Kings Park residents are concerned that foul odors permeating their neighborhood are affecting their health and quality of life, and it has them sticking up their noses at local government.
“The odors have made my children, myself and visitors to my house sick. I have had vomit on my driveway due to what appears to be odor and fumes,” Laura Schaefer of Kings Park said.
Schaefer was joined by Debbie Danley, of Kings Park, in speaking out at the Smithtown Town Board meeting Tuesday, where they urged elected officials to take action.
The controversy is centered around the industrial businesses on Old Northport Road in Kings Park – where an asphalt paving, mulching and composting and pre-casting businesses operate, each emitting their own odors.
Danley, who lives on Old Commack Road, said when the winds are blowing in the right direction, a “strong chemical odor you can taste, that fills your nose and mouth and burns” fills her residential neighborhood.
Patch visited the area on one occassion and did not detect any odors.
Danley, mother of three children ages 13, 10 and 6 said she’s concerned about her family’s health.
“My middle son constantly complains of headaches. We’ve gone doctor to doctor and we have an MRI coming up next week.,” she said.
Danley and Schaefer said they have reached out to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Smithtown town officials – even placed phone calls to elected officials in Albany – over the last year. But they haven’t received much help in determining where the smell is coming from or how to stop it.
Both the DEC and the Town of Smithtown have the authority to regulate the businesses on Old Northport Road, although their roles are slightly different.
Schaefer and Danley have pointed to zoning maps in the town assessor’s office that show the several industrial business – Carlson’s Pre-Cast, Pioneer Asphalt Paving, Educational Bus – are on residentially zoned land. It’s an issue Smithtown town has been to court over.
The issue is not new. Residents as well as local civic organizations have been requesting action from the town for years in regards to proper zoning.
In a 2008 letter to the town, the Kings Park Civic Association requested that the town address the zoning issue. An excerpt from the letter reads: "Since the town has exhausted its legal options to stop the decades of heavy industrial activity that exists in the area, it seems to be in the town’s best interests to zone and control it, rather than ignore it."
The association requested action from the town again in February 2010 asking for all property in the industrial area currently zoned as residential be rezoned to light industry, in order to establish zoning consistency and give the town the ability to regulate. (Both letters are attached to this article under photos)
A possible solution would be the creation of an overlay zone, said Kings Park Civic President Sean Lehman. An area of mixed zoning that would be more clearly defined and allow zoning enforcement.
"We hear complaints all the time," said Lehmann. "The town has not enforced the zoning and because they have not enforced the zoning for many, many years. They have essentially lost control.
Town councilman Ed Wehrheim says that the town has been working on the concept of overlay zoning for a little longer than a year.
“If we do the overlay zoning it would give the town the ability to set conditions,” said Wehrheim.
“For example, if decide we want heavy industry then we can say this is the heavy industry and that we will allow or not allow. We may say we want 15 feet in professional landscaping or other conditions," said Wehrheim. "We don’t have that ability now."
The DEC logs and investigates complaints of “nuisance odors” reported to its hotline at (631) 444-0380.
Aphrodite Montalvo, a spokeswoman for the DEC said she has not received any complaints about Pioneer Asphalt Paving and onlly a few directly associated with Carlson. However, the agency has recieved a total of 34 complaints about odor for the Kings Park area.
The DEC took action against Carlson’s in 1998 for illegal mining, but the area has been cleaned up and is within regulation, according to Montalvo.
The DEC is actively investigating complaints about another business on the roadway, but Montalvo would not identify which company.
It’s this type of action that Schaefer said she wants to see, stating she’s been fighting for a solution since she purchased her home in 2004. Yet she claims phone calls and visits to Supervisor Patrick Vecchio’s office have gone unanswered.