Muttontown’s new mayor said he hopes to reach an agreement with the owners of a local garden center over a lawsuit alleging they run “a large scale manufacturing operation” on land near the shop.
The village last year filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Nassau County against A & W Nursery Realty Holdings LLC, alleging the company that owns Heritage Farm & Garden and the 42 acres it sits on is violating a 53-year-old special use permit through its soil-mixing and soil-screening operations. Screening soil removes rocks, branches and other objects. The village said in its suit that the noise from the soil operations disturbed neighbors.
A & W denied the allegation and, in April, filed a lawsuit against the village and its board of zoning appeals, challenging the board declaration that the company is violating the permit.
Mayor James Liguori, who took office July 2, said village attorney Keith Corbett is going through files in the case and “we are optimistic we can come to a reasonable and expedient conclusion to this, which would benefit both sides.”
Steven Dubner, co-owner of A & W with daughters Allison Dubner and Wendy Dubner Master, and wife Candy Dubner, said he also hopes for a settlement.
“I want to have a good relationship with them,” he said of the village.
Dubner said a September 2017 temporary restraining order barring soil-mixing and soil-screening on his property is leading him and the other owners of Dix Hills-based Steven Dubner Landscaping to move most of those operations to a new location to Suffolk County. The drought-resistant soil blend is used by his landscaping business, he said.
“I’d like to keep some of it here, [in Muttontown] because it’s convenient” to landscaping job locations, Dubner said of the soil-mixing.
Dubner said in an interview and in court documents that the soil operations — and noise level — were roughly similar to that of previous owners of the site. Former Muttontown Mayor Julianne Beckerman, who left office July 2 after not seeking re-election, said if there previously had been soil-mixing, it was "certainly nothing of that scale.”
Muttontown resident Linda Tsiolis, who lives near the A & W property, filed an affidavit in the village's case in September 2017 alleging that the noise became worse after A & W bought the land from the owner of what was then called Martin Viette Nurseries and prevents her family from enjoying their yard.
Beckerman said the village received complaints from residents that the noise continued after the restraining order was issued. Dubner denied he has violated the order and said any continuing noise may be from other properties or from his legally authorized tree-sale operations.
Liguori said he plans to meet with Dubner, Tsiolis and other residents to “come to a peaceful solution without further legal action.”
Dubner donated $2,500 to the campaign of Liguori’s slate, and Beckerman said Dubner is “hoping that because he helped fund the current administration’s campaign that there’s going to be a payback.” Dubner denied the donation was to influence the case, and Liguori said it would not affect the village’s decisions on the matter.