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Kings Park man helps town fight recycling firm

The Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously to purchase

The Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously to purchase two properties for $240,000 that can be used for transfer of density flow rights. (Feb. 20, 2012) Credit: Erin Geismar

As an attorney specializing in insurance cases for 25 years, Larry Shaw of Kings Park is no stranger to courtrooms.

Serving as a witness, Shaw helped the Town of Smithtown win a Suffolk County court judgment, temporarily stopping a Kings Park recycling firm from accepting waste materials.

Town Attorney John Zollo said Shaw -- who testified about truck and machinery noise from Town, County and State Recycling, which is behind his home -- helped Smithtown win a rare legal victory in the town's lengthy battle against Kings Park industrial properties.

"It could be 3 o'clock in the afternoon, it could be 3 o'clock in the morning. . . . My house shakes," Shaw said. "If trucks brake, my windows rattle."

Third District Court Judge C. Stephen Hackeling on Feb. 1 issued a preliminary injunction barring Town, County and State from processing yard and solid waste at its Lawrence Road site, because it doesn't conform with town zoning.

Attorney Leonard Shore of Commack, who represented the company, said he and his client are weighing an appeal. Shore said the firm has a state permit to operate legally. "We don't believe that the record before the court justified the granting of a preliminary injunction," he said.

Recycling firm officials have met informally with Shaw and are willing to seek a compromise. Shore said he plans to meet Monday with Zollo to discuss a possible out-of-court settlement.

Complaints such as Shaw's are familiar to the town, which repeatedly took Kings Park industrial businesses to court in the 1980s and 1990s -- and almost always lost. Judges said the zoning code was unenforceable because the businesses predated the law, and the town could not supersede state laws that allow the companies to operate. "We don't do very well in the courts," Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said, adding he's pleased with Hackeling's order. "I think it's kind of a first. We hope that there could be more."

Zollo said the town stopped taking businesses to court 11 years ago. He said Shaw's testimony helped him build a stronger case against the company, and he believes Hackeling's decision could serve as a blueprint for future legal actions against other businesses suspected of violating town code. "We've now established to the property owner some parameters of what you can and can't do," Zollo said.

Shaw, a member of an unofficial citizens task force concerned about the businesses, said the town has legal grounds to shut them down.

"The town says all the time, 'We can't win, we can't win, we can't win,' " Shaw said. "I think they've convinced themselves they can't win. But this shows they can win if they just try."

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