Smithtown wants tree group's business cut
Smithtown Town Board members have urged the town zoning board to reject a six-month site plan extension request from a tree service company that has operated for at least a decade without proper approval.
The zoning board plans to make a decision on the request by Prisco Realty LLC, which owns and operates Reliable Tree Services at 927 Jericho Tpke., after its scheduled public hearings Tuesday night.
At a work session last week, Supervisor Patrick Vecchio and Councilmen Thomas McCarthy and Robert Creighton agreed that any extension should not exceed 60 days.
Neighbors have complained about fumes from the property owned by Frank Prisco, and said trees have been ground into wood chips and stored in open containers. Neighbors voiced concerns at a July zoning board hearing about Reliable Tree operating a used-car lot in the rear buffer zone of its property.
Town code requires a site plan -- an architectural and engineering document -- on new commercial construction and modifications to the exterior and interior of such properties.
In February 2005, Reliable Tree filed one, but the town planning department denied it the following October, saying Prisco did not provide requested information to the town engineer and prove that he was not building on environmentally sensitive lands.
The town issued site plan violation summonses to Prisco in 2003, 2008 and 2010, said town attorney Matthew Jakubowski.
Prisco was ordered to file a site plan within a year of a March 2011 conditional discharge agreement in Suffolk County District Court and failed to do so, Jakubowski said.
When asked why the town chose not to shut the business now, Jakubowski said it is awaiting the zoning board's decision.
Despite the violations, the town has done business with Reliable Tree. A three-year contract expires in April, Jakubowski said. Reliable Tree lost a bid for tree stump removal with the town in August because of the zoning violations.
Zoning board chairwoman Adrienne Giannadeo personally hired the company 15 years ago and has recused herself from the case.
The town board voted unanimously 5-0 last Tuesday to have Jakubowski craft an advisory recommendation to the zoning board, which operates independently of the town board, to let residents speak about the extension request Tuesday and limit any extension to 60 days or less.
But zoning board member Tony Tanzi Jr., who is acting chairman on the case, said that would be improper after the case was closed in November.
"We encourage neighbors to come and listen to deliberation," Tanzi said. "We want to strike a balance with letting a property owner use their property for a legal use, but also protect the rights of neighbors."
In November, the zoning board granted Prisco's request for a special exception to allow a trucking station on the site needed to permit Select Auto Group to continue maintaining a used-car lot at the rear of the property.
The board also approved several variances for property line setbacks, outdoor storage and altering environmentally sensitive land. But it imposed numerous conditions on buffering the property from residential homes, as well as banning the parking and storage of "junked, crashed or damaged vehicles" and chipping, dying and burying "vegetative materials."Prisco failed to submit a site plan within 30 days of a zoning board decision last November to grant numerous variances. His attorney, Vincent J. Trimarco Sr., of Smithtown, said engineering issues require an extension be granted. He would not comment on why Prisco has operated since 2003 without a site plan.
An Oct. 27, 2003, town building inspection letter to Prisco, obtained by Newsday, shows that he was ordered to "cease and stop all operations immediately." The property was no longer being used as a service station, thus voiding its building permit and certificate of occupancy, the letter said."It's been 11 years we've been waiting for him to get his property cleaned up," said neighbor Linda Jablonsky. "We feel like enough is enough."
Years of back-and-forth
August 2003 -- Smithtown's public safety department issues two violation summonses to Reliable Tree Services.
November 2003 -- Town attorneys secure a restraining order in District Court.
June 2004 -- The restraining order is lifted.
2008 to 2010 -- The public safety department issues more violation summonses.
November 2013 -- The zoning board grants most variance requests,with a list of conditions.