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Brookhaven Town studies possible uses of Lawrence Aviation Superfund site

A dump truck enters the gate of the

A dump truck enters the gate of the former Lawrence Aviation site on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson Station on Tuesday morning, May 13, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The site of an abandoned and contaminated Port Jefferson Station aircraft parts factory could become a commercial park for light industry, according to a draft land-use plan prepared by Brookhaven Town officials and local residents.

Any future uses of the 126-acre Lawrence Aviation property, a federal Superfund site, will have to wait about two decades while contaminated soil is removed.

Federal agents raided the Sheep Pasture Road site earlier this year to determine whether asbestos had been illegally released there or in the surrounding area. They also sought to determine whether asbestos was illegally removed from the factory and dumped elsewhere in violation of federal law.

The draft land-use plan, which will be the subject of a Sept. 30 public hearing at Brookhaven Town Hall, suggests creating an overlay district on part of the property to encourage light industrial uses such as laundromats, banks, printing plants, lumberyards and research and development labs.

The plan was developed by town planning officials and a five-member citizens advisory committee appointed last year by the town board.

"I think it's a very good use of the property, not that anything is going to be built right away, but certainly by putting certain constraints on the property, you're going to control it," said advisory committee member Ed Garboski, president of the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Civic Association.

Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright said the plan may be adjusted based on comments made by residents at public gatherings, such as one held Thursday at Comseqogue High School.

"I think there were some valid concerns raised by the community," Cartright said of the meeting, attended by several dozen residents. "The feedback from the community that I received was positive."

Garboski said some residents wanted a larger buffer around the property than the 100 feet proposed in the plan. He said future development of the property faces significant challenges -- including a mile-long toxic groundwater plume emanating from the site and about $10 million in tax liens against property owner Gerald Cohen.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has spent at least $27.3 million to clean up the shuttered factory, which closed more than 20 years ago.

"They probably have another 20 to 25 years of pumping [contaminated] water over there," Garboski said. "There wouldn't be too many people rushing to build something on that soil."

Advisory committee member Joan Nickeson, a board member of the Cumsewogue Historical Society, said the land use plan is an "excellent and important step forward," but she would be just as happy if the land was not developed.

"There's great wildlife in there and great habitats that have overcome the mess that mankind has made of it," Nickeson said. "If it could be preserved, that would be ideal."

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