The Mineola Village Board room at the village hall was filled with upwards of 70 residents on October 9 for a special use hearing three-and-a-half-hours long that had either been more than a year or five years in the making depending on your point of view.
The empty lot at 449 Jericho Turnpike between White Road and Latham Road was once home to a Getty gas station and auto repair facility which had occupied the site since 1959 but which had burned down in 2007. The vacant 20,000 sq. ft lot was purchased by Harry Singh’s Bolla Market company in April 2012 with the intention of constructing a new proposed Exxon station with six gas pump islands able to dispense gas and diesel, sheltered by a 24x150 q. ft. canopy and a 2,250 sq. ft. 24-hour convenience store on the property. By comparison the 2,500 sq. ft. Getty station had only two pumps and no convenience store. It is estimated that there are $50,000-$60,000 in property taxes currently on the vacant that it would rise to a projected amount over $100,000 once improved.
Bolla was founded by Singh with one gas and service station in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn about 25 years ago, growing to a current total of 85 stations currently across NYC and Long Island, with 42 stations having convenience stores, 28 of which have a Bolla Market. A total of 14 locations have repair shops, in addition to convenience store, some have car washes. All of the Bolla Market sites are owned and operated by Singh’s company and are not franchised. Singh also operates the gas station at Glen Cove Road and Jericho Turnpike as well as one on Stewart Avenue in Garden City.
Bolla attorney David Altman said that the village’s board of zoning appeals had granted a variance request causing a reduction of the front yard setback for the canopy, reducing the minimum rear yard setback to 5 ft. and reducing the setback for the 15ft.x25 ft. loading zone on the west side from 15 ft. to 12 ft. He also noted some variances were withdrawn as per the height of canopy and signage after meeting with residents. Singh had also agreed with the architectural review board that there were to be no advertorial signs in the station’s windows.
The market has been proposed as a 24-hour operation, selling prepared and pre-packaged foods as well as beer and soft drinks. Noting New York’s higher price per gallon of gas, Altman said that the “necessity” of the convenience store is required due to that price and price of replacement of single-walled fiberglass containment tanks with double-walled tanks of a cost of $500,000 and cost of paying by credit cards, which make up 75 percent of gas station purchases.
“The cost to operate a station is rather substantial,” he said.
Engineer Chris Tartaglia of Farmingdale-based High Point Engineering testified that the store would feature nine total parking spaces with handicapped spaces on the east side of the store. There would be two 15,000 gallon underground tanks, one for regular grade gasoline and the second one segmented to contain 8,000 of high-grade fuel and 7,000 gallons of diesel.
A total of three curbcuts would be on the property: one on Jericho Turnpike aligning with Latham Road on the north side and which will be controlled by traffic light; and two existing cuts for site access, one on the east side on Latham Road on and one on the west on White Road. A westbound turning lane would allow traffic into the site from Jericho Turnpike that would be controlled by a light and which has been approved by the New York State Department of Transportation.
“The predominant traffic we believe to the site will be to and from the curbcut on Jericho Turnpike, however, the White Road and Latham Road curbcuts will also be utilized as secondary means of ingress and egress,” Tartaglia said.
Over loud disbelief from members of the public, Tartaglia said that physical medians, described as “pork chop” triangular curb channels to motivate cars towards Jericho, and signs would be placed on the White Road and Latham Road curbcuts to channel vehicles towards Jericho Turnpike.
“We have several in the village now and it really serves (as) a deterrent, but it’s not a deterrent to a practical level,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said, asking for the angle to be increased.
Altman said that the main traffic would be on Jericho with the other two curb cuts as “safety valves” to relieve queuing.
Tartaglia added that the company would be planting “densely planted evergreen trees” along the lot line as well as installing a six-foot high masonry wall along the southern lot line abutting the municipal lot, and that the management company would have plantings and landscaping management practices throughout the year. Original plans had called for only a PVC fence but was changed after residential requests.
Singh said that he would be spending an $250,000 in catering to all residents’ requests for the site, but has yielded “to show the local communities that we are coming here with big guns and want to show what we want to do.”
“If the indication of how you treated that property since you’ve owned it is any indication of how you’re going to treat it in the future, I am less than impressed,” deputy mayor Paul Pereira retorted.
An identification sign for the store is planned to be installed on the northwest corner of the property by White Road, as well as a smaller sign on the front of the building and three “Exxon” signs on the west, north, and east facades of the canopy.
The lighting on the property “is minimal and will only light up the subject premises,” Tartaglia said, with LED lighting to “focus” beams of light that features “very low light scattering” with “literally no light trespass off of the premises.”
He added that the site is “not set up” for trucks but the station will be offering diesel for customers in pickup trucks and clean diesel vehicles in response to a question from trustee Paul Cusato about tractor-trailer servicing.
Tartaglia said that the facility does meet a post-Sandy mandate for a “hookup switch” for a 10’x4’ 45-60 Kw generator to be able to connected in case of a power failure, but not one installed at the site permanently.
Singh said that in a post-Sandy-like situation where gas is rationed, a queue would be formed on Jericho for gas but “security personnel” in his own employ would direct traffic back toward Jericho Turnpike. He said that it would cost between $50,000-$60,000 to permanently install such a generator.
Testimony from traffic engineer Charles Olivo concerning a traffic study that reported that Jericho Turnpike carries 2,000 vehicles during 60 minutes while White and Latham carry “less than 100” during same period drew some derision from the crowd. He later added there would be 61 vehicles during morning peak and 81 during evening at the proposed four-way traffic signal at the station, which has a capacity of 144 vehicles, but that Singh would pay for cost of reconfiguring four-way light/ intersection.
Such a light cycle would have the green lights for the north side of Latham Road and the station driveway for only 16 seconds, with Jericho Turnpike receiving rest of every cycle with a green arrow for the proposed westbound turning lane.
Olivo also said that vehicle headlights exiting the site onto White Road or Latham Road “are directed into other commercial or industrial buildings as they come out of this site” and not onto residential properties.
Huntington-based real estate appraiser Michael Lynch said he looked at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Westbury on Jericho Turnpike and Powell’s Lane that was abutted by residential homes and their sales data through 2009 and compared it to another area in Westbury, finding “insignificant differing of approximately 3 percent” and that he did “not find that the presence of that particular convenience store had any adverse affect to surrounding property values.”
Pereira responded by saying that “comparing properties behind a 7-Eleven in Westbury is not the same as comparing properties behind a gas station in Mineola.”
Strauss also asked about the playing of video ads on gas pumps while they are in operation, as is done at the station on Jericho Turnpike and Glen Cove Road. Singh said that the station would not have them if requested by the board.
Altman said that Bolla operates their own fleet of delivery vehicles, thus fuel deliveries are able to be scheduled for any time of day. Pereira asked if both credit and cash prices would be same, to which Singh said “absolutely” that there would not be a two-tier price plan.
Food deliveries however would arrive from various vendors throughout the day in box trucks according to Altman, who added they occur “on an as-needed basis.” He later clarified it to about 30 different deliveries per week that occur during “daylight, non-peak hours.” Waste would be collected two to three times per week by a private carter from a trash masonry enclosure to the right of the building.
Hot food preparation would take place inside in a 17-18 ft. kitchen space inside store with a hood and grill. Prepared foods according to Singh would include tilapia, Italian specials, a buffet served in containers, while cold cuts and salads would be available in open-air coolers. Between three to four service employees would be handing out food according to Singh from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. He expects 10 percent of customers to the station to purchase food.
“The idea is to provide fresh food to go,” Singh said, adding that there is little waste because “we prepare based on what we sell.”
Singh stated that to his knowledge there were four monitoring wells for groundwater and soil pollution on the site, but there was no remediation on the property necessary. Security for the site would feature several closed-circuit cameras monitoring activity.
Due to the lengthiness of the hearing, Strauss left the comment period open and that the hearing would be continued on November 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the village hall.