A variance ruling by Islip's Zoning Board of Appeals is causing a major setback and may derail Bolla Oil from expanding its gas station business onto a blighted lot in Bay Shore.
Two months after the ZBA held a public hearing filled with nearly five hours of testimony from sides both for and against, the board submitted its official six-page decision to the Islip Town Clerk last week.
The developers began nearly a year ago trying to woo nearby residents that the site was appropriate, despite its need for a zone change approval from the Town Board to go from BU1 to BU3 on the three parcels that make up the one-acre plot. The property owner, Island Associates Real Estate, Inc., was looking to lease the land on the north side of Main Street between Seafield Lane and Sunset Road to Bolla Oil for the $3 million project and would need the zone change in order to accommodate the plan's 2,500-square-foot convenience store and six pump islands.
But first, the owners needed a variance on a decades-old town ordinance that does not permit gas stations to be built less than 200 feet from a library, school, place of worship or recreation center. The site sits within 67 feet of a church and 119.2 feet from the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Public Library.
Although the church consented to the gas station being built, the library did not. The ZBA -- on a 4-0 vote with one member absent -- denied the variance request, calling it "quite substantial."
The board cited the neighborhood's "nature and character" in its denial and said that it would set a "dangerous" precedent if it were granted, according to the decision.
Environmental and traffic concerns were among the biggest issues brought up by residents, to which the board wrote: " . . .the Board determines that the approval of the relief sought herein would produce adverse environmental and physical impacts on the surrounding community especially when compared to other uses permitted as of right by the Zoning Code."
The ZBA suggested other uses for the property, under BU1 zoning, which could include retail, offices, banks, broadcasting studios, laundromats or museums.
Bolla's attorney, Keith Brown, of Melville-based Brown & Altman LLP, did not respond to a request for comment.
The community, according to Susan Barbash, one of the most outspoken residents against the project, hailed the ZBA decision as "a victory."
"It's very heartening when you feel you're being heard," Barbash said.
She said the community will push the property owners to clean up the site that's been vacant for well over a decade, but also welcome development that's "appropriate."
"There's a lot of new construction going on in Bay Shore right now, which is pretty amazing," Barbash said. "It's a valuable piece of property that could go for something really nice there. They could be heroes this time around and give the community something they could live with and support."