Brookhaven Town and a Yaphank rail terminal have reached a settlement of their long-standing legal dispute over whether the terminal must seek town permission for excavation and construction at the site.
As part of the settlement, reached on Thursday, Brookhaven Rail Terminal (BRT) agreed to request town board approval of its plans to build new tracks on a 93-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Sills Road and the Long Island Expressway.
Previously, the company had said it was exempt from town oversight because federal authorities governed its operations.
The company also agreed to reimburse the town $500,000, court documents show. In exchange, town officials agreed to drop legal action against the company.
Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto, in an interview Friday, said the settlement requires BRT to follow the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, which requires developers to ensure construction poses no significant harm to aquifers, waterways and wildlife.
BRT also agreed to submit construction plans to the town Planning Department and VHB Engineering, Surveying, and Landscape Architecture, an environmental consulting firm with an office in Hauppauge, Eaderesto said.
“We’re very happy with the settlement in that the environment can be protected through SEQRA review and town planning, so that we can protect the aquifer,” she said. “The town’s coming out in a good position on this.”
Court documents show BRT plans to build a new rail line from the western part of the property, where the company maintains an existing rail facility, to the eastern portion of the site. BRT agreed to keep 62 acres as undeveloped green space, court documents show.
In an email, BRT spokeswoman Judy White said: “Brookhaven Rail Terminal is looking forward to working with the Town of Brookhaven to move the rail terminal forward for the economic and environmental benefit that rail freight brings to the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County and all of Long Island.”
Town officials sued BRT in March 2014, saying the company, which carries commercial freight by rail, had expanded without seeking approvals from town authorities.
Town officials also accused BRT of illegal dumping and excavation at the site. State environmental officials placed a stop-work order at the site, which was lifted last year.
The settlement allows BRT to seek town board approval of its plans without submitting them before a public hearing. Such hearings often are required by state environmental review laws.
Eaderesto said the town agreed to the concession because it remains unclear whether state and town laws apply to a federally regulated rail facility
“We found the middle ground that, yes, we will go through the process, but we won’t go through the entire process,” she said. “The important thing is it will go through the SEQRA process.”
With William Murphy