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Moratorium on Lawrence Aviation Site Approved by Town

Decision gives planners until Dec. 2014 to decide what to do with a major piece of property in Port Jefferson Station.

Moratorium on Lawrence Aviation Site Approved by Town

According to the 2008 Comsewogue Hamlet Comprehensive Plan, the 152 acres of the Lawrence Aviation site in Port Jefferson Station constitutes about 35 percent of the total vacant property in the area.

It’s not going to be developed anytime soon, especially after a moratorium was extended by the Town giving more time to decide how the property should be zoned for development, if any at all is to occur. The moratorium was extended until Dec. 14, 2014.

The property is infamous because it was the subject of toxic dumping by the former owners. The Environment Protection Agency designated the land as a Superfund Site and has set up a pump and treatment plant to remediate the groundwater but that will not be completed for at least another 15 years. (Another plant was constructed in 2011 by the EPA one-mile downhill in the village of Port Jefferson because the toxic plume was discovered running into the harbor.)

The moratorium gives planners another two-years to decide what to do with the property, according to Town Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld. It also allows more time for a comprehensive Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GElS) to be developed, according to a presentation released by Brookhaven Town.

Previously a company called Blue Green Farms put in a bid to build a fish farm on a portion of the site, according to a report in the Port Times Record from 2010. Fears that excavation that the company said was needed was just an excuse to mine sand put residents and local officials on alert. The company’s plan was eventually pushed off to another location in Yaphank, where the same concerns were brought up, according to a story in Newsday.

In the meantime, the Lawrence Aviation property remains vacant, except for the EPA’s pumping facilities. In the past, the property has been the site of a fire that injured two firefighters. That fire was ruled as arson by the fire marshal. It was also the target of two seperate burglaries this year alone, one in July and another in November.

Fiore-Rosenfeld said in a phone call that the moratorium allowed for two years of study and public input.

One idea that he said has been introduced is to zone the site for light industrial use. He suggested a corporate park surrounded by a large land buffer around the property.

But worries about development remain, including what to do about traffic into the property with Sheep Pasture Road being the main access road and a railroad crossing that the study authors called a “major impediment” and a “serious safety constraint.”

An idea put forth in the 2008 study suggested taking the New York State right-of-way from Route 112 that is now designated a bike path and making it automobile accessible with designated bike and pedestrian lanes.

There are also the obvious health concerns of developing near to the toxic dumping area. Accordingly, residential development has been ruled out.

The 2008 study says that there is a “plethora of liens against the property” including back taxes due to Suffolk County and a suit filed against the owner to recover clean up costs by the EPA. An estimate of the costs of the clean up comes in at $25.6 million.

One plan for the moratorium period includes public outreach scheduled for this year to find out what residents think.

When we asked on Facebook, locals gave us some ideas of what to do with the Lawrence Aviation property.

“They should dedicate it to the families that lost loved ones to cancer due to the outright negligence greed of the owner,” said Alex Vavas.

Frank Raffaele proposed asking the people live in the surrounding homes what they want to do with it.

“They will be the ones that will have to deal directly with it,” he said. “With the new trail passing right by the property it would make a great nature center or preserve.”

Raffaele echoed the concerns of many about vehicle access to the area.

“Just keep traffic down as there is no direct access to the land except off Sheep Pasture Road,” he said.

We want to hear from you. What do you think should be done with the site?

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