The Brookhaven Town Board voted 7-0 to acquire the property from...

The Brookhaven Town Board voted 7-0 to acquire the property from Bronx-based Brush Development LLC and complete the purchase in four installments: $400,000 this year, and $916,666 each of the next three years.   Credit: Carl MacGowan

Yaphank residents are celebrating the new year with a long-awaited gift from Brookhaven Town.

The town plans to buy the site of a former sand mine on East Main Street and preserve it as open space, following years of legal wrangling over the 38-acre parcel's fate. 

The town board voted 7-0 on Dec. 19 to acquire the property for $3.15 million from Bronx-based Brush Development LLC. The purchase will be completed in four installments: $400,000 this year, and $916,666 each of the next three years.

Brush Development filed a $2.5 million federal lawsuit in 2011 against Brookhaven and the state Pine Barrens Commission alleging that both conspired to block the company from constructing a 32-unit multifamily housing development on the site. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2014 without a resolution.

Brookhaven Councilman Michael Loguercio said the purchase is “a perfect, perfect deal for everybody” and will ensure the property is never developed. 

“We don’t want 33 houses on this property,” Loguercio said. “This is an area where anything that goes in the ground basically goes in the drinking water in the next three years … It’s too sensitive to have anything going into the groundwater.”

The rugged property, which was used by Brookhaven as a dumping ground for material dredged as part of a project to remove sediment from nearby lakes, sits on a mostly wooded area near farms and industrial sites a mile north of the Long Island Expressway.

The land is within the compatible growth area of the pine barrens, where development is restricted and must follow stringent environmental regulations. The site also is within the town-protected Carmans River watershed.

Linda Petersen, president of the Yaphank Taxpayers and Civic Association, said residents for years had implored the town to buy the property. In the meantime, the dredging project pumped thousands of gallons of water into the old mine, she said.

“It turned it into an enormous lake,” Petersen said. “If the town really is going to buy it this time, I think that’s wonderful.”

Records indicate Brush Development is controlled by developer Michael Contillo. A woman who answered the phone at Contillo's home said he would not comment on the sale of the property.

The town board resolution authorizing the purchase said the land “will help to protect water quality, provide flood storage in storms and [serve as] a wildlife habitat.” The site consists of two parcels, one 28.35 acres and the other 10 acres.

Loguercio said the dredged material, known as spoils, returned the property to something like the natural habitat it had been before it was used as a mine. Nature seems to be reclaiming the site, with recent sightings of deer, chipmunks, fox and various species of birds, he said.

“All that spoilage really nourished the earth, and now we’re getting all these grasses,” Loguercio said. “It’s all growing back and it’s beautiful. ... All these wild animals have made a home there. That was a bonus.”

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