By Claire Walla
Residents living in close proximity to the Sand Land facility on Millstone Road in Noyac have been complaining for years that the sand and gravel processing site emits acrimonious noises, saying that the sounds that come from machines go beyond the bounds of what the site is zoned for.
However, according to John Tintle, who owns Wainscott Sand and Gravel Corporation, which runs the facility, these reports may not be accurate.
“The other day, I was 20 feet away from a pick-up truck and about 1,500 feet away from the crusher… I could hear the pick-up trick over the crusher,” Tintle recalled.
In fact, at last week’s Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting on January 19, Tintle pushed to take this a step further, adding an official assessment of the noise situation to the public record.
“A noise study’s never been done,” he said. “I would like to conduct one.”
This newest bit of evidence which is proposed to be added to the case involving the ongoing feud between Sand Land Corp. and those living near the site is expected to take months to complete, although the ZBA has tentatively scheduled to revisit the issue at its meeting on March 15.
The Southampton ZBA is tasked with addressing a formal appeal made by Noyac residents Joseph Phair, Margot Gilman and Amelia Doggwiler against a decision made by the Southampton Town Building Inspector, Michael Benincasa, last summer. Benincasa ruled in July that Sand Land is “pre-existing nonconforming” and thus is legally allowed to operate a sand mine complete with processing capabilities, and the storage and sale of mulch created from trees, brush, stumps and leaves processed onsite.
According to Zachary Murdoch, who is representing the plaintiffs, the Sand Land facility is currently engaged in activities that violate zoning code.
“What was determined ‘pre-existing nonconforming’ did not occur until 15 years after the upzoning,” Murdoch said.
The issue is centered in part on the town code, which was adopted in 1957. The plaintiffs argue that the Sand Land Corporation did not exist in its current form (i.e. processing mulch) prior to 1957, which would prohibit it from being “pre-existing, nonconforming.”
Lawyer David Eagan, who is representing David Tintle of Sand Land Corp., on the other hand, contends that the business did in fact exist prior to the adoption of the town code in 1957 and is thus doing nothing illegal.
In fact, Eagan further argues that because zoning laws changed again in 1972 — effectively creating a residential district in that area — there is even more evidence to bolster his position that Sand Land, in its current state, is “pre-existing nonconforming.”
“I think the very broad, broad definition of ‘mining activities’ and what was going on on the site… is a very key piece of evidence in our favor,” Eagan stated last week.
Last Thursday, Tintle said he would personally finance such a noise study, and at the request of Zoning Board member Keith Tuthill, he said the study would include assessments of the noise generated on the site from several different locations, even taking into account different wind directions.
“The other thing I’ll do for you,” Tintle added, “I’ll have them break it down by machine.”
“It’s not that noisy of an operation,” he said, adding that should neighbors have any complaints, “They can call me anytime — I’m always open with the neighbors.”