SOMERS, N.Y. - Noise aside, a controversial landscape-supply business is not violating town code when it processes stone and other materials, a divided Zoning Board of Appeals ruled last week.
The board agreed with the town’s now-retired building inspector that Whispering Pine Landscape Supply Co. has not violated town code by processing stone and other material, a decision board members said they struggled to make.
The motion was approved 4-1 with board member Bill Harden dissenting and board member Umberto Santaroni abstaining. Board Chair Victor Cannistra, and members Melissa D’Ippolito, Arnold Guyot and Tom Newman voted for the motion to uphold the building inspector’s decision. Ronald Carpaneto was not at the meeting.
A skirmish between people in the audience broke out following the vote, with folks pushing and shoving each other and exchanging harsh words.
“Every member of this board has struggled with this mightily …. and we’re doing the best we can and trying to follow the law as best we can,” Cannistra said.
Whispering Pine Landscape, at 1 Windsor Road, Yorktown Heights, sits at the intersection of Mahopac, Yorktown and Somers and has drawn vitriol from residents in all three towns. And although the businesses share the same property, Whispering Pine Landscape is a separate entity from Whispering Pine Garden Center and Florist. The businesses split about two decades ago; the landscape portion is owned by Thomas Kuck and the florist portion is owned by cousin Kathleen Kuck.
Residents’ complaints are directed solely at the landscaping business.
In 2016, Anthony and Catherine Porco of Brianna Lane sued Whispering Pine Landscape owner Thomas Kuck and the town of Somers over the noise emanating from the site as the result of such activities as rock crushing, tub grinding and jackhammering, along with the movement of big stones and trucks on the property.
Westchester County Supreme Court kicked the issue back to the Somers Zoning Board of Appeals. A separate nuisance case is still pending in Westchester County Supreme Court; Porco said this week he expects that matter to be heard in February.
The motion from the Zoning Board upholds the decision of now-retired Somers Building Inspector Efrem Citarella that Whispering Pine has not violated any town codes with these activities.
“The Zoning Board has turned its back on us,” Porco said in a phone call.
In explaining her vote, D’Ippolito said there was a “lack of evidence” to support the Porcos’ claims. Newman said he believes the processing of materials—i.e. crushing rock and jackhammering—is “inherent in being a landscaping supply business and selling those materials.”
Guyot said he agreed with D’Ippolito.
“There’s no winners and no losers here and it’s unfortunate that I feel that way,” Guyot said. “Based on the previous building inspector’s findings, there were no violations to the code at that time.”
Siding with the residents, Harden said he believes the processing of materials has changed the nature of the business from landscaping to manufacturing.
“I’m not looking to put (Whispering Pine) out of business,” Harden said. “But I’m looking to put them somewhere where manufacturing is appropriate to the area, so that’s where I stand.”
Residents have complained that the loud noise coming from the property has made their daily lives miserable. Porco, a captain in the Yonkers Fire Department, works nights and the constant loud noises coming from the business prevent him from sleeping during the day, thereby affecting his work and home life, he said.
Other residents said the noise, dust and debris from processing materials reach their homes from early morning to late at night.
The meeting turned contentious with residents yelling at the board as members readied to vote. At one point, Anthony Porco stood and threatened to beat up someone. Later, during a phone call, he said emotions got charged when he was defending his wife from someone making comments in the crowd.
In voting, Cannistra said he believes that if the board were to agree with the residents and against Whispering Pine the decision would be overturned based on previous case law.
“We know one side will not be happy with this decision but we have to base it on law,” Cannistra said. “We’re charged, not with voting with our hearts, or what we want to do, we follow the code.”