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Aug 18, 2016 12:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Mayor: Westhampton Beach Asphalt Company Drops Lawsuit; Will Cease Operations

Suffolk Asphalt Plant on Rogers Avenue has dropped a lawsuit against the Village of Westhampton Beach. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Aug 25, 2016 2:35 PM

The operators of an asphalt plant in Westhampton Beach, who sued the village more than a decade earlier after it passed a law that outlaws such operations within its boundaries, have dropped the litigation just before their case was finally set to go to trial.

At the August 17 Village Board work session, Mayor Maria Moore announced that the operators of Suffolk Asphalt plant on Rogers Avenue have dropped their suit that was filed in 2005, meaning that they must immediately close their facility. Village officials this week estimated that the plant actually stopped manufacturing asphalt on a regular basis around 2008—though company officials continue to fire up the equipment several times annually.

“We have been battling with this litigation against Suffolk Asphalt for a long time,” Ms. Moore said at the work session. “Just yesterday they signed a stipulation withdrawing from the litigation. They are no longer able to operate.”

Suffolk Asphalt’s attorney, Linda Margolin of Islandia-based firm Bracken, Margolin and Besunder LLP, did not return calls this week.

Additionally, both listed phone numbers for the asphalt plant are now out of service.

The plant sits on 9.3 acres that is zoned industrial. The property sits east of Old Riverhead Road and just west of a residential neighborhood.

In June 2000, the village passed a law amending its zoning code to include a section prohibiting non-conforming structures, namely asphalt and cement manufacturing plants, from operating within the municipality. Suffolk Asphalt is the only such plant in the village affected by the law, which was adopted in response to neighbors’ complaints about the foul odors and truck traffic coming to and from the property that sits at the end of a residential street. Ms. Moore also explained that there were several instances where cars would be covered in soot as a result of the plant.

At the same time, the village passed an “amortization” period that originally gave the operators of the asphalt plant one year to cease operations at the Westhampton Beach facility. Attorneys for Suffolk Asphalt argued that 12 months was not enough time to find a new location for the operation and, as a result, the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals gave the company five years to find an alternate location for the plant.

But instead of closing down the asphalt operation after five years, Suffolk Asphalt officials sued the village on grounds that the amortization law was unconstitutional and unfairly targeted them as they were the only such plant operating in the municipality. The property had operated as an asphalt plant since the 1940s, according to village records.

Ms. Moore said both sides kept filing motions over the past 11 years, explaining why it took so long for an actual trial to be scheduled.

“I can’t say why this would have lasted this long—maybe the judge was hopeful we would resolve it without going to trial,” Ms. Moore said and later noting that she did not serve on the board in 2005, when the suit was filed. “But we didn’t. We were not about to pay them money to stop.”

In January, Suffolk Asphalt officials requested that a State Supreme Court justice render a decision without holding a trial—but that motion was denied, according to Ms. Moore. In turn, village officials then decided to complete an assessment of the property and its buildings to ensure that they were still in compliance.

According to Westhampton Beach Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan, the plant is not in good shape and Suffolk Asphalt would have to invest a considerable amount of money into the facility to continue producing asphalt. He also speculated that operators continued to fire up the plant a few times a year because they incorrectly thought that such action would ensure that their facility could continue to operate in the village.

“It is somewhat dilapidated and has rusted equipment that really is not in good shape at this point in time,” Mr. Houlihan said. “We want to encourage them to get rid of any of the structures there that are not in good shape.”

A reporter who stopped by the plant earlier this week observed trucks entering and exiting the property, though they did not appear to be hauling asphalt. The plant also did not appear to be manufacturing any asphalt.

At last week’s work session, Westhampton Beach Village Attorney Anthony Pasca said Suffolk Asphalt must still address compliance issues with the property even though they can no longer legally operate the plant.

“It is a broken down shell of a building and they will have to figure out how to make it conform to zoning,” Mr. Pasca said. “That is their job.”

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More govt regulations to kill a legitimate business.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 18, 16 5:29 PM
3 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 18, 16 6:02 PM
I understand that this is a landmark structure and therefore it can not be removed.
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Aug 18, 16 8:12 PM
How many years were they there? Next they will close the vets, dogs bark...Not in my back yard, sounds like BH Race track, Sandland...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Aug 20, 16 6:51 PM
3 members liked this comment
That plant was there long before the residences that surround it. Typical: get a good price on a house because of the neighboring comm operation then bitch about it
By Nukiepoo (123), Southampton on Aug 25, 16 9:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
Just like what happened to the Westhampton Drag strip.
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on Aug 26, 16 12:24 AM
1 member liked this comment