Plan for cement plant under fire by Wainscott CAC

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The Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee is opposing a plan to build a new cement plant inside the 70-acre former sand mine property north of Montauk Highway known as “the pit,” claiming that noise, dust, and debris from the plant would plague nearby homeowners.

At a meeting on Saturday morning at the Wainscott Chapel, CAC members complained about the potential impacts that a new cement plant would have for homeowners on Hedges Lane, to the east of the pit, if the Town Planning Board allows it to be built within 100 feet of some of the houses.

“I know right now, when they grind concrete in the pit, the pictures on my wall vibrate and turn … The man across the street from me, his change jar actually goes across the dresser,” said John Renos, who lives on Hedges Lane.

The cement plant is currently located on the western side of the Wainscott property, but John Tintle, a principal of Wainscott Commercial Center LLC, which owns the pit, wants to tear down the old plant—owned by Suffolk Cement, which is a tenant on the property—and build a new one farther north on a separate parcel at the eastern edge of the pit.

Drafting a letter they will be sending to the Town Board, the Planning Board, and the code enforcement office, Wainscott CAC co-chairs Jordy Mark and Sam Kramer wrote on April 10 that the operations at the new site “would bring noise vibrations, dust, and debris” to close to nearby houses.

Responding to concerns from the CAC in a phone interview on Monday, John MacLachlan, an attorney for Mr. Tintle, said that the proposed location of the cement plant was recommended by town officials because it would make it less visible from the highway. He added that having the plant on a smaller parcel at the edge of the property would allow for future development at the larger adjacent parcel, where it currently is located.

But hearing about some of the resistance at Saturday’s CAC session, Mr. MacLachlan hinted that there could be a change of plans in the future.

“If this became heated, and we thought the Planning Board wasn’t going to approve it, we’d just build it in place,” where the current plant is, Mr. MacLachlan said.

Nicknamed for its cavernous appearance, the pit is a former sand mine, now largely vacant, with tenants that include Southampton Brick & Tile and Suffolk Cement.

In 2006, the town’s chief building inspector, Don Sharkey, deemed the cement plant unsafe, citing the deteriorating structure of the building. Although the plant is still in operation, the people who formerly worked in it now work in a trailer, Mr. Sharkey said this week.

In March 2007, Mr. Tintle applied for a special permit from the Planning Board to build a new plant on the eastern side of the property, farther back from the highway, with a 4,000-square-foot garage, a 1,840-square-foot office and storage building, three silos, seven truck stalls, and other structures.

Town Planner JoAnne Pahwul, in a June 2007 memo to the Planning Board, wrote that the Planning Department “commends the applicant for the proposal to replace and relocate the existing facility to a location that allows for screening.” The proposal has not been discussed at the Planning Board since it reviewed the project at a work session in June 2007.

At that meeting, the board asked Mr. Tintle to move the plant away from the eastern property line to give nearby residents a 100-foot buffer, rather than the 50-foot buffer originally sought, and requested more information on coverage and parking calculations.

In a phone interview this week, Mr. MacLachlan said that his client would most likely submit revised plans for the project this week with responses to the Planning Board’s requests.

Since hearing about the plan earlier this year, members of the Wainscott CAC have expressed concern about its impact on the nearby houses. On Saturday, Mr. Renos wondered about materials from the pit, which is at a lower elevation than Montauk Highway, leeching into nearby Georgica Pond.

In a draft of their planned letter, Ms. Mark and Mr. Kramer claim that the plant was initially built without a permit and that requirements for the property, which included having secure gates, were never met.

Mr. Sharkey said on Monday that the cement plant was built before he started working for the town 20 years ago. He said he did not know whether it was built without a permit or not.

Mr. Kramer and Ms. Mark insist in their proposed letter that Mr. Tintle should present an overall plan for the entire pit property, rather than developing it bit by bit. Town Councilwoman Pat Mansir echoed that argument at Saturday’s CAC meeting, explaining that the New York State Quality Environmental Review Act does not allow for an applicant to seek approvals for a project in various or “segmented” stages.

“It’s against the SEQRA to segment,” Ms. Mansir said. “In other words, ‘Show us what you want to do.’ Even if it’s Disneyland, show us the whole thing.”

Ms. Mansir added that the town “has been back and forth with Mr. Tintle,” and she recalled having a conversation last year with Mr. MacLachlan, Mr. Tintle, and Town Councilman Pete Hammerle, about possibly bringing more commercial service uses and senior housing to the property. Despite showing some enthusiasm for the idea, Ms. Mansir said, Mr. Tintle never brought in any site plans.

Town Planner Marguerite Wolffsohn said on Monday that, because the current application refers to only one specific parcel and no other plans have been submitted, there was no reason to believe that a project for the whole the pit was pending that required review.

Mr. MacLachlan said that the town attorneys looked at the project when it was submitted to the Planning Board and determined that segmentation was not an issue.

Although the pit is included on a list of properties that the town is interested in purchasing with Community Preservation Funds, Planning Board Member Bob Schaeffer said on Saturday that “obviously, 70 acres is going to be expensive for the town.”

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