Proposed changes to the Town of Smithtown's Montclair Avenue highway yard that are required for compliance with state environmental standards have riled neighbors of the facility, who said they are concerned about increased truck traffic, dust and noise.
"This is not a dump site," said town environmental planning director Russell Barnett of the St. James facility. "It is a yard that is basically a staging point" where the town highway trucks bring street sweepings and other material that are loaded on trucks and removed.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation allows no more than 15,000 cubic yards of street sweepings and mixed clean brick, concrete, and soil on site yearly.
"The highway department has, on occasion, exceeded the limits on the amount of material that the DEC says can reside on this property," Barnett said after last week's town board meeting. "That is what prompted this proposal."
The plan calls for putting in two new scales to weigh what enters and exits the yard, to not only comply with standards but to ensure that the town receives state and federal reimbursements associated with disaster response. Barnett said the town could have received more superstorm Sandy reimbursements if it had the scales, because such debris must be weighed.
The yard will not take in garbage, as some residents feared, he said. But homeowners will be able to drop off computer recyclables in a sealed box, as well as construction debris, Barnett added.
The plan also includes the purchasing of a grinding machine to decrease the size of piles and debris historically accumulated at the site, thereby reducing dust and truck traffic, Barnett said.
Still, neighbors expressed concern over quality-of-life issues. William Desimini, 69, who has lived next door to the yard for 28 years, said he worries about the increased traffic and odors.
"It's bad enough that Montclair Avenue is used by car dealers, trucks to take short cuts," he said. "I can only envision this getting worse with residences carting trailers."
Robert DeMoustes, 65, who lives on Montclair Avenue, said the neighborhood is already wrought with excessive dust and rat issues, which he fears the proposal would intensify.
"I clean my house and power wash it three to four times a year," he said, adding that the town should consider creating a buffer for area homes, as well as a dead-end circle to reduce traffic.
But Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio assured residents that air quality would improve.
"Dust that you normally would get is going to be somewhat mitigated because the driveway . . . and entrances are going to be asphalted."
Upgrades are expected to be completed by the end of the year.