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Jun 2, 2010 1:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Village attorney asks board to consider shutting down cement plant in Westhampton Beach

Jun 2, 2010 1:42 PM

WESTHAMPTON BEACH—A privately owned cement plant on Hazelwood Avenue is fouling neighboring properties, and Westhampton Beach might want to consider shutting down the business, the village attorney told board members during last week’s work session.

Village Attorney Dick Haefeli explained that the trustees could adopt a law that forbids certain types of businesses from operating on the property, which is located in a residential neighborhood just south of Gabreski Airport. The process is called amortization, and such action can be taken by the Village Board if it deems a particular business to be a nuisance, according to Mr. Haefeli.

The board should consider shuttering the cement plant because dust and debris have been clogging nearby village drains, he said, adding that neighbors have complained about the facility for years.

“I suggest that you look at it,” Mr. Haefeli said of the proposal.

The issue came up after John Mitchell, who lives across the street from the plant, appeared before the Westhampton Beach Zoning Board of Appeals last month and raised concerns during a hearing about the cement plant’s site plan review. He told zoning board members that he cannot use part of his property at times due to choking cement dust generated by the plant, according to Mr. Haefeli.

Mr. Mitchell could not be reached for comment.

Joan Levan, a member of the Westhampton Beach Village Board, said she would like to first review the minutes of that zoning board meeting, while fellow Trustee Toni-Jo Birk noted that neighbors have been complaining for years about the debris from the cement plant. Mayor Conrad Teller said the dust finds its way into stormwater drains and fouls up nearby properties. “It’s a mess out there,” he said.

The property is owned by Josephine Carnevale, and leased to David Schiavoni of East End Cement and Stone Inc. Ms. Carnevale’s Lawyer, Anthony Pasca of Esseks, Hefter & Angel, LLP in Riverhead, declined to comment on the possible amortization, explaining that he was not aware that village officials were discussing the issue.

Amortization is a law that can effectively prevent a certain type of business from operating on a property. The village, if it opts to take this path, would have to give the property owners ample time to close the operation, though they could also apply for an extension, Mr. Haefeli explained. “The village can’t just walk in there and shut it down,” he said.

The time frame depends on what is on the property and how long the business has been in existence, among other things. The cement plant has a certificate of occupancy that dates back to the mid-1970s, according to Mr. Haefeli. “There’s a multitude of factors,” he said.

If a business is ultimately closed, the property owner still owns the land though the types of businesses that could open on it would be restricted. The cement plant property was originally zoned industrial, but the designation was changed to multi-family residential in 2003 by the village, on the suggestion that condos would be appropriate for the site.

Mr. Haefeli said the volume of work at the cement plant has increased in recent years. Westhampton Beach Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan agreed, pointing out that the plant operates on property that measures under an acre in size.

“They got so much crap in there,” he said.

The owners of the property were forced to give back a small chunk of land along Hazelwood Avenue to the village last year after the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the facility had wrongly encroached on a public right-of way. The road in question is unpaved, though it is still considered village property, Mr. Houlihan said.

In January 2009, the Supreme Court ordered that the cement plant operators remove structures that they had placed on village property and pay Westhampton Beach $10,000 in damages. The court found that the owners of the plant had submitted invalid deeds that made claim to the land.

As part of the litigation, the owners of the property had to submit new site plans to the village. The village also discovered that the plant operators had completed a 1,000-square-foot office expansion without securing the necessary permits, Mr. Houlihan said.

Westhampton Beach has twice passed amortization laws, according to Mr. Haefeli. The first instance occurred when the village prevented another nightclub from opening where Club Marakesh once stood on Main Street in the 1990s. That business was closed after Shane Daniels was severely beaten in a parking lot across from the club over Memorial Day weekend in 1996.

The village also passed a law in 2000 that should eventually lead to the closing of an asphalt plant on Rogers Avenue. That facility was supposed to stop operations in 2006, but its owners have taken the village to court over the closing date. Mr. Haefeli said that he thinks the asphalt plant will shut down “in the near future.”

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Houlihan and Haefeli - that's some combination of a legal team. Sounds like selective elimination of a business that has been on that site since the 70's. The people that bought in that neighborhood knew what was going on and are now complaining that it's hard to live there! Amortization laws to eliminate a single, otherwise legal, operating enterprise will not hold up in court.
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Jun 3, 10 9:56 PM
It can't happen soon enough. BIGjimbo12 ignores the fact that what he calls a "legal, operating enterprise" generates dust that pollutes the atmosphere and clogs drains. That's enough to shut it down, unless they can solve the dust problem. Not long ago in Southampton Town, amortization laws were used to close otherwise legal bar/dance clubs because of the noise and traffic problems they created. Also, gratuitous and unsupported insults to the cognizant public officials, Messrs. Houlihan and ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 3, 10 11:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
If you can name a single bar/dance club closed under any amortization law you'd surprise the legal community which has been waiting for its big payday defending against any such fatuous, discriminatory, pandering action by the pols.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 4, 10 1:03 AM
I can't, and you may therefore be right, if you're suggesting it didn't happen. A search of this site reveals no such closures, though it doesn't reveal any defeated closure attempts, either. We know there were such laws -- in fact, Nancy Graboski refers to them in a June 2nd 27east piece, "Town officials revisit idea of charging clubs for additional police presence" -- but I can't produce evidence of any successful enforcement.

Of course, if the effect of the dust is severe, and especially ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 4, 10 10:32 AM
No, it didn't happen. The "general legal doctrine of nuisance" doesn't exist. Specific laws do, but politicians are big on showy representations, not on creating viable law.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 5, 10 2:42 AM
Wasn't Club Marakesh in Westhampton Beach closed in the mid-1990s by just such an amortization law?

By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Jun 6, 10 2:59 PM
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 7, 10 1:40 AM
I find it hard to believe that a cement plant abutting an active airport is really a nuisance. Cant you here the helo's taken off from the 106th? WHat about all the other air tracffic? Its contiguous?? That cement plant has been there for a long time and is surrounded down the road by more commercial uses. WHB should spend their time straigtening out their PD instead of a business that provides jobs in the community, and has existied for a long time. Perhaps they should have bought there house by ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jun 5, 10 9:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
According to the illustrious building inspector (Gadget) Houlihan a 1,000 ft addtion was added to an office space without the necessary permits! Wasn't there recently discovered that a certain religious entitiy within the village that also made upgrades to a building on it's property without the required permits mentioned in the SH Press too! What was the outcome of that investigation? Don't recall hearing any results or closure on that issue! You see, there is favoritism running rampant in the ...more
By sayitaintsojoe (100), Westhampton on Jun 7, 10 11:12 AM
Hey, VOS, I just got home from the WHB candidates' debate run by the League of Women Voters. To judge by audience sentiment and the answers of all the candidates, on both sides of the great WHB divide, the cement plant is in trouble. Regardless of all the various technical niceties that you and I and others have been discussing here, it looks bad for the plant. Getting rid of it was the only thing that both sides agreed on tonight, and if those two factions can get together on anything, even ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 7, 10 9:21 PM
Well of course they'll agree, there's not much support for a long standing business that nearly all here have no call to use. The real question is after all the politicking is over (as if) will any of the board find the wherewithal to effect the change they are now championing (or is it pandering)? I think not.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 8, 10 12:23 AM
I think they will. They're in litigation now, I understand, with the owners of the nearby asphalt plant. Granted, the process is taking forever, but if the Village started it and continues to pursue it, that suggests to me that they'll have the determination to do the same thing with the cement plant. Also, the voters are unlikely to let them forget it. One candidate last night told about a family on Hazelwood that actually can't sit outside because of the dust from the cement plant. That's ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 8, 10 9:37 AM
Wow, originally zoned industrial and operating since the 1970's. Residential zoning took place in 2003. Sounds like developers got a deal on property that was origginally industrial zoned. The residents knew what was there when they built and bought and did it anyway, and now they want it shut down because it is lessening their quality of life. Boo on them. If as noted the dust and pollution is increasing, newer technology should be implemented to lower the output of said pollution. If the ...more
By Sag Native (54), East Hampton on Jun 10, 10 4:55 PM
And if "newer technology" doesn't lower the polution level enough? Then what?
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 14, 10 12:31 PM