Liffco owner’s appeal doesn’t quiet concerns

Liffco owner’s appeal doesn’t quiet concerns

A Williston Park business could have to close after nearly 100 years in business if it doesn’t get approval from the village Board of Zoning Appeals, the owner said Tuesday.

Darryl Murray, owner of Liffco Power Equipment at 294A Hillside Ave., wants the zoning board to let him do repairs as an “incidental use” at his sales and service center, or otherwise give him an exception to zoning rules that he needs to stay competitive.

But more than a dozen residents who live nearby said Liffco mechanics have been doing repairs outside, creating noise and fumes that disturb the neighborhood. 

Zoning board members said they saw the same problems on visits to the shop.

“It’s terrible. It’s just not safe,” said Javier Salines, who lives on the adjacent Liberty Avenue.

Liffco has sold lawn mowers and other outdoor power equipment since 1919 and moved to Williston Park from Mineola in March. 

The village building department has ruled Liffco needs permission from the zoning board to operate because repairs account for a large portion of its business.

Repairs should count as an incidental use allowed under the village code because they only accounted for about 11 percent of the shop’s business or less in the past three years, not including sales of parts used for repairs, said Kathleen Deegan Dickson, Liffco’s attorney.

Four of Liffco’s 11 employees, including Murray, do repairs and the rest do sales, Dickson said. Many Liffco customers are landscapers and municipalities who do their own repairs, she said.

Liffco must offer repairs to stay in business because its customers want to buy equipment and get it fixed in the same place, Murray said. 

Its local competitors offer repairs and its dealer agreements with some major manufacturers require them, Dickson said.

“It would be a shame if because they just changed location to come into the village, that now they’re not going to be able to continue their successful model that they’ve worked on for at least the last 60 years,” Dickson said.

But residents said Liffco has continually been a bad neighbor, allowing mechanics to do repairs in the parking lot and on the sidewalk and letting garbage pile up on the property.

Running loud mowers and other vehicles floats gasoline fumes through the air, hurting quality of life and the character of the neighborhood, residents said. Salines and others provided photos of the problems they say they’re living with daily.

“I can’t open my windows, because all I hear is the noise,” said Donna Weber, who lives next door.

Murray said he’s directed his 10 employees to park in the village lot across the street and tried to rein in outdoor repairs. 

But neighbors said landscaping trucks still block nearby streets and make navigating the area hazardous.

Some residents also questioned Murray’s claim about how much his business relies on repairs, and how much of the 5,285-square-foot space is used for repairs.

“That’s not an accessory to the business,” resident Bob Muller said. “That’s a crucial part of that business, and he’s selling every piece of equipment with the intent, as the attorney said, to service that equipment.”

The zoning board could prohibit Liffco from running engines outside if it rules in its favor, zoning board member F. Xavier Fleming said. He also asked for more detailed financial records for the sales and repair sides of the business.

The board tabled Liffco’s application and asked Deegan-Dickson to submit additional documents by Oct. 4.

Murray said he got incorrect legal advice that he wouldn’t need zoning board permission to open in Williston Park. He is locked into a 15-year lease on the space but is regularly communicating with his landlord.

Asked what his next move would be if the zoning board ruled against him, Murray said, “Prayer.”

“I’m really sorry with everybody that all these things are hapenning,” he said during Tuesday’s hearing. “I’m not trying to upset anybody in the neighborhood. We’re here to serve the neighborhood, really.”

By Noah Manskar

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