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Village may have issued permit in error

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Valley Stream building officials may have erroneously issued a building permit for the construction of a gas station on Sunrise Highway, and subsequently revoked it after construction had commenced. The error potentially exposes the village to legal action by the developer, according to Nassau County planners.

Discussing site plans for the project, which require variances for lot and canopy size, at a Nassau County Planning Commission hearing on Sept. 26, county planner Martin Katz said a village official had indicated to him that a permit for the construction had been issued before referral to the village Board of Zoning Appeals and the planning commission, as required by New York General Municipal Law.

The permit was then revoked early this summer, leaving empty ports where gas pumps would be, and the skeleton of half-finished girders for its canopy. County planners denied the application on grounds that the lot size is half of what is required by village code for a business of this nature, as well as a lack of inclusion of a study looking at how the property’s entrances and exits would affect traffic on Sunrise. They acknowledged, however, that the village would have little choice but to override their decision or risk a lawsuit by the developer.

“You have an applicant who went into the village, got a building permit and spent their money and started building in good faith because they had a building permit, and then Valley Stream told them, ‘We screwed up,’” Planning Commissioner Rick Shaper said. “. . . So what I see happening here is that the village will have no choice but to override us because they’re going to get sued by the applicant for the money spent.”

Village officials acknowledged the error, and said they were working to resolve the issue.

“A permit was issued in error to an existing gas station site. The mistake was picked up by our village Building Department, and immediate steps were taken to issue a stop-work order,” Mayor Ed Fare said. “The application is now moving through the proper channels to bring it into compliance. At every step of the way, the village has been vigilant in monitoring the safety of the site and ensuring that this application receives the fair and thorough review that all such applications warrant.”

At the Village Board of Trustees meeting on Aug. 19, the board voted to approve a building permit for the construction of gasoline pumps on the property, and at the Oct. 1 Board of Zoning Appeals meeting heard the case for the two variances the developer is seeking for the station.

Speaking before the zoning board, residents were generally accepting of the gas station, with a few raising concerns over traffic on Sunrise. And while board members acknowledged that the use would be “tight” for the size of lot, they too seemed receptive to the project, noting that the property had served as a gas station in years past, but more recently had fallen into disrepair.

The property was sold to the current owner and developer, 38 W. Sunrise Highway LLC, for $825,000 in July 2018, according to county land records. Because the planning commission denied the application for variances, the village zoning board would need a supermajority, or four out of five, to vote for overriding the commission. Still, county planning commissioners, expressing frustration, hoped their denial would send a message to the parties involved.

“We can’t allow lousy development just because [38 W. Sunrise] got away with getting a permit illegally,” Shaper said. “That’s immaterial, otherwise [developers] would all be doing it: starting construction and asking for relief.”

Nicole Alcindor contributed to this story.