A victory for the town, with a caveat
Trap & Skeet guilty of noise ordinance violation

Long Island Advance 06 December 2012

By LINDA LEUZZI, Editor

A 6th District Court ruling on Monday by the Hon. James P. Flanagan determined that Hunter Sports Shooting Grounds Inc., the Suffolk County Trap and Skeet facility run by Mark Wrobel, was found guilty of violating Brookhaven Town’s noise ordinance on one ticket.  “Our deal was that it was an effort in futility to continue on for 30 trials; all we needed is one conviction to bring it to the appellate division,” said Brookhaven Town attorney Dave Moran. “It is a victory. It’s not the case of the century.”

Councilwoman Connie Kepert, whose constituency is affected by the county facility and has been fighting the noise levels emanating from the trap and skeet range on Gerard Road in Yaphank since 2006 when she first took office, said she was happy with the decision.  “The court had advised it, that all pending matters should be stayed until the appellate review took place and that anything moving forward would be an exercise in futility,” she said. “It was on the advice of the judge. This was a big surprise to Hunter Sports that they lost it. I see this as a big victory.”  In a decision dated Oct. 6, 2011, acting New York State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Farneti ruled that the Town of Brookhaven’s sound ordinance was constitutional and could rightfully be enforced against Hunter Sports Shooting Grounds, the licencee/operator of the Trap and Skeet.
“We’ve been victorious at the state Supreme Court level and at the District Court level,” Moran said. “We asked the judge for a conditional discharge to bring it under compliance of our noise ordinance and he wasn’t willing to do that. We’ll log the complaints and expect them to continue their operation. It’s not that he can’t get fined more; if we sustain a conviction [on appeal], we’ll get compliance.”  

John Palasek, who lives near the range, said Brookhaven’s public safety director called him on Monday and said, “We won.”
“The thing I feel personally is that for Steve Bellone, who expressed interest in closing the place, this is the right opportunity to do it,” Palasek said.
Johan McConnell, former president of the South Yaphank Civic Association who lives down the road from the range, and Palasek said in an earlier interview that its creation originated in the 1950s when it was privately owned with a large buffer of open private property and no development around its perimeter. When the nearby land was purchased in the early 1990s, future homeowners inquired several times about its existence, with comments by officials that it was moving; one document obtained by the Long Island Advance includes a letter from the county executive’s office that goes back as far as 1993, to a constituent complaining about the Trap and Skeet, that Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation had been looking for a new location for the range.

Hunter Sports attorney Andrew Crabtree reiterated that the decision from the bench was made to get a ruling from the judge so that the town would stop issuing tickets and would stay proceeding on any previously issued tickets. “We found ourselves guilty on one ticket to have a higher court rule on whether it was enforceable,” he said.
Crabtree said an appeal would be made to New York State Court of Appeals in Albany or the U.S. Supreme Court. “When two municipalities have conflicting laws, there’s an issue to be determined under the state constitution,” he said. “It’s a county facility and it’s our position the county has the jurisdiction under the state constitution under municipal home rule to enforce the Trap and Skeet, not the town.”
“I’m not saying we won the war, but we won this first battle,” Moran said. Of Crabtree’s comment to bring it to the Supreme Court if necessary, Moran said, “That’s a bold statement. He has the right to go to appeals.”

Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), who supported Kepert in the noise ordinance and at one point attended a press conference with her at the trap and skeet range, where both stood their ground with trap and skeet supporters said she was glad Brookhaven is pushing the issue. “If we have to pay fines, we’re not making money from this range,” she said. “We’re not making money from the [Foley] nursing home and it’s being sold. I think the county executive and the county parks director need to look at what we should be doing with the Trap and Skeet.”

Browning is part of the Trap and Skeet relocation committee. “The North Fork Preserve [in Riverhead] was what I strongly thought would be the best; it was an ideal location but was shot down by the Town of Riverhead,” she said. “There are a couple of other locations; there’s a Calverton range but my understanding was that the owner was not a willing seller. My opinion is they’re going to have to do what’s right by Yaphank.”  Supervisor Ed Romaine was on the relocation committee as Suffolk County Legislator. “I made several recommendations, all of which were ignored, and also said I have grave concerns about these issues because there’s a violation of a noise ordinance,” he said. Romaine said the shooting range at Gabreski Airport that was privately owned seemed ideal. “It’s existed for 30 or 40 years and if that’s not suitable, start telling me what is,” he said.  As for the town noise ordinance, “As long as someone is violating the town code we will issue tickets to the violator,” he said. “That’s plain and simple.” Romaine suggested the county executive move forward with a couple of solutions — noise abatement or relocate the facility to a more appropriate location. Requests for comments from the county executive’s office were not received by press time.