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Vote on Yaphank auto yard delayed after water worries raised

No new date has been set for a

No new date has been set for a public hearing or vote on a proposed Yaphank auto storage facilty.

The Brookhaven Town Planning Board has postponed a decision on a proposed Yaphank auto storage yard amid opposition to the project from residents, town officials and the Suffolk County Water Authority.

The board on Monday adjourned a public hearing on the proposal when applicant NMF Holdings requested a delay, town spokesman Jack Krieger said. The board did not set a new date for the hearing or a vote, he said.

NMF Holdings, which is seeking approval of a site plan and special permit, plans to build the facility on a wooded, 35.67-acre property on Sills Road, south of the Long Island Expressway. The site would hold thousands of cars damaged in collisions, town officials have said.

Water authority officials and other opponents have said the site is too close to a public well and expressed concern that drinking water could be harmed by toxic fluids leaked from vehicles.

Keith Archer, a Melville attorney representing NMF Holdings, said in an email to Newsday that the Ocean Ridge, Florida, company sought the postponement because of the water authority's opposition to the project. Archer said the company was caught by surprise by a Nov. 8 letter from water authority chief executive Jeffrey W. Szabo to Brookhaven Town planners asking that the project be rejected. 

Archer said water authority officials previously had expressed support for the plan.

"Our client is very sensitive to the concerns of the community. It is because of our sensitivity that our team of architects and engineers worked closely with the Suffolk County Water Authority on this project," Archer said in a statement. "We are surprised and disheartened at the Suffolk County Water Authority’s reversal of their support for this project."

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine on Monday also expressed opposition to the project, citing potential threats to drinking water. 

"The potential risk of an undetermined number and types of automobiles or other stored items contaminating the sole source aquifer is a major concern," Romaine wrote in a letter to the planning board. "The proposed action may have an impact on human health from exposure to new or existing sources of contaminants due to automobile storage operations and may result in the release of contaminated leachate from the project site."

Linda Petersen, president of the Yaphank Taxpayers and Civic Association, said about 30 people who showed up at Brookhaven Town Hall to attend the public hearing were disappointed that it was postponed. 

Regine Nickel of Yaphank, who opposes the project, said she and other opponents were reassured when Romaine spoke to them in the Town Hall lobby after the postponement was announced.

"There will be another chance" to speak, Nickel said. “We’ll make an effort to show up again because protecting the water is worth it.”

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