The property where an abandoned gas station now stands, at the northeast corner of Routes 25A and 107 — the gateway to the Village of Old Brookville — was the main topic of the May 22 village meeting. Originally residential property, the parcel was zoned 50 years ago as commercial, and residents want to know whether another gas station can be built there.
The village hired attorney Tom Levin, of the law firm Meyer Suozzi, in April as independent counsel to offer advice on what can be erected on the property, which many describe as an eyesore. Suggestions of a Starbucks have been discussed before, but that idea was not popular among some residents.
Mayor Bernie Ryba and the board asked the law firm whether the property could host another gas station, and in a May 17 report, Levin indicated that according to village code, it could not.
Asked what it could be used for, Levin said that it was limited to residential use.
William Diconza, an Oyster Bay attorney who represents the property owner, David Ross, said he was curious about Levin’s legal reasoning. “It’s difficult to get into this without starting to reveal the contents of an opinion and the advice that our firm has given to the board,” Levin replied. “The opinion is based on the fact that the gas station’s usage ceased in November 2013.”
Levin also said that in April 2014, Ross obtained a permit to remove the gas tanks, canopy stanchions and everything else except the building.
Ross told the Herald Gazette that the property had been the site of not only a gas station, but a convenience store, an auto-repair shop and an auto-supply store.
Diconza and Levin argued about the property’s potential future use. “This isn’t a forum in which we’re going to resolve a legal argument through arguing,” Levin said finally.
Diconza replied, “I just wanted to make sure that you were aware of all the facts before you came to this conclusion.”
Despite Diconza’s questions, some residents at the meeting appeared to accept the law firm’s opinion. “We have many, many residents in agreement with this law firm,” said Cathy Gugliucci, of Old Brookville. “Our community is behind that, and we really don’t want to see the property developed. No hard feelings to William’s client, but if there’s something that can be done with it, we could fully support that.”
Village Attorney John Chase suggested that Ross might want to consider building a home on the lot, and added that that would be an opportunity to welcome another family into the community. “I think we’d like anything other than what we’re seeing right now,” Chase said.
Resident Jason Samel asked if any tests had been done to see if the property was contaminated. Levin explained that it is not the village’s responsibility to make that determination. “You can’t just go on somebody’s property and test it,” he said. “That’s a concern that will have to get resolved down the road no matter what the property is used for.”
Based on the public comments and the law firm’s advice, Ryba made a motion to deny village approval of any further use of the property as a gas station. He said that the board would review a resolution explaining its rationale at the next public meeting, scheduled for June 19.