Southampton Town fire marshals have issued multiple violations to the owner of a property off Speonk-Riverhead Road in Speonk and the manager of a national car auction company for storing thousands of vehicles damaged in Superstorm Sandy at the site, one not zoned for such a use, town attorneys confirmed Wednesday.
Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato, who said she was made aware of the issue over the weekend, said that “well over 2,000 vehicles” have arrived at the site, which is zoned solely for mining and quarrying.
Ms. Scarlato said the Southampton Town Board will discuss the issue at a special board meeting scheduled for Thursday, December 6, at 1 p.m., during which members could decide to issue a temporary restraining order against both parties and seek injunctive relief in Suffolk County Supreme Court.
Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski said both the owners of the land—Frank Grausso Jr., according to town officials—and the manager of Copart, whom Mr. Sendlenski said he could not identify, could face up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000 for each charge. He said new charges could be racked up for each day or week that the violations continue.
Both the property owner and business manager were issued appearance tickets and are due to appear in Southampton Town Justice Court on Friday, December 28, he said.
Calls placed to Copart were not immediately returned.
Brookhaven Town Councilman Dan Panico said a similar situation had occurred at the Ringhoff Farm off County Route 51 in Eastport, located on the Brookhaven side of the hamlet, late last week. He said it came to his attention that Copart was storing vehicles on the farm, which is not zoned for that use. Mr. Panico said Brookhaven Town issued a stop work order, and he met with the managers of the company, who were responsive to the town’s concerns and removed the 53 vehicles a short time later.
Copart was recently ordered to remove storm-damaged vehicles from a privately owned section of Enterprise Park in Calverton after the State Department of Environmental Conservation issued a cease and desist letter. Riverhead Town, which owns part of EPCAL, is allowing the company to store vehicles on the old runways at the site.
Dick Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said he was concerned about the negative impacts of storing damaged vehicles in environmentally sensitive areas and over the water tables. “The principal issue here is that zoning outside industrial doesn’t permit this use, and that’s for good reason—so at least Brookhaven appears to be understanding the problem of allowing industrial use in non-industrial zones,” he said.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said town code enforcement officers and fire marshals were sent to investigate the Speonk site, which is broken down into multiple parcels, on Monday, immediately after the town learned from community members that the cars were arriving there by the hundreds.
Ms. Scarlato added that two car fires occurring on Sunday night, one off the eastbound service road of Sunrise Highway on the County Route 51 overpass and the other west of the intersection of Old Country Road and Tuttle Avenue, also alerted the town to the issue. The cars that caught fire were in tow to be stored at the Speonk site, Mr. Sendlenski said.
Bud Mazura, a spokesman for the Eastport Fire Department, said the Sunrise Highway fire involved a car that was being towed behind a flatbed. He said the car being towed behind the truck ignited a second car that was atop the flatbed. Firefighters were able to extinguish both blazes quickly, according to Mr. Mazura.