Peppered with violations
Town stepping up noise ordinance at Trap and Skeet
Long Island Advance
August 13, 2009

By LINDA LEUZZI

Suffolk County Department of Planning has reviewed the Trap and Skeet Search Committee Report regarding the seven locations deemed worthy of further evaluation, narrowing the possible sites down to three, said Josh Slaughter, aide to county Legislator Kate Browning. “Planning just looked at zoning,” Slaughter said of the July 30 report issued by Tom Isles, director of planning. “But a lot more studies still have to be done including accessibility and noise impact.”

The three include the Brookhaven Shooting Range in Ridge, the North Fork Preserve in Riverhead and AVR Realty parcel in Manorville, but there are caveats even with these. The Ridge Shooting Range, owned by the town of Brookhaven, is in excess of 300 acres and well buffered from surrounding development, but it is located in the core preservation area of the Central Pine Barrens and would require the town’s and the Pine Barrens Commission’s approval. With the North Fork Preserve, the county legislature has approved a resolution to authorize planning steps considering acquisition. If that took place, it could be used for a trap and skeet facility but there are issues such as accessibility and environmental constraints. The AVR Realty site, zoned as industrial, would be an expensive purchase unless a deal could be worked out to buy a portion of the site.

In the meantime, residents by the Southhaven Park Trap and Skeet Range, including those on Gerard Avenue with a single car lane going east and one going west dividing them from the noise, continue to suffer years after county promises to move it elsewhere.

“The biggest impact is the impact on quality of life,” said Councilwoman Connie Kepert (4th District) of the 60-acre site (43 acres are used for the range). “There is no peace for these people and that would certainly drive me crazy and it’s driving them crazy. It’s a real burden and something that’s not being made up. And Suffolk County keeps dragging its feet about moving this facility.”

Long Island Pine Barrens Society Executive Director Richard Amper said he sent a letter to Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko six weeks ago regarding enforcement.

Besides the noise issue, the trap and skeet facility is located in the core preservation area of the Pine Barrens and there are issues, including lead cleanups that hadn’t taken place, the construction of a new deck and ramp and the installation of 1,200 feet of fencing and a wooden wall on the sporting clay course. The construction unfolded without permission of the Pine Barrens Commission, of which the county is a member.  Last year, Kepert had written a letter to New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Peter Scully citing that the town hired a nationally-renowned consultant whose readings demonstrated the noise emanating from the trap and skeet into the yards and homes of residences well exceeded the town’s limits of 65 decibels. Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenthal (1st District) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (2nd District) had previously stated they would call upon the town’s law department to investigate and enforce all applicable laws.

“We sent a memo to the supervisor because an amendment in the Pine Barrens Act permits the town to do one of two things: To enforce the act within the town’s boundary or enforce its own laws, including its own noise laws,” Amper explained. “If you have the will to do it and the legal ability to do it based on prohibitions in the Pine Barrens, my understanding is we’ll try the noise ordinance than to do both. How they choose it is less important than that they should.” Calls to the county for comment were not returned as of press time.

Johan McConnell, president of the South Yaphank Civic Association, who attended the last work session, said she spoke with the attorney the town hired. “My understanding is that the town reached out to Paul Millus concerning noise violations,” said McConnell. “He was brought in to give his opinion.  The town has the right to enforce the noise violations.” Kepert concurred that Millus was at the work session but couldn’t comment on what was discussed during executive session. (Millus was a former special assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York and is a partner with Snitow, Kanfer & Millus LLP which specializes in commercial and land-use litigation.) “We have 23 documented violations since late spring,” she said. “We now have 19 certified public safety officers that are trained to use the noise meter. One of the things I’ve been keyed into is to continue to enforce our noise ordinance in court. We just got that directive that we can indeed issue summonses for the town’s noise ordinance law so we are prosecuting them fully. We think that will shut down the trap and skeet. Per counsel, the town’s best remedy is enforcing the violations.” ■