A New York State Supreme Court judge has ordered that the owner and operator of a concrete plant on Hazelwood Avenue in Westhampton Beach remove structures previously placed on village property and pay $10,000 in damages—a move that brings a lengthy lawsuit one step closer to conclusion.
In September, State Supreme Court Justice Melvyn Tanenbaum ruled that the property owner’s deeds making claim to village land, extending the boundaries of the concrete plant into Hazelwood Avenue, are invalid. Then, on Friday, a settlement was reached between the owner of the plant, Josephine Carnevale of East Quogue, the operator of the plant, David Schiavoni of East End Cement and Stone Inc., and Westhampton Beach Village, according to Village Attorney Bo Bishop.
The stipulations of the settlement must still be signed by Justice Tanenbaum, Mr. Bishop said. The settlement additionally notes that Ms. Carnevale must renounce claim to the property on Hazelwood Avenue and pay the village $10,000 in damages, Mr. Bishop explained.
Ms. Carnevale, who also owns the corporations J.R.C. Land Company LLC and Speonk Materials Corp., did not return calls this week. Her current attorney, Mineola-based attorney Jules Epstein, declined to comment on the ruling when reached on Tuesday.
Several of the deeds that were declared invalid in court were filed in 1997 and 1998 by the Westhampton Beach-based law firm Kelly & Hulme, P.C., on behalf of Ms. Carnevale, according to documents on file in the village’s building and zoning department. The documents falsely make claim to a 7,250-square-foot parcel that extends the concrete plant 25 feet east and into Hazelwood Avenue, Westhampton Beach Building Inspector Paul Houlihan said.
Hazelwood Avenue is a village-maintained road and some of the equipment utilized at the concrete plant was located in the village’s right-of-way, Mr. Bishop said. The area of Hazelwood Avenue in question lies north of the Rogers Avenue extension and south of the Long Island Rail Road tracks, according to Mr. Houlihan. Bridget Napoli, the village’s code inspector, noted that Ms. Carnevale also owns two properties located immediately east of the concrete plant, also on Hazelwood Avenue, that together measure little more than one acre.
Ms. Carnevale leased the concrete plant to Mr. Schiavoni in 2002. Mr. Schiavoni explained Tuesday that he and Ms. Carnevale have also been battling in State Supreme Court since 2004. Mr. Schiavoni added that he expects that litigation, which dates back more than two years and involves Ms. Carnevale’s attempt to evict him from the property, to be settled within the next two weeks. That lawsuit does not involve the village.
The village was first involved in its lawsuit in 2005, in response to the dispute between Ms. Carnevale and Mr. Schiavoni, according to Mr. Bishop. Westhampton Beach was pulled into the lawsuit because the property in question involved land that is owned by the village.
The settlement also stipulates that all of the concrete-making equipment be removed from Hazelwood Avenue, a task that Mr. Schiavoni must complete within 90 days of the ruling. Another stipulation states that Mr. Schiavoni must receive site plan approval for any changes made to the concrete plant property—including moving equipment off of Hazelwood Avenue—from the Westhampton Beach Planning Board, Mr. Bishop explained.
Mr. Bishop said the deeds in question were deemed invalid based on expert testimony in court. Two title experts, Lance Pomerance of Riverhead, and Spencer Thomas of Fidelity National Title, a national title insurance company, testified on behalf of the village.
Jim Hulme of Kelly & Hulme, P.C., explained that, in 1997 and 1998, he had filed some of the deeds that made claim to Hazelwood Avenue because “Ms. Carnevale believed, based on her prior use of the property, that [she] had obtained ownership of” the land in question.
“The judge came to a different conclusion,” Mr. Hulme continued, adding that he is no longer representing Ms. Carnevale.
The court order will ultimately reduce the size of the concrete plant by about 15 percent, according to Mr. Bishop. When including the Hazelwood Avenue property, the plant operates on approximately one acre. The property’s size will be reduced by about 7,250 square feet.
“This will decrease their concrete business functions,” Mr. Bishop added.
On Tuesday, Mr. Schiavoni said the court orders will render his business almost totally unprofitable. “Without that 25 feet, the property is too narrow,” Mr. Schiavoni said. “Trucks need a certain amount of feet to turn.”
Mr. Schiavoni now has a fleet of 12 trucks. He expects to have to reduce his fleet to seven trucks in order to be in compliance with the court order.
Additionally, the concrete plant does not currently conform to village code, an issue that must be addressed when Mr. Schiavoni seeks site plan approval, as stipulated by the court, according to Mr. Bishop. Mr. Schiavoni said all of the conditions of the code, such as providing proper parking, will make running the plant very difficult.
Mr. Schiavoni also owns a cement and gunite plant in Bridgehampton that was issued a restraining order by Southampton Town last spring for not conforming with the town code. That plant, however, has been allowed to continue operating for the time being.
The village is viewing the recent ruling as a victory. Mr. Bishop noted that Justice Tanenbaum said Westhampton Beach is entitled to take back the land in question. “We got everything we asked for,” Mr. Bishop said.
The second lawsuit involving Mr. Schiavoni and Ms. Carnevale does not directly involve the village. Mr. Schiavoni explained that Ms. Carnevale first sued him when he installed a fence on what he believed was his property—as shown in the deeds that Ms. Carnevale provided him. He then sued her after she tried to evict him because she claimed he did not pay taxes on the property.
Mr. Schiavoni said he is seeking a total of $1.2 million in damages from Ms. Carnevale.
Village officials have been aware of the violations at the concrete plant since at least 2004, according to Ms. Napoli. That year, former Mayor Robert Strebel received complaints about drainage problems. Ms. Napoli and Mr. Houlihan issued a summons to Mr. Schiavoni addressing those issues. The village has issued additional violations since then and, to date, has collected a total of $500 in fines from Mr. Schiavoni.
Mr. Houlihan noted that once a ruling is rendered, the village will be able to collect additional fines and ensure that the plant conforms with the village code. It is unclear how much Ms. Carnevale will have to pay in penalties.
“Once they’re back in the purview of the village, they’ll pay the fines, take the stuff out of the road, and get site plan approval,” Mr. Houlihan said.