Philipstown Planning Board seeks ZBA input
The debate over the Gulf station on Route 9D in Garrison took a new turn Sept. 19 when the Philipstown Planning Board voted to ask the Zoning Board of Appeals to rule on whether local law allows used-car sales there.
The station’s owner, Arafat Ibrahim, wants to install a lighted canopy over its pumps and to sell used cars. The station is in a hamlet-mixed use zoning district. Station proprietors acknowledged to the Planning Board in February that used-car sales had already occurred and that the town had issued a violation notice. Ibrahim bought the property in 2014.
While the ZBA determines the legality of used-car sales at the site, the Planning Board review of the entire project is on hold, said Stephen Gaba, the town attorney.
Bart Lansky, Ibrahim’s lawyer, said his client planned to have a three-vehicle lot that fits with its surroundings. “It’s not like we’re going to have cars right alongside the road with big stickers on them,” he told the Planning Board.
During a public hearing, one resident supported the gas station plans but more than a dozen others expressed opposition. Some also objected to a lighted canopy.
“A commercial-sized canopy as well as a used-car lot inserted on scenic Route 9D can hardly be considered” acceptable under zoning strictures, said Joan Turner, a former ZBA member. She said a small, simple gas station operated on the site in 1942, pre-dating local zoning laws. She argued that the current station, as a “pre-existing, non-conforming” business, cannot deviate much in character from the original.
She also said that in 1973 the then-owners of the station asked to sell used cars but the ZBA declined and it also refused in 1995 to allow a canopy. She suggested the current owner would need a variance or special-use permit. She also suggested alternatives to a canopy exist, such as having employees pump gas in bad weather.
Wally Schaefer, who lives on Grassi Lane, which intersects 9D near the Gulf, said that although Ibrahim proposed selling one or two cars at any time, he later increased the number to five and that now there are eight “littering our neighborhood… Few would deny that the accumulation of used vehicles is an eyesore.”
Shahla Jannetta, who lives on Alfalfa Lane, off Grassi Lane, has two children attending the Garrison School. She referred to herself as “pro-business” but also expressed concern because school buses stop in front of the station and “everybody speeds” through the area. “It’s not safe enough already — let alone [for someone] to start a new business that could cause more accidents.”
Daniel Potts, a member of the vestry (parish council) of St. Philip’s Church, across the street from the station, said the idea of a used-car business “has caused great disquiet among the vestry,” which fears negative impacts on its nursery school and church. He said the vestry does not oppose the canopy.