Old Brookville hires counsel after Starbucks rumor spreads


A rumor that a commercial interest of some kind — possibly a Starbucks or other coffee shop — was eyeing new use of a long boarded up gas station building at the corner of Rtes 25A and 107 has led the Old Brookville Village Board to hire outside counsel to examine ‘the status and circumstances’ of how the property may be used.

At the board’s regular meeting on April 17, Mayor Bernie Ryba and board members voted to hire the law firm of Meyer Suozzi as independent counsel to offer advice and counsel on the matter.

“That corner has not been anything operationally for a number of years,” Ryba told a crowd of residents who came to the board meeting with questions about the rumor. “We have brought in Meyer Suozzi because there is possible abandonment of the property, and we want to know what the implications of that are.”

According to the Old Brookville mayor, that report will be available at the next board meeting.

The property in question is an approximately half acre site on the northeast corner of Route 25a and Rte 107, and serves as a gateway  corner to Old Brookville. At the board meeting on Monday night, no clear statement was made concerning the property’s current zoning status. According to the village, it was originally residential property but 40 to 50 years ago was zoned as commercial.

But David Ross, the owner of the property, told the Oyster Bay Guardian that he has no knowledge of any intent to open up a coffee shop at the site. “The property had four uses in the past — gas station, mini-convenience store, auto repairs, auto supplies,” he said. “We’ve cleaned it up — taken out a truckload of debris, old cars and other items — and removed the old underground storage tanks. My understanding is that it can still be used as a gas station.”

The board announced its action as numerous community residents voiced concerns about the potential for increased traffic congestion, becoming a teen hangout, or disturbing the ecology of the area.

“I understand it was originally zoned residential, became commercial, but is zoned residential again,” said local resident John Lumpp. “Whatever it may be, is it in our best interest to entertain a change of zoning? Can we keep it residential? Can the village purchase it?”

“We don’t have the funds to purchase the property,” Ryba replied.

As for the rest? “We want to be absolutely sure, which is why we’re seeking a legal opinion from Meyer Suozzi,” Ryba said. “Until we have that opinion we will not speculate.”

It is unclear how the rumor of a possible new retail use of the corner surfaced. According to the board, there is no application before the village for use. The owner of the property, said Ryba, was “completely unaware this was being presented to the village.”

So why did the village put the item on their agenda for discussion?

“The village obtained an email that someone had a client — possibly Starbucks — that was interested in the property,” Ryba said. The email, he said, went on to ask that the board place this on the agenda at the Apr 17 meeting.

The mayor is concerned. He said that the village would not hold discussions with parties other than the principals in the property itself. “The outreach has no standing,” said Ryba. “We will deal with the owner.”

And while Ross may not have any information to offer on new retail use of the property, he acknowledged that he does have unnamed “partners” who might. “I own the property, and I have no knowledge of any planned use,” he said. “But my partners may.”