A 2010 “legislative oversight” caused a stir between Port Jefferson Village and an oil company with decades-old roots in the community, though the village announced Aug. 7 during a public meeting the case has been settled.
As part of the settlement, with Northville Industries, a petroleum storage, distribution and wholesale company with property on the shores of Port Jefferson Harbor, the village agreed to amend a previously deleted section of its code. The village held a public hearing to discuss changes to permitted uses of marina waterfront-zoned parcels during the Aug. 7 meeting.
In 1976, the zone where Northville’s dock facility on Beach Street in Port Jeff was housed, and continues to be, was changed from an industrial to a marina waterfront. The change made Northville’s Port Jeff facility, which is used to take in petroleum deliveries by ship or barge that are then transported around Long Island, nonconforming to the village code. During the hearing, Village Attorney Brian Egan explained that the change was fought up to the New York State Supreme Court in 1976, and the site was granted conditional uses within the MW district, which allowed their decades-old operation to continue functioning.
In 2010 the village, to create multiple marina waterfront districts identified as MW-1, MW-2 and MW-3 drafted new legislation. The Northville property is located within MW-1. That legislation identified several permitted uses within marina waterfront districts, including recreational marinas, boat launching facilities, boat storage facilities, charter fishing boat operations, yacht clubs, restaurants and several others. However, it eliminated permitted conditional use of the space for “petroleum products and biofuels, marine terminal and pipeline facilities,” rendering the Northville facility noncompliant with the village code. Northville filed a lawsuit against the village in 2011. Egan said during the hearing the village had reached a settlement with Northville, and a stipulation of the suit was the code amendment.
“What this is really trying to do is, because we settled it I can say this, I would probably say it was a legislative mistake in 2010 to have eliminated a use that was already there and probably will continue forever,” he said. During a phone interview after the meeting Egan walked back “mistake” and instead classified it as a “legislative oversight.” “It’s been there forever, it will continue forever. What Northville said was, ‘Hey guys, we’re here. We were here even before this code was drafted. We’ve had it since 1976, just at least restore to us what you originally had in there before you took it out in 2010.’”
Northville’s is not the only property within the MW-1 district, which is the only one of the marina waterfront districts being granted conditional use pertaining to petroleum or biofuel related uses. So several village residents spoke out during the hearing with concerns that other companies might try to use property within the zone for similar purposes. Egan said the conditional-use status would leave any future proposals of that nature up to the village planning board to approve.
“Our history of this village is, it’s very difficult to do that,” village resident of Beach Street Michael Mart said during the hearing regarding a planning board denying conditional use on a property. “I’ve only heard of one time that they’ve prohibited a request for a conditional use, so I fear that by passing this, I guess we have to if it’s a settlement, because there’s only one street accessing those properties. For the most part that’s Beach Street. It’s shared by residents and to allow all of these uses to go there in the future, not immediately — I’m thinking far into the future when I’m not even here — that raises a significant zoning issue and a safety issue.”
Other members of the public were concerned by the phrase “marine terminal,” which does not have a definition within the village code. Village Mayor Margot Garant asked that a definition of marine terminal be added to the code to avoid unwanted uses from being permitted within the zone.
Egan also said an aspect of the amendment would be to create a “residential buffer” on Beach Street to separate Northville’s property and homes on the street.
He added the settlement was reached at no additional monetary cost to the village.
No vote was held on the amendment.