Gershow court case bounced back to Planning Board

A state judge said a lawsuit filed by Riverhead Town will be put on hold until the Planning Board rules on Gershow Recycling's site plan. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch photo)
A state judge said a lawsuit filed by Riverhead Town will be put on hold until the Planning Board rules on Gershow Recycling’s site plan. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch photo)

Riverhead Town’s lawsuit in state Supreme Court against Gershow Recycling is going back to the town Planning Board for the moment.

Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting that the courts have adjourned the case until the Planning Board makes a decision as to whether Gershow is a different use from the Fred J. Gallo junkyard that had been operating at the Hubbard Avenue site before them. 

Gershow purchased the former Fred J. Gallo Used Auto Parts property in 2011 and filed an application in 2012 to continue to operate an “end of life vehicle recycling facility” on the site.

But neighbors and town officials say that what Gershow is doing is much different from what Gallo did, and has created noise and vibration that Gallo never did, through crushing cars and gathering huge piles of scrap metal on concrete. Neighbors at the adjacent Riverhaven mobile home park started complaining about the noise on site about a year ago.

“It was like an earthquake,” the park’s manager, John Peck, said last year.

Mr. Kozakiewicz said on Tuesday that the courts generally want municipalities to exhaust all potential remedies for a case at the local level before going to court.

“Courts, generally speaking, prefer to have the local municipality take up the issue,” Mr. Kozakiewicz said.

Richard Luzzi, who lives in the Riverhaven park, asked if residents would be allowed to have input on the decision. Mr. Kozakiewicz said he doesn’t know if the Planning Board will hold a second public hearing on the issue. It had held one in April.

“The Planning Board does have a public comment period” at their meetings, Supervisor Sean Walter said.

Mr. Kozakiewicz cautioned residents after the meeting that some of the comments they are making at public meetings are turning up in court papers against the town.

“That’s not the way to try a case,” he said.

“Why wasn’t this explained to us at the beginning?” Mr. Luzzi asked. “Then we would have conducted ourselves appropriately.”

The Planning Board recently made Gershow submit a new site plan showing changes they had made to the site, but has yet to make a ruling on it. Originally, the town planning and building departments allowed Gershow to operate at the Hubbard Avenue site without Planning Board site plan approval, saying that Gershow is continuing the same use at the site as Gallo.

But this spring, the town took the position that Gershow’s business is not the same as Gallo’s, and took the business to court.

Watch a video of the facility below:

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