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Nov 17, 2011 10:12 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

ZBA To Hear Residents Appeal On Sand Land In Bridgehampton

Nov 22, 2011 9:34 AM

The owners of a long-standing sand mining business in Bridgehampton and its neighbors have clashed over the years regarding what kind of business should be allowed there—and now the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals is charged with resolving the dispute.

Last Thursday, November 17, neighbors and their attorneys, as well as sand mine property owner John Tintle and his attorney, presented arguments to the ZBA in what was the first public hearing on a complex application to determine the legality of the business’s operations.

The business, the Wainscott Sand and Gravel Corporation, which is also referred to by many in the community as the Sand Land Corporation, is a sand mining, gravel grinding and mulching business that operates on nearly 50 acres on Middle Line Highway. Some residents who live near the site allege that the business only has approvals to operate as a sand mining facility, but that operations have evolved over the years to include a solid waste processing plant that encompasses many uses, such as the disposal of landscaping materials, composting and rock crushing—none of which, neighbors claim, is an approved use.

Neighbors have complained over the years about stench and loud noise emanating from the site. They are also embroiled in a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court against the Sand Land Corporation dating back to 2005 to try to end what they see as illegal, expanded commercial uses on the land.

A question of whether the use of the property predates Southampton Town’s zoning code—therefore making it a pre-existing, nonconforming use—is at the heart of the issue. The town’s chief building inspector, Michael Benincasa, issued a ruling on July 18 that the business owners were entitled to a pre-existing, nonconforming use certificate of occupancy for “the operation of a sand mine, the receipt and processing of trees, brush, stumps, leaves, and other clearing debris into topsoil or mulch, and the storage, sale, and delivery of sand, mulch, topsoil and wood chips and any other relief necessary.” As far as receiving and processing concrete, asphalt pavement, brick, rock and stone into concrete blend, however, Mr. Benincasa specifically stated in the determination that those were not legal uses, citing a 1962 ZBA decision.

Residents disputed Mr. Benincasa’s determination and filed an appeal with the ZBA. If they’re successful in convincing ZBA members, the determination could be overturned, according to ZBA Vice Chairman Adam Grossman.

“Ultimately, what we have is an operation that has a major impact on the neighbors, and the question is, under the circumstance, what we should do here,” said Mr. Grossman.

Attorneys outlined their arguments to board members. Zachary Murdock, the lawyer for Joseph Phair, Margot Gilman and Amelia Doggwiler, the three Bridgehampton residents who are appealing Mr. Benincasa’s determination and who also are suing Sand Land Corporation, questioned the authority of Mr. Benincasa to make the determination in the first place. He also said that the town’s zoning code calls for the gradual discontinuance of nonconforming uses.

David Eagan, an attorney representing Mr. Tintle, maintained that the business is a legal operation. He also said that most of Sand Land’s operations, which include sand mining reclamation activities, fall under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Mr. Eagan added that Mr. Benincasa made his determination based on actual evidence—specifically, affidavits from former employees and other individuals that establish that the uses on the site have existed since the 1950s.

Five people, three of whom said they currently live near the property, spoke out against the business at the ZBA hearing. They claimed that the smell of compost and a noisy gravel grinding machine negatively impact the quality of their lives.

“It’s really, really disrespectful,” said Ms. Gilman, who noted that the overwhelming stench from compost piles has prevented her from opening windows in her home. Mr. Phair, said that scraps of metal projectiles have been hurled from the machines onto his property, and that “there’s no question” that they could kill someone upon impact.

Bob Rubin, the owner of The Bridge golf course in Noyac, also spoke out against Sand Land’s operations at the public hearing. Mr. Rubin noted that he is financing the residents’ lawsuit, and that he owns eight residential lots that abut Sand Land’s property.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tintle argued he has tried to be neighborly over the years. He stressed that gravel grinding is a sand reclamation activity that is regulated by the DEC. He said he’s met with neighbors and tried to address their concerns, and has even moved operations around on his property and limited weekend hours to reduce noise impacts. “I try to be a good neighbor,” Mr. Tintle said.

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