Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 18 December 2013 00:00
The Mineola Village Board approved the much-debated, revised plan for Bolla Market to build a gas station and convenience store at 449 Jericho Turnpike last week. The property was hotly contested at hearings in October and November due to the property abutting village residences and the proposal calling for a 24-hour gas station and convenience store.
The 2,250-square foot business will be open seven days, 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days per week, according to papers obtained by the Mineola American. Bolla reps confirmed that this is the first non-24 hour Bolla Market station in the entire company.
Forty-two of CEO Harry Singh’s 85 Bolla locations have a convenience store. The Mineola site will hold six 2-sided gas pumps and one store.
Singh will also install an emergency generator on the site to supply fuel during power outages. He’ll need to erect a six-foot masonry wall from White Road east to Latham Road, complete with shrubbery and plantings, to minimize noise pollution, according to the documents.
The plan also calls for a 6-foot white PVC fence on the south side of the municipal parking lot, which is not on Bolla's property, near residential homes, among other requirements. The property is zoned for a gas station, which was built on the property in 1959, but suffered a fire and was torn down six years ago.
The lot has been vacant since. Singh indicated that the site could be built within six months from its start date, which is unknown at this time.
“It was a long-fought battle,” Singh said. “I don’t consider this a victory against the residents. This I feel is coming to an understanding that Bolla Market will be an asset to the community.”
Bolla appeared before the village’s board of zoning appeals in 2012 and this year. The company held informational meetings for residents after the second meeting and, according to Bolla reps, made “significant changes” after said meeting—changes which cost Singh roughly $250,000.
Singh said he and his team “bent themselves backwards” to show the neighbors that he’s willing to sacrifice the 24-hour operation. While Bolla is thriving, he worries the store could struggle a bit from local competition. Mineola has four gas stations, with two running 24 hours, including the Sunoco gas station on Jericho Turnpike and Herricks Road that has a convenience store.
“Giving up the  hours was not an easy thing to do,” he said. “It’s not our model of operation. But we are hoping this will not put us in financial hardship when we open, while our competitors are open 24 hours."
While the all-day-and-night operation sparked outrage from residents and a decision was reached, even the new parameters don’t sit well with White Road resident Stan Wojis. He and his wife Matlide attended the hearings. More than 90 people attended the first hearing, which prompted the board to hold an additional hearing that saw 75 residents swarm Village Hall.
“The closing time is still egregious to me,” he said. “The board ignored the will of the people that were 100 percent against it and no one for it. I’m not happy.”
Wojis feels the plan, while changed, doesn’t solve the problems residents brought up over the last two months.
“I’m not happy,” said Wojis said. “[The board] is really giving him a core bunch of hours right there. People didn’t want it at all. Our village officials did not look out for us. Next chance I get to go to a village board meeting, I’m going to convey that to them.”
Mayor Scott Strauss said the board met with Bolla reps over the last few weeks and the decision was finalized last Wednesday afternoon. He feels that a middle ground was reached in the decision-making process.
“I think [the decision] says to the residents that this is a good compromise,” Strauss said in a phone interview. “This decision is fair. It protects the residents and it’s a balance. It also respects the rights of the business owner. I wanted to get this done as soon as possible.”
As far as choosing the time slot for store operations, Strauss indicated the time was suggested by Singh’s team. Furthermore, he was surprised they proposed an 11 p.m. closing.
“[Harry Singh] heard the concerns of the community and the residents as we did,” Strauss said. “Their attorney had a conversation with our attorney and they sent a letter asking if we’d be amicable to a 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. closing. We thought it was reasonable and fair.”