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Commack service station, convenience store plan raises concerns

Joseph Hanley, 51, of Commack, speaks Wednesday, March

Joseph Hanley, 51, of Commack, speaks Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at the Smithtown planning board meeting in opposition of constructing a proposed gas station and convenience store near his home. Credit: Newsday / Lauren R. Harrison

Plans for a 24-hour gas station and convenience store at a busy Commack intersection raised traffic and quality-of-life concerns by Smithtown officials and a local resident last week.

Bolla LI Operating Corp. requested a zone change Wednesday from wholesale service industry to neighborhood business to demolish structures at the site of a former gas station at the northwest corner of Veterans Memorial Highway and Jericho Turnpike as part of a plan to construct a new station and convenience store.

The zone change is necessary because the structure's size and convenience store sales area are larger than what is permitted in the current zoning, said Eugene DeNicola, a Sayville attorney representing Garden City-based Bolla.

Bolla's plans call for a new canopy over four islands, each with two pumps, as well as two diesel dispenser pumps and a 1,231-square-foot convenience store. Bolla would construct 16 parking spaces and landscape 42 percent of the site -- about 17,000 square feet -- to create a buffer from neighboring homes to the north.

Bolla CEO and president Harry Singh said the site would generate up to $45,000 in real estate taxes and roughly $1.6 million in sales tax annually.

Joseph Hanley, 51, a neighboring homeowner, said he preferred a professional building at the site and was worried the gas station would devalue his property and create traffic issues.

"For three years, there was a 24-hour service station there and it was a nightmare, with the noise pollution, car alarms, radios," said Hanley, who moved into his home in 1998.

Hanley's concerns about the site's impact on traffic and quality-of-life issues were similar to those voiced last month in Bay Shore by dozens of residents who said Bolla's 20-nozzle gas station proposal on a Main Street site between Seafield Lane and Sunset Road would cause traffic, noise and pollution.

The former service station on the Commack site dates back to 1978, DeNicola said. Town officials said it has remained unused for about a decade.

"The applicant's proposal will remove a rundown and blighted property, and create a new, attractive landscaped parcel with an aesthetically pleasing appearance," DeNicola said.

Smithtown's planning director, Frank DeRubeis, said providing efficient traffic circulation with safe access to and from the site and a 50-foot buffer for surrounding residences were the key issues. He recommended that the board postpone its decision until after it completed a site visit, which the board agreed to do in a 5-0 vote.

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