By Stephen J. Kotz
Four years after John Leonard proposed transforming the ramshackle Harbor Heights service station on Hampton Street into a modern facility with a convenience store, new pumps and other improvements, work has finally begun on the project.
Mr. Leonard’s company, Petroleum Ventures, sold the property in September to 144 Hampton Road, LLC, a company owned by James Elgin, for $2.5 million.
Mr. Elgin owns a number of gas stations on both the North and South forks, including one on North Main Street in East Hampton and one in Montauk.
Alpar Yildiz, who said he was Mr. Elgin’s nephew and would be managing the business, said he expected the work would be finished by the end of April.
“We’re just fixing up the station,” he said. “We’re going to make it nice.”
After a number of vehicles that were stored on the property were removed this fall, the station itself was closed down in November. Greg Miller, who operated the Sag Harbor Service Station to the rear of the property, moved his operation to another facility he owns on Millstone Road in Noyac, where he is operating under the name Greg’s Garage.
Reached on Monday, Mr. Miller declined to comment on the changes at Harbor Heights and whether he would be returning.
Mr. Yildiz said because of the nature of the work, which involves excavating to remove old gas tanks and other demolition, it simply was not safe to allow the public access to Mr. Miller’s garage to the rear of the site.
“He has to wait for the renovation to be finished,” Mr. Yildiz said. “After construction he can move back in.”
The Harbor Heights project, when it was first proposed, drew heavy criticism from neighbors who feared it would result in a more intensive commercial use of the property, which is in a residentially zoned neighborhood.
The village Zoning Board of Appeals ultimately granted only a single frontyard setback variance, allowing a 600-square-foot convenience store to be built in an existing space that was being used as a customer waiting area and office. As part of the approval, which included moving the pumps to the side of the building, Petroleum Ventures agreed to tidy up and screen the property and control lighting.
Reached at his home in Florida on Monday, Mr. Leonard said, “I wish I had gotten the first plan approved. I would have built it myself.”