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Kings Park landfill has town, civic leaders at odds with developer

A decision by Suffolk County to transfer an

A decision by Suffolk County to transfer an abandoned Kings Park landfill, seen here on Monday, June 5, 2017, to businessman Toby Carlson is drawing skepticism from civic leaders and the Smithtown planning director. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

A Suffolk County plan to transfer a notorious Kings Park landfill to a businessman with a history of land-use violations in Smithtown has drawn skepticism from civic leaders and the Smithtown planning director.

The businessman, Toby Carlson, said he and his partners are only trying to rehabilitate the Steck Philbin site on Old Northport Road, which has been abandoned for decades. Most developers were scared off by a $1.5 million delinquent tax bill and $10 million in estimated cleanup costs connected to the site’s use as an illegal construction dump.

Under a county Landbank program to clean blighted property and return it to the tax rolls, Carlson, owner of the Kings Park recycling company Powercrush, won the right to redevelop the site for a solar farm, paying millions to cap the landfill but just $500,000 to settle the tax bill.

After that plan failed because PSEG wouldn’t commit to buying the electricity, the county legislature this spring amended the resolution, permitting sale of the tax liens to allow Carlson and his partners “other potential uses” for the site, which the resolution didn’t define.

Between 1998 and 2012, town officials issued dozens of summonses connected to solid-waste management violations to another Carlson company, Carlson Associates, which shared the same address as Powercrush. Carlson Associates pleaded guilty to six violations and paid at least $6,000 in fines.

Landbank officials said they were not aware of those offenses.

Carlson said that most of those issues were resolved with the town. “I am bringing my operations indoors and updating to the best available technologies,” he said.

He and his partners will seek another deal for solar or for recreational uses at the Steck Philbin site and will not develop it for industrial purposes, Carlson said. “That is an absolute definitive commitment,” he said.

Kings Park Civic Association leaders said they did not object to a solar farm but transferring the site without restrictions on use could end badly for residents of the neighborhoods that abut the industrial area, especially those who live on nearby Marvin Drive. The site is zoned for heavy and light industry.

“We have to live with whatever gets built there forever,” said civic association vice president Linda Henninger.

She opposed a plan for a community meeting where residents could discuss acceptable uses for the site, arguing that she and her neighbors lacked the technical expertise to evaluate issues like possible contamination at the site, whose former owners were fined and ordered to close in 1993.

“The county is trying to shirk its responsibility,” Henninger said. “Is it up to us to figure out the cost of cleanup, then decide what use will give the proposed owners a profit?”

She wants the Landbank to ask for new proposals for the site.

Landbank officials said that will not happen and said the initial request for proposals was best understood as an attempt not to find “best use” for the site, but the “best developer, and that’s what we found.”

The community meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 29 at the Kings Park VFW.

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