Farmland owner wants to store wood chips without permit

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The stop work order at 4166 Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

A Sound Avenue farm owner is seeking permission from the Riverhead Town Board to import between 125,000 and 150,000 cubic yards of wood chips in order to further shred them and allow them to decompose over a six to 18 month period.

The applicant, Justin Purchasing Corp, is seeking to bring the wood chips to a 41-acre farm it owns on 4166 Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

Town officials said the company had been importing the wood chips from a Nassau County-owned facility in Eisenhower Park that processed debris from superstore Sandy when the town issued a stop-work order on Dec. 16, claiming the work was being done without permits from the town, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

Mr. Walter said he further contacted the office of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano to notify them that the company did not have town permits, and Nassau County then cut off “their supply” of wood chips.

Now, Justin Purchasing Corp is seeking an exemption from the Town Board from the chapter of the Town Code dealing with importation or materials, according to Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz.

“They are arguing that under Chapter 62 (which deals with importation), they are exempt due to the agricultural nature of what they are looking to do,” Mr Kozakiewicz said.

Mary Hartill, an attorney representing Justin Purchasing Corp, said the material is monitored by the state Department of Environmental Conservation at the Nassau County end to ensure that it is clean, and it is followed to its ultimate destination by a GPS tracker installed by the DEC.

Ms. Hartill said Justin Purchasing, which is headed by Kristian Agoglia of Huntington, assumed it was exempt from requiring a permit when it previously began importing the material, and had gone before the town’s farmland select committee and spoke to a deputy town attorney prior to beginning.

“They thought they had covered all their bases,” she said.

Ms. Hartill said the Agoglia family had owned the land for many years and farmed it. It is currently leased to a farmer, she said.  Kristian Agoglia is also the president of Looks Great Services, a landscaping company that stores equipment on the Sound Avenue property.

Chapter 62 states that an owner or lessee engaged in agricultural production, “seeking to remove soil or import material related to or incidental to the harvesting of crops or such other agricultural production shall be exempt from Chapter 62.”

“We’re not convinced that it is agricultural,” Mr. Kozakiewicz said.

“If they are bringing in limited amounts to supplement the soils on that farm, that’s agricultural,” Mr. Walter said. “If they are doing more than that, that’s not necessarily agricultural. That may be commercial processing and would need site plan approval.”

While the Town Board will ultimately decide if that’s the case, the Town Board on Thursday referred the application to the town Agricultural Advisory Committee for their opinion, which would be advisory only.

The Agricultural Advisory Committee next meets Jan. 14.

Justin Purchasing’s application describes what they are seeking to do as the following: “Importation of approximately 125,000 to 150,000 cubic yards of wood chips which will be reduced by shredding to approximately one-inch (or less) on the premises. The material will be further reduced in volume during the decomposition process, over a six to 18-month period.

“DEC guidelines for mulching will be followed. The end product of 40,000 to 50,000 cubic yards of top soil will be used as a supplement to the (existing) soil.”

Mr. Kozakiewicz said Justin Purchasing has acknowledged that they have already imported about 27,000 cubic yards of wood chips onto the Sound Avenue site.

[email protected]