Google Maps/The Sunny Sunoco gas station site in Margage will soon be home to four new residences.


MARGATE – The Planning Board Jan. 27 had a full agenda, including a request to approve a use change for an existing commercial property and a second application to revive an abandoned commercial building.

FFL Investments, LLC received the board’s approval to turn the Sunny Sunoco gas station into four residential units. The second application heard Thursday evening garnered unanimous approval to turn the abandoned PNC Bank into a real estate office.

The board voted 6-1 to grant a use variance on the gas station, which board members said has become a “dinosaur” business to have on a barrier island. The gas station is an island unto itself because it is currently detached from the Commercial Business District, separated by residential development.

However, one board member decried losing commercial space.

“Once we lose commercial property, it’s gone forever,” board member Steve Jasiecki said, calling small commercial properties “little oasises in the community.”

With all the residential properties being rebuilt and enlarged, “do we have enough businesses for the people coming into the town? We already lost enough,” he said before casting the sole no vote.

Two of the four homes that will be located on the corners of Ventnor and Clermont avenues and Ventnor and Delavan avenues will have wrapped porches with an access point on Ventnor Avenue, which will also require the approval of the Atlantic County Planning Board because Ventnor Avenue is a county roadway.

Planner Arthur W. Ponzio, who prepared the plans for the new development, said it will fit in well with the surrounding neighborhood, and reduce the noise and traffic generated by the gas station.

He said the 2-foot front yard setback variance on Ventnor Avenue was minimal considering the benefits to the community, including enhanced landscaping along Ventnor Avenue. Other aspects of the development meet all of Margate’s residential zoning requirements.

Sunny Sunoco station owner Steven Ammazzalorso, who has owned the service station since 1984, said the 30-year-old inground fiberglass tanks would have to be replaced within six years. There are three 8,000-gallon tanks on site and one above ground heating oil tank that will cost just under a half-million dollars to remove. The station has accidental discharge insurance that carries a $100,000 deductible, which makes it unaffordable to continue operating. The soil was tested in 2012 after a mishap following Hurricane Sandy. The soil has currently tested clean, he said. New testing will be required when the tanks are removed.

Ammazzalorso said at one time there were 17 gas stations in the Downbeach area of Absecon Island. After Sunny closes, anyone seeking to fill their tank must travel to Albany Avenue in Atlantic City to fill up.

Board members agreed with Jasiecki’s assertion that the city needs to maintain commercial areas, but the gas station is no longer a viable business, they said.

Board member Joe DiGerolamo said the new development would be a good fit for the neighborhood and that the gas station “could be an environmental problem down the road.”

Although it is zoned commercial, Michael Richmond said the gas station sticks out in the residential neighborhood “like a sore thumb” and it could be a potential “catastrophe.”

Google Maps/The old PNC Bank in Margate will become a real estate office.

A second application to allow the PNC Bank building at Ventnor and Benson avenues to be redeveloped into a real estate office will preserve a commercial property in the Commercial Business District. Because it is located on Ventnor Avenue, a county road, it will also have to be reviewed by the county Planning Board.

The board approved an amended site plan for Provdo Decatur, LLC to make some changes to the exterior of the bank building, which includes removing the drive through, removing some paving to create an 8-foot green space in the back of the property, installation of pole mounted LED lights that will not impede neighboring properties, and a board-on-board fence separating the lot from the adjacent residential property. There will be no changes to the existing curb cuts.

The board unanimously agreed to grant preliminary major site plan approval with no variances, but with some conditions that the applicant agreed to address.

Board members agreed the project would be a “marked improvement” to the neighborhood and re-establish commercial office space in the business district.


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Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.