Should a former gas station be allowed to reopen on Route 58?

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Owners of a gas station on the southeast corner of Ostrander Avenue and Route 58 are seeking to reopen.

The owners of an abandoned gas station at the southeast corner of Ostrander Avenue and Route 58 are seeking to reopen it as a gas station, but they’re facing zoning obstacles.

The property was rezoned in 2004 to a category that doesn’t permit gas stations and, since the site was inactive and the gas station use abandoned for more than a year, the Town Code says it’s no longer an allowed use there.

The landowners, Strong Oil Co. of Water Mill, are asking the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals for permission to re-establish the gas station use there. Their attorney, Mike Walsh, said the station closed in spring 2010 only to comply with state and county regulations regarding tank removal and replacement. That job was completed in 2010, but the owners decided to sell the property, he said. Strong Oil has a contract with Stop & Shop, which operates gas stations in conjunction with Shell, but the prospective new owners installed monitoring wells to make sure the property was clean before they bought it, which slowed down the process, Mr. Walsh said.

He argued at a ZBA hearing last Thursday that the delay was due in part to compliance with county and state regulations, which pushed them past the one-year limit.

ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone disagreed.

“The case law is pretty clear that in any ordinance that has a specific time reference, intent no longer matters,” Mr. DeSimone said. “If there’s a specific durational period, that’s it. It doesn’t matter what the intent was. Based upon the time line sheet you presented, it seems to me the one year has come and gone and the use is gone.”

Mr. Walsh said he will present case law that says the opposite.

The ZBA adjourned the hearing until Jan. 26.

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