December 20, 2006

Neighbors Protest Norsic Expansion

A classic confrontation highlighting the changing times in Southampton is unfolding in North Sea, where a business that his been a pillar of the community for more than 70 years needs to expand to keep up with the growth of the town.

At a special town board meeting held Friday, residents turned out for a public scoping session for the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement required in connection with a Norsic and Son petition that proposes a change of zone from residential (R-20) to commercial industrial planned development district (CIPDD).

The proposed development concept involves the formalizing and expansion of Norsic's pre-existing sanitation and cesspool business, which includes residential trash, garbage and recyclables pickup, cesspool service, and disposal of construction and demolition material debris, the leasing of port-o-lavs and dumpsters; the construction of a 12,500 square foot demolition and construction processing facility, and a lot line modification to separate the pre-existing residential uses from the commercial operations.

"This application must be denied." So wrote Southampton resident Edward Brody in a letter to the town board.

After the hearing, Norsic and Son owner Skip Norsic, who was not present at the meeting but who was represented by his attorney, reminded his family had been on the property since 1932. "As the area grew, we just grew with the area."

Resident Frances Genovese said she and others had petitioned for a scoping session for months. "This is one of the single most controversial issues that's going to come before the town," she said. "It's going to set a precedent."

During the session, resident Sharon P. Carr began by saying that she appreciated the fact that Norsic and Sons was established years ago and was a successful business. "I'm all for local people making good," she said. What she questioned was the definition of "pre-existing and non-conforming," adding that the scope of the proposed expansion was larger than anything that could be considered pre-existing. "It's not the business it was," she said.

Carr questioned the portable lavatory facet of the operation and said that although, when she built her house in the area 15 years ago, she was "well aware that they were there," due to DEC regulations, there are regulations that require back-up beeper noises. "It's not their fault," she said. "They're complying with the law. But that alone changes the scope of the business."

Genovese demanded the company identify every contaminant on the property; she also called for the town to provide an economic analysis of what it costs Southampton to recycle. Genovese also said residents want a complete record of the "town's abysmal enforcement history."

Resident Valerie Hart said it's imperative for the town to take into account all the development in the area of County Road 39 and how that growth would impact traffic; she also questioned the smell and noise of the applicant's proposed expansion. "I'd rather see spot zoning so you know what a facility is," she said.

Lona Rubinstein, a consultant who has known the Norsic family for years, pointed out that Norsic did not realize comments could be made at the hearing. "Otherwise, I think Skip would have been there," she said. "I know he could have had a herd of people there. He has thousands of residents in support of his application, attesting to the fact that the Norsics are good people who provide good service."

Rubinstein reminded that next month, the Norsics will celebrate 75 years of service to the people of Southampton Ė it is, she said, a family legacy spanning generations.

The big issue, said Rubinstein, regards neighbors who question the preexisting use of the site. "It's like getting a house cheap next to the railroad and then wanting to shut down the railroad."

Norsic said the town has not provided a place for garbage companies who operate to dispose of waste and sewage, requiring them to travel out of town as far as Babylon and Lindenhurst and sparking the need for additional trucks.

As for portable toilets, Norsic said along with expansion in the area came permits for dumpsters and portable toilets.

"Going back to 1932 when my grandfather started the business, there were potato farms out here, and on the potato farm, the workers had to be supplied with outhouses" that had to be serviced.

"In my eyes, we have always been pre-existing and non-conforming. For anyone to come in and say we are operating illegally, I strongly disagree and so does our attorney," said Norsic.

Norsic said he has worked to mitigate noise and dust by adding natural barriers and adopting the highway on Sandy Hollow Road and cleaning it daily. Noise detectors, he said, set up by the DEC on three occasions have proven noise from his facility was under the limit. He added that after sending out a survey, many customers wrote back in support of the expansion. He has permits to crush concrete and grind brush on his property but refrains because of dust and noise concerns for neighbors.

The Norsics, Rubenstein said, spent a considerable amount of money to landscape and berm and make the area comfortable for residents. And, she reminded, the Norsic family themselves live in the area, and are known for their charitable work. "It's misguided. People who might have bought their land cheap want to increase their real estate values, which is fine, but not at the expense of the people who live in town and need private carters," she said.

Jefferson Murphee of the Southampton Town Planning Department said the staff recommended the hearing be closed after Friday's session, with 30 days for written comment, but after hearing the public's objections, the board agreed to leave the hearing open and schedule another scoping session for March 27.

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