application due to the saturation of similar businesses in the area. "I have not been convinced that that particular area is in need of another convenience store," he said, adding that he believed that there were seven or eight such businesses there.
But board member Adam Oshrin said that the town shouldn't doubt Bolla president Harry Singh's ability to create a successful business as he has previously done. "We have a gentleman here who is willing to wager a significant amount of money -- probably millions of dollars of his hard-earned money -- to say that the business will succeed there," said Oshrin. "I think that . . . he will fit into the character of the neighborhood and that it will be a successful business."
Eugene DeNicola, a Sayville attorney representing Bolla, said that the company had planted $44,000 worth of evergreen trees in July and planned on planting an additional 93 to shield neighboring homes, adding, "I know my client well and he will do the right thing."