Planning Board schedules public hearing for Gershow Recycling

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Neighbors have been complaining about noise and ground shaking near Gershow Recycling on Hubbard Avenue.
Neighbors have complained about noise and ground shaking near Gershow Recycling on Hubbard Avenue. (Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

Neighbors concerned about noise from Gershow Recycling’s Hubbard Avenue facility will get the chance to make some noise of their own April 3. 

The Riverhead Planning Board has set a public hearing on Gershow’s site, where officials say the company has made a number of changes, including some designed to block noise, without proper permits.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Riverhead Town Hall.

Gershow’s property was discussed both at the Planning Board’s meeting Thursday afternoon and at a meeting involving residents of the adjacent Riverhaven mobile home park that evening.

Gershow Recycling, which is based in Medford, bought the former Fred J. Gallo Used Auto Parts site on Hubbard Avenue in 2012 to operate a recycling business. Gershow recycles cars as well as scrap metal.

The town Planning Board did not require a site plan application or a public hearing when Gershow replaced Gallo at the Hubbard Avenue site because the change was considered “de minimus,” or minor.

But shortly after Gershow began operating, neighbors said the facility created noise that never existed when Gallo was there.

“I hear that big bang constantly,” Riverhaven resident Richard Weiss told the News-Review last year. “I live in a new home, it’s five years old, and it shakes the house.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter heard more complaints about Gershow-related noise Thursday night at the joint community association meeting of the Riverhaven, Riverwoods and Lakewoods mobile home parks, which are all owned by Kingsley Management.

“Why did they put in something that’s going to make everyone in our park crazy?” one woman asked.

Officials say the noise comes mostly from crushing the roofs of cars and from handling piles of scrape metal on the site.

Mr. Walter and deputy supervisor Jill Lewis said that Gershow also cleaned up an “environmental disaster” that existed on the site previously.

The Gallo operation “was a junk yard and had all those cars sitting on dirt leaking oil,” Mr. Walter said.

In taking over the property, Gershow also improved drainage and stormwater runoff management to better protect groundwater as well as a nearby wetland, Mr. Walter said.

“What you had was an environmental disaster,” he told the mobile home owners, “Did we exchange it for something else that was more annoying? Probably.”

When noise complaints started coming in about Gershow last year, the company began stacking large green metal shipping containers along the property line to block the noise.

But town officials say that was done without permits, as were several other changes made to the site after it received an approval for “de minims” changes.

“I think most people would say they’ve really cleaned the place up and did a beautiful job,” Peter Danowski, the attorney for Gershow, told the Planning Board Thursday. “They got (Department of Environmental Conservation) permits and cleaned up the environment.”

Mr. Danowski said they also demolished an old wooden building on the property, replaced the stone driveway with asphalt, built a new loading dock and stacked the containers along the border to reduce noise.

Town officials say those changes were made without approvals.

Planning Board attorney Bill Duffy said that if Gershow has initially proposed to do everything it eventually did, the application would not have been deemed “de minimus” and it would have required a public hearing.

The company stacked the large green containers along the property boundary in response to noise complaints, Mr. Danowski said.

Jeff Murphree, the town planning and building administrator, said the containers would have to be considered either a structure, which would need to comply with setback laws, “which they clearly can’t,” or they would be considered a outdoor storage, which isn’t allowed in this zone.

Gershow submitted a letter Thursday outlining all of the changes they’ve made since the original approval, and those changes will be considered an amended site plan, which is the subject of the April 3 public hearing.

Mr. Danowski had tried to convince town officials to consider creating a new level of review for changes that more than what would be considered “de minimus,” but less than what would normally require a public hearing.

Planning Board members didn’t agree.

“If you’re talking about asphalt and landscaping, it’s easy to say it’s de minimus,” said Planning Board member Stan Carey. “But stacking containers could be considered aesthetically objectionable to the neighborhood. I think that would require a public hearing.”

Watch a video of the facility below:

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