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Land swap plan proves inconvenient for neighbors

Andrew Weiss, center, and his wife Lois, left

Andrew Weiss, center, and his wife Lois, left of Andrew, join other residents on May 4, 2014, in front of 4 Long Acre Drive in Huntington in front of land which the owner is planning to expand his service station. Credit: James Carbone

Plans to move a car-care center from one side of Park Avenue in Huntington to the other are facing some bumps in the road.

Joe Colamussi, owner of Oakwood Car Care Center at 733 Park Ave., plans to turn the building, which is on the corner of Broadway, into a 24-hour convenience store.

He then plans to move the car-care center to a building he also owns across the street at 734 Park Ave. The former gas station is already set up as an auto-body shop, which he recently began to expand.

But neighboring homeowners are upset, because the building at 734 had been approved for medical office space, not expansion of the auto-repair shop. And it bothers them because an auto-repair shop would require more of a green space buffer than a medical arts building.

"What he has done is wipe away the greenbelt to get his parking," said Andrew Weiss, who lives across from the expanding auto-repair shop. "It was a clever methodology to design the building that way."

The expansion issue could end up before the zoning board of appeals, town spokesman A.J. Carter said.

Colamussi did not return calls for comment.

At a recent ZBA meeting, John Breslin, Colamussi's Huntington-based attorney, said the expansion at 734 had been designed to be used either as medical offices or an auto-repair shop. The building was to be used as a veterinary office for Colamussi's daughter. But she met someone and moved to England.

"He had permission all along to operate it as an auto-repair facility from the gas station use," Breslin said. "He filed a site plan with the idea of converting it to a medical office building, maintaining it as an auto-repair facility until such time that it would be built. There was no intent to mislead anybody."

On Sept. 16, the town issued Colamussi a building permit to erect a one-story addition converting the automobile station to medical offices at 734 Park Ave.

According to town officials, operating an auto-repair shop in an industrial zone requires a special use permit from the zoning board of appeals, which the property at 734 Park Ave has. The ZBA can impose conditions in issuing the permit, one of which could be a green space buffer of a particular size.

Carter said an initial search of records do not show a required buffer width.

Town officials said the recent expansion work at 734 Park Ave. may have changed it to the extent that it can no longer be used as an auto-repair shop, which would void the special-use permit.

Breslin said Colamussi has been considerate of neighbors by changing the original plan to put the convenience store at 734 Park Ave. because it was too close to homes.

But Bruce Miller, another resident, said Colamussi "changed it because he didn't have the zoning on this side. The best I can hope for is getting the 25-foot barrier that was in place at the repair shop back. He should respect the neighbors."

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