Brookhaven Town moves toward settling legal dispute with Brookhaven Rail Terminal

Updated November 22, 2015 7:26 PM

Brookhaven Town attorneys have been given the go-ahead by the town board to reach a settlement that would resolve a long-standing legal dispute between the town and a Yaphank rail terminal.  The town and officials of privately operated Brookhaven Rail Terminal had reached a tentative agreement to allow expansion of the terminal on Sills Road. A federal judge had given town officials a Nov. 20 deadline to take action on the proposed deal.

Specifics of the proposed settlement have not been made public.

"It's at a sensitive point at this time," Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto told town board members at a meeting Thursday night. "We're making progress."  The board voted unanimously Thursday to support seeking a settlement after meeting for 30 minutes in closed executive session.

Judy White, a rail terminal spokeswoman, declined to comment Friday.

Town and rail terminal officials have argued for years over whether the company, which ships freight, must adhere to town land-use laws. Company officials have argued they are regulated by federal rail laws and thus are exempt from town law.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Brown, who is supervising negotiations, has said any deal would include "appropriate environmental protections" at the 28-acre site south of the Long Island Expressway.  It was unclear when the sides would reach a final settlement, which would require approval by a federal judge.

Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Thursday the town board plans to vote on the settlement at an upcoming meeting.  "The terms of the settlement will be made public at that time," Romaine said.

Many public officials had hoped when the rail terminal opened in 2011 that it would help cut smog and traffic congestion by reducing the number of delivery trucks on Long Island roads. The terminal was expected to ship and receive hundreds of thousands of tons of construction material annually.  But the terminal has spent years battling town and state Department of Environmental Conservation officials over allegations that it had failed to remove fill from the site.

Terminal officials have removed fill material and paid a $150,000 fine imposed earlier this year by the DEC, a department spokeswoman said Friday.

Town officials have said excavation of the site had imperiled an underground aquifer.