A State Supreme Court judge has granted Southampton Town’s request for a temporary restraining order, forcing the removal of several dozen cars and trucks that an auctioneer company is now storing in Speonk, according to town attorneys.
On Friday morning, Justice Jerry Garguilo granted the order stipulating that the 50 to 60 vehicles currently being stored at 1324 Speonk-Riverhead Road must be removed by 4 p.m. on Friday, January 18, according to Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato. She said fire marshals first observed the vehicles about a week and a half earlier.
The court also prohibited any construction activities on the estimated 40 office trailers that are also being stored on-site, although the trailers can stay for the time being, and ordered that the owner of the property not clear or grade the land.
Ms. Scarlato explained that the town is suing the owners of the 4.9-acre property, listed in town records as two family trusts—Thomas and Anita Samuels, and Charles and Deborah Guilloz, both of which are under the care of James H. Rambo Inc. The codefendants also include a New Jersey car auction company called J.J. Kane Auctioneers, American Trucking Services Inc. and Cassone Leasing Inc., the latter of which has offices in Ronkonkoma.
The Speonk property is zoned 1-acre light industrial, which permits the storage of vehicles and trailers but requires site plan approval by the Southampton Town Planning Board and a certificate of occupancy, Ms. Scarlato said. The property owner has neither, according to Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski.
Though she did not immediately know the next appearance date, Ms. Scarlato said attorneys for the town are seeking the permanent removal of the vehicles and trailers unless the owners of the property follow the proper permitting process.
When reached on Monday, John Kane, a manager for J.J. Kane Auctioneers, said the cars and trucks being stored on the property by his company were not damaged during Hurricane Sandy and were being kept there until they could be auctioned off. He explained that his company previously stored its vehicles at their sales site in Medford, but said they lost that yard after another company began renting the space for the storage of storm-damaged vehicles.
After receiving the “green light” from the property owners and site operators in Speonk, the company moved in the cars, Mr. Kane said. He said he was not aware that there was a problem until 48 hours after they were dropped off during the first week of January.
Mr. Kane said his company wants to remove the vehicles as soon as possible, but it has not yet found another available site, and is also awaiting the availability of a vehicle hauler. “Right now, it’s hard to get a hauler to move vehicles on Long Island,” he said.
Mr. Sendlenski said Wednesday that he could not confirm whether the cars being stored on the land had been damaged during Hurricane Sandy. He said it was his understanding, however, that the vehicles were moved from Medford after another company began paying more in rent to store storm-damaged vehicles there.
Calls placed to James Rambo Inc., Cassone Leasing and American Trucking Services were not returned this week.
According to Mr. Sendlenski, James Rambo Inc. had leased the land to American Trucking Services, the company that transported the office trailers to the site, before subleasing a portion of the land to J.J. Kane Auctioneers.
Town attorneys are also seeking the court-ordered removal of an estimated 4,000 storm-damaged vehicles from another site at 144 Old Country Road, adjacent to the 1324 Speonk-Riverhead Road parcel. In December, State Supreme Court Justice Thomas F. Whelan denied a similar request for a temporary restraining order for that site.
“It is discretionary,” Ms. Scarlato said, when asked why the courts denied the request for a restraining order for the Old Country Road property, but granted one for the Speonk-Riverhead Road property.
Last week, the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission authorized enforcement action against the owner of an Eastport farm where storm-damaged vehicles are being stored. Dick Amper, the executive director of the Pine Barrens Society, sharply criticized the group for its inaction against other similar storage sites in the pine barrens, including the Enterprise Park at Calverton and the Speonk sites.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, a member of the commission, did not return multiple calls seeking comment about the Speonk properties and any possible future action from the commission on the issue.