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Pine Barrens Advocates Sue Over Speonk Sand Mine

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Michael Wright   Dec 19, 2012 9:02 AM
Jan 2, 2013 11:23 AM

The Pine Barrens Society, the environmental group that spearheaded the preservation of the Central Pine Barrens in the early 1990s, is suing the panel of local elected officials that oversees its protection, the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission.

The lawsuit, filed on November 15 in State Supreme Court, concerns a waiver granted to the owners of a sand mine in Speonk several weeks prior, freeing them from the land-use controls within the pine barrens. The waiver will allow the mine, owned by Westhampton Property Associates, to operate in the environmentally sensitive zone for at least an additional 25 years, until 2041, well beyond its original 2016 permit sunset. The lawsuit demands that the commission revoke the extension, saying there is no basis in the legislation for granting it.

Pine Barrens Society Executive Director Richard Amper was particularly critical of the three town supervisors who sit on the five-member commission, and especially Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who the tenacious environmentalist said appears to have pressed the other supervisors to support the waiver.

“The Pine Barrens Commission is beginning to depart from the purposes of its creation as it becomes populated with members who have no institutional memory of the reasons for its creation,” Mr. Amper said. “This pattern has reached a critical mass … in which the commissioners, the three town supervisors specifically, are saying to each other, ‘Hey, it’s my town, I’m the supervisor, I’m going to vote this way or that, so you should, too.’”

The commission is made up of the supervisors of Southampton, Brookhaven and Riverhead towns, plus a representative from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office, and is chaired by a representative appointed by the state. Currently, the county representative is Suffolk County Environmental Commissioner Sarah Lansdale, and the state representative is Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Director Peter Scully. In addition to Ms. Throne-Holst, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine round out the board.

Mr. Amper is alleging that it is the three supervisors who primarily steer the considerations of the commission as a majority. He also charges that the commission has begun to defer only to the assessments by town officials of the merits of a proposal, rather than holding it up against the stricter filter of the pine barrens legislation.

In the instance of the Speonk sand mine, Southampton Town Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea prepared an assessment of the proposal at Ms. Throne-Holst’s request. The assessment suggested that the continuation of the sand mine operation, which has existed for several decades, would not have a significant impact on the pine barrens. The commission, at the Southampton supervisor’s recommendation, unanimously approved a waiver based on the hardship that forcing the mine’s closure in 2016 would have on its owners.

“The expanded use was not going to be clearing more area—they were just asking to go down a few more feet, well within the regulation,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “Marty Shea is about as environmentally sensitive as anyone in that field is, to the frustration of many—believe me.

“He is very mindful of what his charge is and what constitutes environmentally sound practices. And he felt this was a legitimate request. I would say this is one of the very rare instances where Marty and Mr. Amper don’t agree.”

In addition to suing the commission, Mr. Amper said, his group has appealed to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, which would be responsible for defending the commission against the suit, asking the attorneys to advise the commission to withdraw the waiver.

“We told him he should advise them to knock off doing this kind of thing,” Mr. Amper said. “The legislation is very clear—criteria for waivers are explicit. It’s not a matter of whether they think someone deserves a waiver, whether it’s good for the community. Those are not judgments they can make.”

In order to receive a core preservation area hardship waiver, Mr. Amper said, an owner must demonstrate that, absent a waiver, the subject property would be entirely unusable and financially worthless. The cause of the hardship must also not be the fault of the owner. Because the sand mine property was purchased by Westhampton Property Associates after the creation of the pine barrens, he said, the hardship was created by the current owners. The property also would not be entirely worthless, Mr. Amper added, because once the sand mine is closed, its development rights could be sold.

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"The commission, at the Southampton supervisor’s recommendation, unanimously approved a waiver based on the hardship that forcing the mine’s closure in 2016 would have on its owners."

Guess ATH doesn't understand the meaning of "self-created hardship". What a fool, and of course Marty said what he said - guess who signs his paycheck? ATH!

The Supervisor's protect one another's interests and the legislation should be changed to add two more members to the board so ...more
By Nature (2618), Hampton Bays on Jan 2, 13 12:01 PM
And another thing, "And in exchange for being allowed to extend the life of the mine, the owners agreed to a contingency that when the mine is ultimately closed, it would not be abandoned, as is common practice, but extensively treated to help it return to a more natural state as quickly as possible."

That is total BS. In order to get a Sand Mining permit from the state, you have to agree to a remediation plan which the sand mine owner is legally obligated to fullfil. But they keep ...more
By Nature (2618), Hampton Bays on Jan 2, 13 12:05 PM
ya lets return everything to its natural state then we can all live under a log and eat grass and bay scallops.
Meanwhile back at the ranch...

Study: Environmentally Friendly Lightbulbs Cause Cancer

The federal government is forcing more and more Americans into buying new energy efficient lightbulbs by outlawing incandescent light bulbs, which supposedly waste energy. But a new study shows that eco-friendly lightbulbs may not be human-friendly.
According to a study from ...more
By joe hampton (1881), south hampton on Jan 3, 13 8:08 PM
Yeah, that study came out back in July. Truh be told, the mercury which makes the light possible is more dangerous when any fluorescent bulb is shattered. Mercury vapor is also introduced into the atmosphere by improper recycling of fluorescents, and when mixed in with regular garbage the ballasts are toxic to soil and water as well. Truth be told though, the levels are far lower than direct sunlight and most people use lampshades, or decorative glass fixtures which would negate most, if not ...more
By Mr. Z (6505), North Sea on Jan 3, 13 8:26 PM
Wizard of Z, what do you know about the mercury's ability to escape from the base of the bulb, since the glass is almost always melted through when you replace these little fire hazards
By joe hampton (1881), south hampton on Jan 3, 13 8:56 PM
Joe - that's not what I'm saying at all. What I'm saying is the property owner bought the parcel in the Core of the Pine Barrens knowing full well what restrictions were in place when his mining permit expired. It's a self-created hardship - why should we bend the rules so he can profit more? Especially at the expense of our groundwater and natural areas?
By Nature (2618), Hampton Bays on Jan 4, 13 9:13 AM
Becuse knowing Marty he would not have recomended this if it was a hazard... Its just everyone on these boards are so anti small business. I know the owners and they are not making as much as you think.Why do you have to bring profit into the conversation like its a bad thing... thats what he is in business for not to lose money.
By joe hampton (1881), south hampton on Jan 4, 13 1:03 PM
Again, if you look at what I said I never said what Marty said was "wrong" I just said he can't actually give a full-blow professional analysis because it would in no way agree with what ATH and the others are pushing forward. Same thing when it comes to the beach restoration projects. Marty is a smart man - he words things so he can stand behind it, but omits commenting on the stuff he doesn't believe it. He won't bite the hand that feeds and who can blame him for that?

I bring profit ...more
By Nature (2618), Hampton Bays on Jan 4, 13 1:12 PM
- oh and that's 100 yards/1 mile long/god knows how deep. Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll get approval from the state to dig into groundwater and extract "our" resources.
By Nature (2618), Hampton Bays on Jan 4, 13 1:15 PM
Good thing nobody (except you and I) reads your nonsense!
By whatapity (82), Tuckahoe on Jan 2, 13 5:01 PM
Well, Little Miss Supervisor gets her way again. Mr. Amper should pursue this lawsuit to its ultimate conclusion and then through Appeal if he doesn't prevail in the local biased courts. As a preliminary, track donations from individuals and corporations connected to this "hardship" and see how much was donated to Anna Twit Holst -- legally that is. As for the two comments by "Nature" above they are totally on point and relevant. The only thing missing is how much tax payers are actually paying ...more
By Phanex (77), Southampton on Jan 3, 13 3:48 PM
M. Shea makes approximately $109,000 based on 2011 data providedby Newsday. I can attest to the fact that he works for that $$ and is not part of the "overstuffed Planning Department". In fact, there is NO "overstuffing" of the Planning Department which is severly understaffed.

Marty holds his own with the Conservation Board and when it comes to wetlands permits - the problem comes when he is tasked with other environmental queries posed to him by the Supervisor. If he says "no way ...more
By Nature (2618), Hampton Bays on Jan 3, 13 4:16 PM
And respectfuly...Why do we have to print Marty's salary on this board. It is really no ones business
By joe hampton (1881), south hampton on Jan 4, 13 1:06 PM
It was printed in Newsday and can be found in othre places - such as seethruny and on the Town's website in the budget. I personally defended his salary and stayed he earns it, and he has been there a long time.

As for it being "no one's business" I guess you don't how taxes work do you?
By Nature (2618), Hampton Bays on Jan 4, 13 1:13 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By 27dan (1056), Southampton on Jan 3, 13 7:54 PM
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