The Village of Centre Island plans to commission an engineering study to determine the potential environmental impact of animal waste as trustees consider adopting a law that would allow Billy Joel and other residents to maintain horses.
During a roughly 90-minute public hearing Wednesday evening, residents questioned whether allowing horses in the village would contaminate drinking water, cause unpleasant odors from manure, damage oyster beds in the harbor and diminish property values.
The singer and his wife, Alexis, want to build a facility on their 25-acre waterfront estate to house 12 horses.
Andrew Farren, a former village trustee who lives to the north of the Joels' estate, said he was concerned about the impact of manure.
“All of that runoff will come down near us,” Farren said, adding that the lack of a screen between the Joel’s property and adjacent properties meant odors could affect residents in his area. “The prevailing wind is from the southeast … it'll be, you know, a stinkpot.”
Village trustee Grace Haggerty said she disagreed with Farren.
“Knowing the Joels and living across the street from them, they're going to abide by the rules that are set in this legislation,” Haggerty said.
The proposed law would require manure to be stored at least 200 feet from any property line and to be treated so as not to attract vermin and to prevent offensive odors. It would also require manure be removed from the premises at least once a week.
“If you keep it clean and neat, you don't have an odor,” Haggerty said.
Melissa Subjeck, a Buffalo-based attorney for the Joels who is with Hogden Russ LLP, said odor fears were overblown.
“These horses are going to spend the majority of their time in the stable, and the stable will be cleaned two, three, four times a day,” Subjeck said.
Some residents suggested the maximum number of horses permitted — 12 — is too high and said no more than four is preferable.
Deputy Mayor Michael Chalos asked the couple's attorney, Anthony Guardino of Hauppauge-based Farrell Fritz PC, whether they needed that many.
“Yes,” Guardino said. “Ms. Joel is an equestrian, an accomplished equestrian. Her young children are becoming more and more involved in horses. That's her passion and they have 25 acres.”
Resident Gregory Druhak said he had a goat growing up in the village in the 1960s and ’70s but that they're no longer allowed.
“I was informed that goats are dirty, smelly animals and you're not allowed to have a goat on Centre Island, and now you're talking about 12 horses,” Druhak said. “I can't have a goat, but somebody who's got money can put through a law to have 12 horses. I just find that a little bit frustrating.”
The trustees adjourned the hearing until next month, when the results of the engineer’s study are expected to be completed.