Much Ado about Millings
February 15, 2016
Since April 2015, Michael Fareri has been requesting information about North Castle’s stockpiling of road millings by the Highway Department at different locations in environmentally sensitive areas of the Town’s three hamlets of Armonk, North White Plains and Banksville.
On January 27, Alan Singer, Fareri’s Lawyer, sent a letter to Supervisor Michael Schiliro with the intent to proceed with litigation against the Town of North Castle, members of the Town Board, and certain, yet not named, Town employees, who he says are responsible for illegal activity.
The letter says the Town’s stockpiling of environmental hazardous millings across the street from Fareri’s building at 333 Main Street poses environmental threats and negatively affect Fareri’s property value.
Fareri estimates there are about 6,000 cubic feet of pilings with no siltation, no water quality protection, no air pollution protection and is an eyesore.
Town Administrator Joan Goldberg said at the January 27 Town Board meeting that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) was consulted about the asphalt millings (RAP) storage at North Castle’s highway yard. She said, “There is no environmental hazard.”
Then at the February 10 Town Board meeting, Goldberg said, “The Town engineers reviewed the pilings, as did the NYSDEC. All we were required to do is to protect the catch basins within the highway yard and that has been done.”
Singer’s letter continued to say that it is his understanding that this is in violation of the Environmental Conservation Law which was undertaken without the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) review, and without permit or approval.
Goldberg stated that if the land had been vacant and then was used as a highway yard, the SEQR rules would apply, but the highway yard predates SEQR.
“There’s a difference between processing and storing the millings,” said Goldberg. “We store them for future use by the Highway Department for patching and shoring up road base. Storing leaves that are an organic matter, require a permit, but storing RAP does not require a permit,” she concluded.
Fareri says the property, which was the roadway built by Westwood Recycling, is where the millings are stockpiled and that location was never intended for storage.
Town Attorney Roland Baroni said the pilings are not on the driveway anymore.
“I believe that a SEQR process is needed,” said Fareri. “I don’t want to see taxpayers’ money used to defend a lawsuit that I don’t want to bring against the Town. I don’t want to sue the Town, but you leave me no options because the change of use of the land requires a SEQR process to hear the potential problems or concerns that neighbors may have because of what the municipality is doing.
“In the event that you don’t move the millings to a different part of the highway garage where it is not visible, and you have siltation protection and no possible contamination of storm water, I will follow NYS law and you will have to hire an attorney,” said Fareri.
“Why do we have to spend money on legal bills?” asked Schiliro.
“If I do an Article 78, someone has to defend that lawsuit,” responded Fareri.
“Who’s initiating it?” asked Schiliro.
“I would be initiating it,” said Fareri.
“You are saying, we are forced to spend money on legal bills,” said Schiliro, “because you are initiating something that you have been told several times is a non-issue. So it’s your choice. You are saying to the taxpayers of the Town, I am going to bring another legal action and I want taxpayers to spend money.”
“I believe the Town administrator’s decision is improper. Wouldn’t you rather spend the money to move the millings rather than to fight a lawsuit?” Fareri asked.
This is similar to what has happened to Westwood Recycling at the same location, he added. “That was also impacting me and it took me six months to get Westwood shut down and the property cleaned.”
“This is nothing like Westwood,” said Schiliro.
The Town had entered a 10-year contract with Westwood to use the North Castle Highway Yard in Armonk as an organic recycling facility. Westwood did some excavation work at the highway site, which included building a roadway leading into the highway yard from Route 128/Main Street. The estimated cost of that work was $600,000.
The Westwood work was done without a SEQR process. To avoid litigation, the Town Board signed a settlement agreement by paying Westwood Recycling $475,000, of which the Town’s insurance carrier paid $150,000.
“The Town has violated the law,” wrote Fareri in an email to Schiliro on February 14. “The Town did the same thing in Westwood. Unless the Town follows the law regarding SEQRA willingly, or removes the potential impacts, you leave me no choice.
“Can you imagine if it is found that the Town Administrator made a mistake and the law was violated and environmental impacts exist and the Town Board, after being made aware of it, did nothing about it? Seems like a bad decision on your part. Who made this decision? The Town Administrator, who according to her resume, has no knowledge of this subject. If I were on the Town Board, I would take all precautions to see that no negative impacts exist and also to be crystal clear that no laws have been broken.”