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Feb 10, 2010 11:31 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

More questions than answers over Flanders mine expansion proposal

Feb 10, 2010 11:31 AM

A sand and gravel mine in Flanders is seeking permission to expand its operation onto two acres of wooded land within the Compatible Growth Area of the Long Island Pine Barrens, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The mine sits on 18 acres on the south side of Flanders Road, near the corner of Firehouse Lane. The East Hampton-based company that owns the mine, Wainscott Properties, Inc., has an application pending with the DEC to expand the existing three-acre mining operation onto two additional acres, according to the DEC.

In addition to the DEC review process, officials with Southampton Town, which is responsible for enforcing Long Island pine barrens legislation within its borders, said they are trying to determine if the company must file an application with the town’s Department of Land Management in order to clear forest within the Compatible Growth Area.

A public comment period for the DEC application that began in late December is set to end on Friday, February 12. As of earlier this week, no comments had been filed with the state, according to Bill Fonda, a spokesman for the DEC.

Mr. Fonda said the proposed expansion would require the clearing of some oak forest. He said the DEC is currently trying to determine how much wooded land would need to be cleared.

The application remains under review, and Mr. Fonda said he could not say when a decision would be made on it. He noted that the DEC has some concerns about the proposal, including its “impacts on native vegetation and habitat.”

The DEC has had no prior enforcement issues with the mine, according to Mr. Fonda. He added that mining permits also include stipulations for restoring land once mining is completed.

Patrick Bistrain, the owner of mine, did not return multiple calls seeking comment on his expansion application.

His company has owned the mine since 2006, according to Southampton Town’s tax assessment records. Mr. Fonda could not say when the mine opened.

Some development is allowed within the Compatible Growth Area of the pine barrens, as long as it meets certain preservation standards, according to Julie Hargrave, the environmental planner for the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission.

Long Island pine barrens legislation is first enforced at the town and village level, according to Ms. Hargrave. If a local municipality thinks that a project might not comply with pine barrens preservation standards, it can refer the case to the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission for ruling. The commission is comprised of the supervisors of Southampton, Riverhead and Brookhaven towns, as well as Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. It is currently chaired by Peter Scully, who is also the DEC’s regional director for Suffolk and Nassau counties.

“Generally, there are standards for the Compatible Growth Area, and the town implements those standards,” Ms. Hargrave said. “Projects come to the commission if they don’t meet standards.”

The company has not filed an application for the project with Southampton Town’s Department of Land Management, according to Marty Shea, the chief environmental analyst for Southampton Town. Mr. Shea said his department is still trying to determine if the company will be required to file a formal application with the town and, at the same time, decide whether or not the town would need to refer the project to the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission.

“I have to look at the actual plan because it’s hard to say whether or not he would be subject to commission review and approval,” Mr. Shea said.

Ms. Hargrave explained that her office is also aware of the application, and still investigating if it will require town approval. She added that there are no hard and fast rules pertaining to mining operations, and whether or not they can expand within the Compatible Growth Area of the pine barrens.

“You really have to look at the application, and look at the history and look at the proposal,” she said. “It’s really site specific.”

Richard Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, an environmental advocacy group, said he is similarly trying to find out if Wainscott Properties must file an application with the town. He is also researching if the expansion of a sand and gravel mine is allowed under pine barrens legislation.

“I’ve been waiting to find out what violation, if any, has occurred,” Mr. Amper said.

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Richard to rescue.
By danrudan (40), Southampton on Feb 10, 10 9:22 PM
Any expansion of what are called "sand and gravel mines" is a disaster waiting to happen. And one that the DEC will sanction when it does happen. These deep holes are home to many operations that are uninspected and unregulated. And remember the Town is looking to "privatize" garbage collection. The DEC is "worried about impact on vegetation" but it's record in regard to "sand mining" shows they never worry about impact on people or property. Watch this one, people.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Feb 11, 10 1:48 PM
Granted today (Sat), it may be too late to submit anything; however, having heard of the plan and call for public comments last Thursday, you should have considered sending a quick email or fax to the DEC, voicing your actual concerns regarding this project, or maybe just expansion of sand mines in general. Worse case, they proceed without having even considered your comments. BETTER CASE- your comments, standing alone or perhaps in connection with other's comments - might actually spark enough ...more
By Dayze (5), East Quogue on Feb 13, 10 6:02 PM
You sre totally correct. Look at the mess the DEC has approved for years on South Street west of Wading River Road in Manorville.. A 72 acre lake????
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Feb 11, 10 6:55 PM
The Town of Southampton has the "opportunity" but not the "obligation" to enforce the provisions of the Pine Barrens Act. To take a look at what can and has resulted from Town of Southampton enforcement of sand mining operations one only has to look in Westhampton at the lake of an abandoned operation that is littered underwater with junked cars, trucks, boats and other machines and debris. And take a good look (use Google Earth) at the more than 50 (fifty) acre pit that exists just to the east ...more
By barberosa (39), Watermill on Feb 11, 10 7:18 PM
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