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Jun 21, 2012 12:29 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Southampton ZBA Rules Against Mulching Operation At Noyac-Bridgehampton Sand Mine

Jun 26, 2012 5:26 PM

Neighbors who have opposed some operations at a sand and gravel business in Noyac won a small victory last week when the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals overturned part of a determination by Chief Building Inspector Michael Benincasa, one that said the business pre-dated current zoning and should be allowed to keep operating.

The board decided on Thursday, June 21, that Mr. Benincasa had ruled in error when he determined that the company should be allowed to continue “the processing of trees, brush, stumps, leaves and other clearing debris into topsoil or mulch, and the storage, sale and delivery of mulch, topsoil and wood chips.”

Sand Land Corporation—also known as Wainscott Sand and Gravel—had not submitted sufficient evidence to establish a pre-existing use for such a use, the board said in its determination. The board, therefore, ordered that the portion of the site’s certificate of occupancy regarding those uses be removed.

This latest decision follows at least two other recent cases in which the board overturned previous determinations made by Mr. Benincasa.

In December 2011, for example, the board voided his ruling that a swampy, phragmites-filled Bridgehampton backyard was technically “waterfront,” according to the town code, and therefore the owners were able to have a pool constructed in the front yard. More recently, in March, the board vacated another of Mr. Benincasa’s decisions, one involving an application for a summer day camp near North Sea’s Little Fresh Pond. In that case, the board ruled that, contrary to Mr. Benincasa’s decision, the proposed renovation and expansion of a tennis club for use as a day camp would constitute a change of use under zoning laws.

Some neighbors of the Sand Land site—Joseph Phair, Margot Gilman and Amelia Doggwiler—had claimed in an appeal of Mr. Benincasa’s determination that although the business only had approvals to operate as a sand mining facility, operations had expanded over the years to include a solid waste processing plant, including the disposal of landscaping materials, composting and rock crushing.

They also complained that stench and loud noise at the site have disrupted their quality of life over the years. Nearly a year ago, they appealed Mr. Benincasa’s July 2011 decision, which granted a pre-existing certificate of occupancy for the processing of trees, brush and other debris into topsoil or mulch.

Mr. Benincasa also determined that the receipt and processing of concrete, asphalt, pavement, brick, rock and stone into concrete blend was not pre-existing, and those activities should not be permitted on the site. The neighbors did not challenge that favorable ruling; but last week the ZBA endorsed his conclusion.

The board concluded that the roughly 50-acre Middle Line Highway site benefits from a pre-existing sand mining operation and agreed with the portion of Mr. Benincasa’s determination that it is entitled to the pre-existing use of the storage, sale and delivery of sand, as well as pre-existing accessory use of the site for the receipt of trees, brush, stumps, leaves and other clearing debris. The neighbors also did not appeal that part of the original ruling.

ZBA Vice Chairman Adam Grossman and members Ann Nowak, Keith Tuthill, Brian DeSesa and Denise O’Brien voted in favor of the board’s conclusion. Chairman Herb Phillips cast the lone dissenting vote. Board member David Reilly recused himself; he did not offer a reason why.

“Obviously, we’re very pleased with the decision,” Zachary Murdock, the attorney for the neighbors, said shortly after the ruling. “We hope that the owner and operator will respect it and will conform to the directive that the ZBA has given, and we’ll take it from there.”

David Eagan, an attorney for the East Hampton firm MacLachlan and Eagan, which is representing Sand Land, did not return a request for comment this week.

Meanwhile, two nights after the ZBA ruled that composting and mulching could not be done at the site, a fire broke out in a large mulch pile there. Firefighters from several local departments spent much of Saturday night battling the blaze.

Bridge Gardens

Also last Thursday, the Peconic Land Trust continued to seek extensive relief from the ZBA that would allow the nonprofit conservation group to hold a few fundraising events at Bridge Gardens, a nearly 5-acre site on Mitchells Lane in Bridgehampton that is known for its beauty.

ZBA members, however, voiced clear opposition to the application and called again for a merger of the two properties that make up the gardens. A merger would decrease the amount of relief needed, but the Trust has been wary to merge the lots.

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The mine has been there for over 50 years grinding rocks mining sand and taking trees, These people decided to move there because they got a deal on their property and are now complaining because they dont like the noise. Same city idiots who dont like the airport or the landfills but moved there anyway.
By chief1 (2784), southampton on Jun 21, 12 6:33 PM
But our real estate agent didn't tell us about the sand mine until after we closed! And we didn't think to look at a map, either.
By itsamazing (223), Southampton on Jun 22, 12 4:13 PM
2 members liked this comment
Rocky's and Vince's sand and mining operation decades ago did not include the use narrowly proscribed by this small reversal IMO.

It is one thing to move next door to a sand and gravel pit (well below the surrounding hills -- remember the cable etc. operation to haul up the sand? !!!).

It is another thing to have the current noisy NEW use up at ground level.

Pre-existing use OK. New use not?

Rule of Law.

USA
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Jun 22, 12 7:26 PM
2 members liked this comment
again the NIMBY crowd has won a small sub signifact victory. Let the sand mine sue and tie it up in courts for many years to come. I remember the sand mine and pit from when I was a kid (1950's) and would have been glad to testify. Sorry I didn't know earlier would have given an affidavit. Same thing with the race track and the airport and don't forget running the highway on the high tension wires!! People you get what you pay for!!!
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Jun 22, 12 7:47 PM
xtiego, is the "NIMBY crowd" still protected by the Rule of Law in our fine United States of America, and by our Constitution? Or would you propose that we throw all cautions to the wind?

Check out the photos at the top of the page. Was this way-above-ground-noisy operation going on in the "1950's?" No way.

Rule of Law.

USA

PS -- NIMBY is indeed a problem, but not in this case IMO.

PS2 -- Was the golf course in the background there in the 50's? Actually ...more
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Jun 22, 12 8:07 PM
The Raceway should have been a National Historic Landmark.

See my letter to the Press, circa 1998.
Jun 22, 12 10:26 PM appended by Mr. Z
"Wearin' that badge don't make you right..."
By Mr. Z (11670), North Sea on Jun 22, 12 10:26 PM
Its obvious you have no idea what your talking about.The mine has been there since the 50's. The site has always been a place to bring in extra topsoil and trees from land clearing and excavation jobs. This has also been a site where excavators have rented space to keep their equipment. Of course the mine wasn't the same size as it is now it is expanding on its pre existing use, Your right to mention the constitution the Board of appeals just threw away the owners land rights he has had for over ...more
By chief1 (2784), southampton on Jun 22, 12 10:07 PM
2 members liked this comment
First racing at the Bridge, now a middle class business.

Take your Greenspan fiat dollars, and well...
Jun 22, 12 10:24 PM appended by Mr. Z
See: Brown, & Versaggi.
By Mr. Z (11670), North Sea on Jun 22, 12 10:24 PM
So they are allowed to take in leaves but they are not allowed to let them rot??? Sounds like a certian group has their collective heads up their...
By bird (824), Southampton on Jun 23, 12 1:17 AM
Just letting PRB get his facts straight. The Bridgehampton raceway opened iin the 50"s. Last I check 1957 was the 50"s and that is when the race track opened.
By J. Totta (106), Sag Harbor on Jun 23, 12 11:22 AM
1 member liked this comment
Surprise Surprise - another Benincasa ruling overturned by the ZBA. I'm starting to see a pattern here... how much longer will that guy be on the take? errr... I mean employed? Time to clean house and we won't be wasting everyones time and $$$ at the ZBA

Also, for those complaining that this is a case of being a NIMBY - you clearly didn't thoroughly understand what the article and ruling was about. The neighbors were not suing over the sand mine - they were suing over a new use which ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jun 23, 12 11:27 AM
1 member liked this comment
Fire in mulch pit. New article on home page. Four FD's spent much of Saturday night battling this according to the article.

J. Totta, thanks for the correction. Yes, the first race was held in 1957, although construction was not complete then.

By PBR (4952), Southampton on Jun 24, 12 12:18 PM
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