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Brookhaven Town board OKs light industry at Lawrence Aviation Superfund site

The Brookhaven Town Board has approved an overlay district allowing light industrial uses, such as solar energy panels, at a federal Superfund site in Port Jefferson Station.

The district is intended to limit development at the 126-acre site of the abandoned and contaminated Lawrence Aviation Industries, an aircraft manufacturing plant that closed in 2003. The property is being rehabilitated as part of a $27 million cleanup by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The district was approved 6-0 by the town board Thursday after a public hearing at which no members of the public spoke. Supervisor Edward P. Romaine abstained from the vote because he opposes development there, citing contaminants such as sludge and chemicals buried in the soil.

"It should never be developed," Romaine said. "This is a Superfund site that has impacted the area in a significant way."

He said Suffolk County officials should seize the property from owner Gerald Cohen, of St. James, for millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

County officials have said they are prevented from seizing the site by a federal lawsuit to recoup cleanup costs from Cohen, who also faces federal charges that he illegally removed asbestos from the site. He has pleaded not guilty.

Deputy Town Attorney Beth Reilly said the district would limit some uses that are allowed by current zoning at the site. The overlay district would allow only "responsible legal development" and "minimizes soil disturbance," Reilly said.

A land-use plan for the site approved last year by the town board called for light manufacturing, offices and solar panels at the site. Development there is not expected until the cleanup concludes in about 20 years.


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