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Town Shuts Wood Chipping Operation; Business Rep Says No Hazard Exists

Temporary restraining order granted after fire on property.

A temporary restraining order enacted Tuesday by the Town of Huntington to shut down a mulching and wood chipping operation in West Huntington is unnecessary, according to a manager at the company.

The move by the town comes one day after a fire broke out in a 25-foot high mulch pile on the property, located at 1130 West Jericho Turnpike. 

The order, signed by a state Supreme Court judge, prevents Big Dougs Enterprises, Indian Head Ranch and Wayne and John Dougal from operating a wood chipping and mulching business at the location.

Huntington Fire Marshall Paul Latuso issued summonses alleging violation of the state fire code for storing and processing compost and for storage and processing without a required emergency plan, and a third summons for an open burning violation, according to a town press release.

The town is asking for expedited hearings on the summonses by the Suffolk County District Court. 

Dougal's stepson, Eric Murray, a manager at the mulching business, said the fire was unfortunate but no safety hazard exists.

"The tickets would have been enough," said Murray on Wednesday. "There is no danger to the public." 

Unless mitigation of the volume of material is addressed on the property, the hazard that occurred April 2 is likely to occur again, according to Latuso.

Murray said the town halted the company's grinding rights — which does nothing to lessen the volume of material or alleged hazard on the property.

"How is any of this going to disappear into mulch and firewood if we can't do anything with it?" said Murray.

As a result of the temporary shutdown, the family-owned operation is losing business — some of which comes from town employees — according to Murray.  "Today I had to turn away a lot of people," said Murray.

Workers were on the property Wednesday reducing the height of the mulch and wood chip piles.

Seeking to get the business to comply with town and fire codes, the town claims the business has remained open absent proper authorization.

"Such business is conducted in buildings and structures without certificates of occupancy or certificates of permitted use," said James Matthews, counsel to the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, in an affidavit.

Matthews lists the buildings as including a mobile home, a structure commonly referred to as the Tucson Gardens building, a five-bay cement block building, a steel riding arena and a wood frame barn/stable, according to the town.

"For some time, the town has been awaiting decisions on our requests that a judge order the illegal activity on this property to cease," said Supervisor Frank Petrone in a press release. "We are pleased that Judge Behar agrees with the town that, especially in light of yesterday’s fire and the threat the activity poses to the health and safety of nearby residents, enough is enough."

A hearing regarding the property is scheduled April 5 before State Sureme Court Justice Joseph Farneti.

In recent years, , including citing it for operating a now-closed restaurant without a permit. 

Last year, judges denied two own requests for temporary restraining orders and injunctions to shut down the wood chipping and mulching operation and a horse farm, according to the town. The town is still awaiting a ruling on a permanent request.

According to the town, in January 2011, the Town Board approved the rezoning of the property to allow construction of the Kensington Estates luxury senior housing development. After a delay while the buyer and seller of the property filed the necessary covenants and restrictions, the local law enacting the zone change was filed with the New York Secretary of State on April 1, 2011. The proposal is currently undergoing site plan review by the town.

Hikerr April 05, 2012 at 06:05 PM
A friend of mine lived in a home in Smithtown across from a beautiful horse farm. The owner was having a hard time making ends meet and begged the town to allow him to build an arena on the property so that he could be open year round. There's no money in this type of business and the town refused. The owner had no choice but to sell to a developer who built 50 homes there,That was OK with the town, but not horses.
photomike1 April 07, 2012 at 12:56 AM
the hwy dept has its own woodchip pile that smells like a sewer but its not a hazard but the trucks leaking oil all over the property is thank goodness the dec made them clean it up but guess who has to pay
JSC April 07, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Thank you for this link! My family moved to Huntington in '54 when I was four, first house in our woodsy neighborhood. I recall many of these events, brought back lots of fond memories.
JSC April 07, 2012 at 01:00 PM
There was a cow farm down the hill from our neighborhood in the '50's. It too went the way of development - the homes between Woodchuck Hollow Rd and Edcris along Oakwood Rd in Huntington. My dog and his buddy used to run down to the farm and would come home stinking of cow manure! Memories!
douglas stretton June 19, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Right on!..to Ranger Sewer.

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