The North Hempstead Town Board passed a resolution Tuesday night to amend the town’s tree policy while also approving an application for Bolla Market to develop a gas station, convenience store and drive-thru in Roslyn Heights.
The tree policy governs the planting and removal of trees and saplings in town-owned public spaces. Council Member Veronica Lurvey said the amendments provide clarity to what she called a living document.
“These updates aim to improve the tree policy based on feedback from the community and experts, ensuring a comprehensive and effective approach to tree management in our town,” Lurvey said Tuesday night.
In 2021, the town amended its tree code to create a committee that includes a combination of town staff, a certified arborist, and seven members of the public who will provide input and advise the town board on tree-related matters.
Responsibilities for the committee include the drafting of an annual report, ensuring the town remains a Tree City USA, recommending how funds in the Tree Preservation Fund are used in consultation with the comptroller, and providing recommendations about trees in the town, among other things.
North Hempstead Highway Superintendent Doug Schlaefer said the amendments enhance the safety and expertise in the town’s tree management practices.
“Tonight’s amendments, incorporating valuable input from the Tree Advisory Committee, the Highway Department, and concerned residents, emphasize repairing sidewalks without removing trees whenever possible, requiring arborist evaluations for tree removal decisions, and promoting species diversity for increased resilience,” Schlaefer said in a statement. “In addition to these amendments, the Town board has already allocated funding for proper pruning practices and prioritizing safety measures when working with electrical wires. As part of our ongoing efforts, we are implementing formal training programs for tree cutters, ensuring they receive expert guidance and expertise.”
Among the changes included are modifying notice requirements, specifying reasons for tree removal, clarifying methods for resident feedback, replacing the term “emergency” with “hazard for consistency, requiring a paid invoice from a licensed servicer when roots damage house sewer connections and updating planting requirements, among other things.
“The Tree Policy is a living document that recognizes the dynamic nature of our community’s needs and the environment, allowing for revisions and updates as necessary,” Lurvey said.
Additional changes include language on managing invasive insects and diseases, encouraging tree diversity and granting the Highway Department flexibility in managing tree work.
The resolution passed with a vote of six to one on the seven-person board, with Republican Council Member Dennis Walsh voting against it. Republicans David Adhami and Supervisor Jennifer DeSena added the resolution was complicated and there was room for improvement.
The town board also approved Bolla to develop a self-service gasoline station on two parcels of land that also include a convenience store, coffee shop and drive-thru on Willis Avenue in Roslyn Heights.
The public hearing took multiple hours after testimony from both the applicant, which included Bolla Management President Harry Singh and residents of the nearby community, who were adamantly opposed to the project where a Mobil station and abandoned restaurant currently sit.
The town board approved the resolution with a vote of five to two, with Roslyn Heights’ representative Peter Zuckerman voting against the resolution alongside Mariann Dalimonte.
The proposed 55,733-square-foot gas station is located at 225-255 Willis Ave. and includes a 4,175-square-foot convenience store.
Multiple residents vehemently objected to the project, saying it would cause an influx of traffic on Willis Avenue, which sits between the Long Island Expressway and Northern State Parkway.
Michael Alper, the president of the North Park Civic Association who lives approximately 10 houses away from the project, said the location as of right now sees a lot of car accidents.
He said the size of the proposed gas station would increase traffic on an already busy street, making it hard for neighboring residents to enter and exit their neighborhoods.
Exiting cars from the property would not be allowed to make a left turn going North on Willis. Residents said the closest U-turn going southbound on Willis would be through Gateway, which connects to West Court.
Alper said the gas station would be the largest in the town, about double the size of the current gas station located at the proposed site and about a third larger than the current largest gas station in the town.
“If I have not been eloquent and persuasive enough, if this application is approved and someone gets hurt in an accident here, or God forbid killed, I’ll feel terribly that I have maybe not done enough,” Alper said.
In unrelated town news, town Democrats voted to set a date for a public hearing on Aug. 8 to consider a local law that requires fiscal impact statements by town board members ahead of setting the agenda for the upcoming meeting.
The local law, submitted by Lurvey, would designate North Hempstead Comptroller Kristen Schwaner as the responsible party for overseeing the budgetary impact of future resolutions if approved.
The proposal differs slightly from the one DeSena submitted last meeting, which was not passed. DeSena’s proposal would have made Paul Wood, the director of finance who works with the supervisor’s office, the party who reviews fiscal impact statements for legislation.
DeSena said Lurvey’s proposal takes away a responsibility designated to her office as stated in town law, which allows the director of finance to assist her in the administration of fiscal operations of the town that the supervisor is responsible for.
DeSena submitted another resolution Tuesday night setting a date for her version of the local law, which was not passed by town Democrats, who hold a four-person majority on the seven-person board.
“This ensures an independent and impartial assessment of the fiscal impact safeguarding the interest of our community and promoting good government practices,” Lurvey said.
In unrelated town news, a public hearing to consider the application of expanding the parking lot of the Hillside Islamic Center in New Hyde Park was moved to Aug. 8.