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Feb 14, 2018 10:51 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town May Get To Decide Legality Of Sand Land Expansion

The Sand Land sand mine in Noyac.  DANA SHAW
Feb 14, 2018 10:51 AM

Southampton Town will have the authority to decide whether to allow the proposed expansion of the Sand Land mining operations in Noyac, if a recent ruling handed down by the State Department of Environmental Conservation stands.

Per the decision of Judge James McClymonds, the chief administrative law judge in the DEC’s Office of Hearings and Mediation Services, the DEC cannot issue mining permits for operations in towns within counties like Suffolk County, where at least one million residents draw their water primarily from one sole aquifer, and where there are local laws on the books prohibiting mining.

“On the current record, the applicant has not established that the proposed mine expansion is authorized under the town’s local zoning laws,” the decision reads. “Accordingly, this matter is adjourned pending submission of proof adequate to establish that the applicant’s proposed mine expansion is authorized under the town’s local law.”

The applicant, known colloquially as Sand Land, is an industrial sand mine operated by Wainscott Sand and Gravel located off Middle Line Highway in Noyac.

At this point, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman will have to inform the DEC as to whether Sand Land’s proposed expansion—which would enlarge the operation by 4.9 acres and 40 more feet below it for excavation—is in accordance with town zoning laws. The town has said it is not.

However, Sand Land’s attorney, Brian Matthews of Matthews, Kirst & Cooley, PLLC in East Hampton, quickly fired off a letter to the judge, requesting permission to “renew and reargue” the issue, and then to extend the deadline to submit an appeal past its current date, February 23.

“By law, the owner is allowed to mine all four corners of the property,” Mr. Matthews maintained on Tuesday.

Southampton Town Attorney James Burke said that if the judge allows the renew and reargue motion, the process will be extended by three to six months—and that’s even before the Sand Land lawyers could choose to appeal the decision. “We are in it for the long haul,” Mr. Burke said on Tuesday.

He added that he and his team were in the process of crafting a letter to the DEC affirming that a mine extension of this size is considered a new application and thus is not allowed under Southampton Town law, but that they probably will wait to send it until the judge responds to Mr. Matthews’s letter.

“This decision gives Southampton Town—and, really, towns across the state—more authority in the ability to regulate mines,” said Mr. Burke.

Bob DeLuca, president and CEO of the Group for the East End and longtime opponent of the Sand Land expansion, said he sees Mr. Matthews’s letter as little more than a delay tactic.

“It’s not too surprising that they would claim to want another bite at the apple. But what is inescapable here is that the judge’s decision is narrowly focused on a single issue of ‘black letter law,’” said Mr. DeLuca in an email on Tuesday. “It’s hard to see much opportunity for the applicant to accomplish anything other than simply stalling for more time to continue operating.”

Another facet of the years-long Sand Land controversy that could play into the legal process is the possibility that some of the mine’s activities—including periodic stretches when it operated as a solid waste processing center—have polluted the groundwater, which in turn could contaminate the aquifer and the East End’s drinking water supply.

Back in August, the State Supreme Court allowed the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to install groundwater test wells on the mine’s property. Grace Kelly-McGovern, the department’s public relations director, said the tests have been completed and that the results will be shared with the DEC in three to four weeks. “Once completed, the lab results must undergo a quality assurance and validation process before they can be interpreted and released,” she said in an email on Tuesday.

Additionally, some observers have called foul play over the past few months, claiming that Sand Land is continuing its solid waste processing operations, despite an appellate court’s decision forbidding it from doing so. The mine had been taking in yard waste and other materials from landscapers, and then selling the resulting mulch created from it.

Mr. Burke said that he has been sending out code enforcers to periodically check on Sand Land’s activities to make sure that workers are bringing in only landscaping materials necessary to reclamation of the mine, not processing and selling additional materials. “We’ve cracked down on their retail operations,” said Mr. Burke. He added that he is still awaiting a report from his officers’ reconnaissance over the past few days.

For now, both sides will await both the judge’s reply to Mr. Matthews’s letter and the Department of Health Services water testing results, tracking the twists and turns of the multifaceted and long-lived case.

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Every town and village needs sand and has bought from them for years. A needed product that is used in many building trades...
All the stuff started when the golf course and all the houses went up around it. The Ol Saying, I got mine and don't want any others. Bought the land cheap and don't like my neighbors...
He is mining now and deserves to use ALL of his land. Think, government telling you can't use all of your property??? THINK...
By knitter (1684), Southampton on Feb 15, 18 10:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
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