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Swezey Farm Nursery, Brookhaven reaches settlement

The Swezey Farm Nursery in Middle Island has

The Swezey Farm Nursery in Middle Island has agreed to modify its operations under an agreement announced Thursday, May 12, 2016. Officials involved are, from left, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine; Town Councilman Michael Loguercio and Middle Island Civic Association president Gail Lynch-Bailey. Credit: Chuck Fadely

A Middle Island nursery that Brookhaven Town officials have accused of illegal mulching must get rid of tires, concrete, wood and other debris stored at the site as part of a legal settlement announced Thursday by town officials.

The Swezey Farm Nursery on Swezey Drive agreed to close its composting operation and submit to town inspections “at any time,” Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Thursday in a telephone interview. The nursery was the scene of a December 2013 fire that officials said had threatened nearby homes.

Neighbors have complained that dust, noise and odors from the nursery left them unable to open windows or enjoy lounging in their yards.

“What is going to happen is it is going to end over the next few years,” Romaine said. “We have markers that they have to meet, and if they don’t, we have the right to shut it down.”

The farm will be allowed to remain open as a nursery, but it will not be allowed to accept large quantities of grass clippings and other debris from trash haulers, town officials said. The nursery may keep up to 3,000 cubic yards of material for sale or for compost at the farm.

Town and farm officials agreed to the settlement on Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Riverhead.

Nursery owner Marien Marcario declined to comment. Her attorney, Alan D. Singer, did not answer a call to his White Plains office.

Gail Lynch-Bailey, president of the Middle Island Civic Association, said she was pleased with the settlement because it will allow town inspectors to go onto the property. Previously, nursery officials had refused to allow inspections.

Lynch-Bailey said residents stay indoors with their windows closed in the summer because of the stench from the farm.

“They haven’t been able to open their windows for years, literally,” she said. “People have had to go and stay in hotels on hot and humid days in the summer.”

Town Councilman Michael Loguercio, who represents Middle Island, said the settlement was a “win-win” that allows the farm to remain open while improving the quality of life for residents.

“No one should have to deal with the dirt and the dust and the smell that these people have put up with,” he said.

Town officials raided the farm in August 2013 and alleged that the compost business was operating without permits. The town sued the farm two years ago in State Supreme Court.

Romaine said town officials agreed to the settlement because it may have been two years before the suit went to trial.

“We thought if we could come to the settlement, we could get relief for the residents sooner rather than later,” he said.

He added town officials support proposed state legislation that may make it easier for state and local officials to crack down on suspected illegal mulching.

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