Lawsuit Filed by Sand Land Over Supervisor’s Letter

The Sand Land property in Noyac in 2016 photo. Michael Heller PHoto

A notice of claim was filed against the Town of Southampton and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman on July 25 in State Supreme Court by the Sand Land Corporation and the Wainscott Sand & Gravel Corp. over a letter filed with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on July 18 by Mr. Schneiderman.

In the pending lawsuit, Sand Land officials allege Mr. Schneiderman’s letter states that “mining is not permitted” on the 50-acre Noyac site, despite a certificate of occupancy that says sand and gravel mining is a legal use there.

Mr. Schneiderman was named both as the town supervisor and chief administrative officer (CAO) in the suit, as well as an individual. The suit will seek to vacate and annul the letter. The next court date is August 24 at 9:30 a.m.

Also this week, Wainscott Sand & Gravel sent a letter to its customers announcing it would no longer accept any materials for dumping at the Millstone Road site as of September 1, 2018. The letter, dated August 1, states that material includes “brush, leaves, grass, land clearing debris as well as concrete, brick, asphalt and masonry. Please contact Southampton Town to learn where you may be able to deposit your land clearing, landscaping debris and masonry.”

“It’s really just an effort to concentrate on gravel and sand mining at the Bridgehampton site,” said Sand Land principal John Tintle on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Mr. Schneiderman said he was pleased to hear about the letter to customers. “It’s been the town’s position that they can’t do these things, so this is good news,” he said.

The suit is specific to an application Sand Land has before the NYSDEC to modify its existing permit to allow sand and gravel mining on an additional 4.9 acres within the existing 50-acre premises and to allow the company to excavate 40 feet deeper than the current permit allows — a modification the town has openly opposed.

In connection with the proposed modification, a DEC chief administrative law judge ruled in January that before the DEC would move forward with the modification, it required a letter from the town that stated whether or not mining was prohibited within the “area proposed to be mined.”

In Mr. Schneiderman’s letter to the DEC, he asserts the question being asked under Environmental Conservation Law (ELC) is specific to the underlying zoning. “Mineral mining is not a permitted use in any zoning category in the Town of Southampton,” Mr. Schneiderman wrote in the letter. “Therefore the answer as to whether local zoning laws or ordinances prohibit mining uses within the area proposed to be minedis ‘yes.’ If the DEC wants to allow major new mining activities to proceed, either NY-ECL will have to be amended or the town will need to amend its zoning to allow mining in certain areas.”

Mr. Schneiderman declined to comment further, noting the town attorney’s office was still reviewing the case.

The suit alleges that the statement “mining is not permitted on the premises is in direct contradiction to the property’s certificate of occupancy, which does still allow for the mining of sand and gravel and violates Mr. Tintle’s constitutionally protected property rights to use Sand Land as a sand and gravel mine.”

Mr. Tintle said he believed the judge was specifically asking if mining was prohibited on his property, not throughout the Town of Southampton. “And the answer is, ‘no,’” he said. “We have a pre-existing, non-conforming certificate of occupancy that states we are allowed to mine sand and gravel on all 50 acres of our property.”

While the suit seeks unspecified damages including attorney’s fees, on Wednesday Mr. Tintle said ultimately the goal is that a judgement is rendered confirming the property’s existing certificate of occupancy and that the entire 50-acre site may be used for mining. It also seeks to have Mr. Schneiderman’s letter revoked and rescinded and have a new letter sent to the DEC stating mining on the site is not prohibited.